Taiwan is set to become the first country in Asia to ban the sale and consumption of cat and dog meat in an effort to improve its animal protection laws.
On Tuesday, the country's parliament passed amendments to its Animal Protection Act, which will also prohibit those using a car or motorbike from pulling their pets along on a leash, The Guardian reports.
Anyone who is caught eating dog or cat meat will face a fine of up to 250,000 Taiwan dollars (£6,500), while the penalties for animal cruelty or slaughter have been raised to up to two years in prison, with fines of up to 2 million Taiwan dollars (£52,000).
The new law comes after increasing concern for the treatment of animals on the island, where dogs and cats are now widely considered as pets rather than food. President Tsai Ing-wen became known as an animal lover last year when she adopted three retired guide dogs to live with her two cats and in February, Taiwan became one of the few places in the world to ban the euthanizing of strays.
However, the dog meat trade is still widespread elsewhere in Asia, with two million dogs estimated to be killed for food every year in South Korea. Animal rights campaigners, who have welcomed the "fantastic news" on social media, hope the move by Taiwan's government becomes a "growing trend" to end animal cruelty once and for all.
In a statement, Wendy Higgins of the Humane Society International said: "Taiwan's progressive ban is part of a growing trend across Asia to end the brutal dog meat trade, and reflects the fact that a huge number of people in Asian countries do not in fact eat dog and cat and are appalled by the cruel and often crime-fuelled trade.
"Taiwan also sends a strong signal to countries such as China and South Korea where the dog meat trade remains and millions of dogs are killed by beating, hanging or electrocution for eating. It's time for change, and bans like the one in Taiwan utterly dispel the myth that this is promoted by Western sentimentality. The animal protection movement is growing rapidly across Asia and the calls for an end to dog meat cruelty are getting louder and louder."
Let's hope those calls get heard.