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PETA calls on China to respect rats in Year of Rat

BEIJING -- An animal rights group called Monday for China to treat rats with kindness and respect, as millions across the nation begin to celebrate the coming Year of the Rat.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, said it has requested the Chinese government consider animal welfare laws for rats used in laboratory experiments. The group also recommended a series of guidelines for animals used in science.

“Rats sing, they dream, and they express empathy for others,” PETA’s Coco Yu said in a statement.

China has increasingly become a place of business for international pharmaceutical companies, the group said.

The country has a shoddy animal rights record: there is little animal welfare legislation, many zoos are poorly run, and animal parts are traded for use in traditional Chinese medicine. Activists have called on China to phase out bear farms, where bile is harvested for traditional medicine, complaining that the animals are often raised in inhumane conditions.

The rat is one of 12 animals — or mythical animals in the case of the dragon — on the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac, which follows the lunar calendar. The lunar new year is Thursday.

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