Taiwan has become the first country in Asia to ban the consumption of cat and dog meat.
People who sell, purchase or eat meat from culled canines and felines will now face hefty fines and potentially even a prison sentence.
Landmark amendments to animal protection laws, which has been approved by the Legislative Yuan – the lawmaking branch of the Taiwanese government – will see those found guilty being named and shamed and facing fines of up to 250,000 Taiwan new dollars (£6,500).
Those charged with intentionally harming or torturing animals could meanwhile be jailed for up to two years and fined two million Taiwan new dollars (£52,000) while tougher sanctions will apply for repeat offenders.
According to the China Post, some localities in Taiwan have already taken measures banning dog and cat meat consumption but there was no national legislation against the practice.
The series of amendments raises a hosts of issues around animal welfare and reveals changing attitudes in Taiwan, where dogs are now widely seen as pets.
Under the new law, it will also be made illegal to “walk” animals on a leash alongside dangerous motor vehicles such as scooters.
High-profile cases of animal torture have previously led to public outrage, with campaigners claiming perpetrators were being “let off too easy”.
Dog meat is a popular delicacy in Asia but cat meat is less regularly consumed.
Wendy Higgins, of animal protection charity 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.”