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Sale of Animals for Food Allowed

July 23, 1998

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Quoting a Bible verse declaring that people have ``dominion″ over other creatures, a judge ruled that Chinatown merchants can continue to sell live animals for food despite protests by animal activists.

The ruling late Wednesday came in a long dispute that pitted animal rights groups’ claims of cruelty against Chinese-American market owners’ assertion that they are preserving their culture.

Superior Court Judge Carlos Bea rejected both those arguments.

Activists, he said, were assigning human characteristics to animals when they argued that the animals were feeling pain and discomfort. The law allows humans to kill animals for food, even if they do inflict pain, Bea said.

Bea also called the merchants’ cultural argument irrelevant and ``bothersome.″

``The laws that apply here are Californian, not Chinese,″ he said.

Activists complained that 12 Chinatown markets keep turtles, frogs and fish in cramped conditions without food and water and kill them without trying to limit their pain. They argued that all animals should be kept in conditions as near to nature as possible.

``The adoption of such standards may be urged to the Legislature, but not to this court, which must apply existing laws and cannot adopt new laws,″ Bea wrote in the ruling.

The judge also quoted a Bible verse that said people have ``dominion″ over everything that moves over the Earth.

Baron Miller, the activists’ lawyer, said the decision was tentative, which means that the plaintiffs have a chance to change the judge’s mind at another hearing.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors earlier declined to tackle the issue, which had sparked charges of racism from merchants who said they were following traditional practices and meeting the demand for fresh meat.

Bea’s ruling sets the stage for a voluntary agreement to go forward between the merchants and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The two groups agreed to a set of conditions on housing and killing animals, but merchants stopped attending training sessions because of the lawsuit.

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