Here's an interesting commentary by Keith Winsten, Executive Director of Brevard Zoo/East Coast Zoological Society of Florida. He recently led a workshop at the Beijing Zoo and writes about his perception of the Chinese view of animals.
...the Chinese seemed to have a much greater respect for landscape elements such as trees and rocks than Americans, but by our standards, showed little regard or empathy for wildlife.
...Animals are simply perceived as existing to meet our needs, either for satisfying hunger or for amusement. And unfortunately, this attitude is subconsciously reinforced by the staff at the (Beijing) zoo, which meticulously cares for the human landscape but seems to ignore the aesthetics of the animal exhibits.
Luckily, this denigrating attitude toward animals is neither a universally Eastern way of thinking (consider the Jains in India who shuffle their feet so they won't hurt an insect) nor part of most societies (many traditional hunting groups worship their prey animals). But it is clearly a problem in China. And these days, whatever happens in China can have a ripple effect around the world.
Photo by Alex and Jerry.