China announced recently that it would be reversing a 25 year ban on the sale and use of rare items like rhinoceros horn and tiger bones in medicine. The reversal would open up the sale of these items if they’re obtained from farmed animals. Products like rhino horns and tiger bones, as well as things like shark fin are popular in ancient Chinese medicinal recipes. There has not been any conclusive research to show that these products produce any type of real result or cure for the diseases they intend to treat. The Chinese government has not said why they chose to reverse this ban. Environmentalists are criticizing the decision, saying that it’s a significant step back for environmental conservation efforts.

The Chinese government has not said why it suddenly chose to reverse the ban. However, a policy directive that was released on October 29 claims that the decision aims to control the trade of these items.

Chinese Government Stands By Decision

“Under the special circumstances, regulation on the sales and use of these products will be strengthened, and any related actions will be authorized, and the trade volume will be strictly controlled,” said the government in a published announcement. The products will be used in closely monitored scientific research and in medicine. So far, no tests have confirmed that either product carries significant healing properties.

For the last 25 years the sale and export/import of these rare animal products has been banned by most governments. Conservation efforts have fueled the ban on commonly poached animals to attempt to alleviate the need for the products.“Except in special circumstances prescribed by law, the country bans all actions involving sales, purchase, use and import or export of rhinoceros, tigers and their related products, including the whole body, parts of it or any derived products. Sales of products with ingredients containing rhinos, tigers and their related products also will be classified as illegal,” the directive, published by the People’s Republic of China claims.

Now, the sale and trade of these products would be closely monitored by the government on farmed animal products only. Conservationists have scrutinized the decision, claiming that poachers could easily hide illegal trade under the guise of farming. Because these animals are endangered, it could increase the risk of fueling extinction. In a similar situation, though, legal farming was exactly what saved the American alligator from the same fate.

Chinese Medicine; A History

Chinese medicine has been around for thousands of years. The ancient recipes and concoctions have long been thought to provide healing properties for just about any ailment. Things like Tai Chi, acupuncture, teas and even things like cupping fall into the many branches of traditional Chinese medicine. Chinese medicine often focuses on natural ingredients rather than chemical drugs to cure various ailments and diseases. The philosophy is focused on balancing nature in the body. The reversal of the ban on ingredients like rhino horn and tiger bones had good intention. But the effects may be detrimental to the species.

Julia Sachs is a staff writer at Grit Daily. She covers tech, entrepreneurship and entertainment news and is based in Park City, Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in English and is extremely in-tune with what the internet is talking about today.