The Chinese government has put off a difficult decision it has to make on whether to lift the ban on trade in rhino horn and tiger body parts. Trade was banned back in 1993, but in October they announced that they would allow these parts to be used for scientific medicinal and cultural reasons.
The idea of allowing these body parts to be used for scientific or medical reasons is absurd. All studies have shown that these parts use have at best a placebo level of success. If a similar amount of money was spent instead on scientific and medical research instead of on these placebo ingredients you could have a large impact on the treatment of a whole range of conditions.
Cultural Reasons from this point of view may be harder to argue against. However actually we should bear in mind that for cultural reasons all sorts of things have happened that we would not accept in the modern world. This includes things such as slavery and even human sacrifice.
Finally given the scarcity of these animals across much of time, while there may have been a cultural history of using these ingredients it can only have existed amongst the highest circles. The average Chinese people are likely to have had no ancestors wealthy enough to have partaken in this cultural history. As such it should be made carefully clear that just because it was the cultural history of a small portion of China it does not need to be taken on by the whole country.
While often the aristocracy of a country can have a great impact on art and architecture it is not unusual for them to have a detrimental impact and we should not encourage this negative impact to last. In the UK after the Normans from France invaded their love of hunting led to the extinction of the bear rapidly and eventually the wolf as well, while many people may suggest that this was a good thing it has not done well for the British ecosystem.
If the demand for animal products pushing tigers, lions, elephants and rhinos towards extinction is to be reduced, thereby lowering these products value, making it not worthwhile to undertake the highly dangerous poaching trips. However if this is to have an impact in China there needs to be a big education drive, both so people understand these animals are not being farmed but hunted to extinction, as well as a move from rich and powerful to stop these products holding their status symbol place. People such as Jackie Chan have had success in recent years but it must be continued as a matter of urgency, before we lose more species forever.