The deadly coronavirus pandemic which is believed to have begun at a wildlife market in Wuhan, China has led to the strict ban on the consumption and farming of wild animals.
Even though it remains unclear which of the animals transferred the virus to humans (bats, pangolins, and snakes have been suggested), China realized the need to improve the control over the wildlife industry to avert another outbreak.
China Puts a Ban on Wild Animal Consumption
In February, China placed a short-term ban on the farming and consumption of terrestrial wildlife of important scientific, ecological, and social value. It’s expected to be signed into a law, later this year.
However, experts believe that ceasing the trade will be challenging- the culture in China’s use of wild animals goes deep.
They use them not just as food, but for clothing, traditional medicine, pets, and ornaments.
This isn’t the first time that China has tried to reduce the trade- back in 2003, mongoose-type creatures, civets, were prohibited after they were discovered to be probably the animals that transferred the SARS to humans.
This is when the sale of snakes was briefly stopped in Guangzhou too. However, nowadays, dishes with these animals are still consumed in some parts of China.
What Do Experts Have to Say?
According to public health experts, the ban is a vital first step.
But, they’re encouraging Beijing to use this chance to close any loopholes, like the usage of wild animals in traditional medicine and to start changing the cultural attitude in China concerning their consumption of wildlife.
Wuhan Seafood Market: The Suspected Center of the Coronavirus Outbreak
At the Wuhan seafood market, the people there sold much more than just fish- you could find raccoon, dogs, porcupines, deer, and snakes, among other species, crammed up in cages, side by side with owners of stores and shoppers.
Some animals were also photographed being slaughtered in the market right in front of customers.
Somewhere in this mass of wildlife, the coronavirus outbreak is believed to have spread onto humans.
This isn’t the sole market throughout mainland China- there are hundreds of similar markets that provide a large amount of exotic animals for various purposes.
The chances for outbreak increase when there are a lot of different exotic animals being kept closely to each other.
According to virologist professor from the Hong Kong University, Leo Poon, these animals have their own viruses which can jump from one to another species.
These species may amplify the virus and increase its strength.
With the hundreds of people visiting these wildlife markets, the risk of the viruses jumping onto humans increases further.
Poon was one of the scientists who decoded the SARS during the 2003 epidemic. It was probably associated with civet cats from the Guangzhou market.
Wildlife Consumption: A Sign of Status & Strength?
A 24-year-old college student, Annie Huang, from the southern Guangxi province, said that she and her family regularly go to restaurants where wildlife animals are served as food.
She claims that the consumption of animals like peacocks and boars is believed to be beneficial for the health and that people absorb the physical strength of these animals by eating them.
Moreover, exotic animal consumption may be a symbol of status- wild animals are expensive and when you treat someone with wild animals, it’s considered a tribute, claims Huang.
Believe it or not, a single peacock may cost as much as $150.