Coronavirus: China’s Wuhan bans eating wild animals, but will this really stop brutal meat trade?
The new regulation forbids the consumption of all wild animals on land as well as endangered and protected wild aquatic species in Wuhan. It also prohibits the hunting of wild animals across the city.
China’s central city of Wuhan -- the original epicentre of the novel coronavirus -- has banned the eating of wild animals. The practice is believed to have caused the deadly pandemic which engulfed the world and has so far killed 328,000 people.
The move comes as China is facing a risk of a second wave of COVID-19 infection with new cases being reported almost every day. According to a notice issued by the Wuhan government on Wednesday, the new policy went into effect on May 13 and will stay in place for five years.
Wuhan, which had 50,340 cases and 3,869 deaths from January to March this year, is conducting a major campaign to test all of its residents to determine the extent of the problem in order to prevent a rebound.
Experts in China say that the virus likely jumped onto humans from wild animals sold as food at a wet market in the city of 11 million. The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market is believed to have spawned the global outbreak. It was shut on January 1 in the wake of the health crisis.
Apart from seafood, the market's offerings included live wild animals, such as foxes, crocodiles, wolf puppies, giant salamanders, snakes, rats, peacocks, porcupines, koalas and game meats, reports say.
COVID-19 has claimed 4,634 lives and infected 82,965 people in China, according to official figures.
The Chinese province of Hubei, of which Wuhan is the capital city, in March passed a law to ban the eating of wild animals completely, including those bred or raised by people.
In February, China's central government blocked all trade and consumption of wildlife with a temporarily law, but it did not specify if farm-raised ones would be covered. According to a government report from 2017, China's overall wildlife trade is worth around 520 billion yuan (£57billion).
The new measure in Wuhan largely echoes the legislation launched by its provincial government. It covers wildlife and wildlife products.
-- The regulation forbids the consumption of all wild animals on land as well as endangered and protected wild aquatic species.
-- It prohibits the hunting of wild animals across Wuhan, which covers an area of 8,494 square kilometres. Staff members at scientific and medical organisations are required to obtain special hunting licences for research purposes.
-- It further says that artificial breeding of land-based wild animals and nationally protected wild aquatic species for human consumption is not allowed.
The guideline also cracks down on the wildlife trade.
-- No organisations or individuals are allowed to produce, process, use or conduct commercial operations with wildlife or wildlife products which are banned by the document, officials say.
-- Any related breeding, transporting, trading, carrying or mailing is illegal.
-- Citizens are forbidden from encouraging or persuading others to eat or conduct illegal trading of wild animals. Such activities include releasing advertisements, installing relevant signboards and publishing recipes.
-- Scientific and medical teams must undergo strict applications and quarantine inspections should they need to use wild animals for non-food-related work purposes.
In the city-specific move, officials say they will use the national social credit system to punish those violating the rules. Offending individuals and companies will see their behaviour recorded into the country-wide surveillance scheme and receive penalties accordingly.
Authorities will also increase their inspections into markets, hotels, restaurants, e-commerce platforms and food-processing businesses to prevent the trading of exotic species.
The exact source of the new coronavirus remains unconfirmed. Experts speculate that it originated in bats, snakes, pangolins, or some other animal.
China is facing immense global pressure to come clean on the accusations of a cover-up of the virus outbreak and whether the deadly virus “escaped” from China’s premier Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).