Chinese authorities have announced tough new measures, including an unprecedented ban on the consumption of wild animals for food, aimed at reducing public health risks from infectious viruses.
The new measures come amid growing public concern over the spread and impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the consumption of wild animals. A seafood market also illegally selling wild animals in the Chinese city of Wuhan is widely seen as the epicenter of the current coronavirus outbreak.
Chinese authorities have taken a host of measures to prevent the spread of the virus, including announcing on January 26 a temporary ban on all wildlife trade in the country.
Today’s announcement by state-run Xinhua News Agency goes further to address the wildlife trade and follows a meeting of the Standing Committee of the 13th National People’s Congress.
The specific measures, which were introduced with immediate effect, include:
â¢ A ban on the consumption for food of all terrestrial wildlife from wild and captive breeding sources.
â¢ Stricter enforcement of China’s Wildlife Protection Law and other relevant laws prohibiting the hunting, capture, trade, transport and consumption of wild animals.
â¢ Define which animals are considered livestock and poultry.
â¢ Define the specific circumstances in which wild animals may be used for purposes other than food consumption, such as scientific research, medical use and display.
â¢ Awareness campaigns on environmental protection and public health and safety.
â¢ Commitments to implement the new measures, with appropriate assistance to producers affected by the new measures.
NGO TRAFFIC commends China for these measures, saying it hopes that strict enforcement of laws to regulate imports and the market will also help address critical conservation threats to illegally traded wildlife. and not sustainable. TRAFFIC Executive Director Steven Broad said regulating wildlife markets for disease control is essential and efforts to reduce illegal and / or unsustainable trade in wildlife products should be a priority for the global community.
Unsanitary and cramped conditions where animals are kept close to each other and also to humans can create the conditions under which viruses can adapt to cross the species barrier in humans with potentially fatal consequences, says. he.
In 2002/2003, an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) was linked to a virus in bats that spread to humans via civets. The precise route by which COVID-19 may have infected humans is not known with certainty, but the route of transmission is likely to involve at least one intermediate host animal species. The South China Agricultural University has announced the discovery of a 99% genetic match between Covid-19 and a strain of the virus found in pangolins. A study published in Nature had previously found the probable origin of the virus in bats.
TRAFFIC calls on Vietnam and Hong Kong to also take strict action against illegal wildlife markets to prevent the spread of the virus.
Humane Society International (HSI) praised China’s ban, saying it is China’s most decisive action yet to stop a trade that has been implicated in the global coronavirus crisis, and which causes immense suffering to hundreds of thousands of animals each year, including endangered wildlife. âChina’s wildlife trade has wiped out populations of some wildlife in the country and other countries, and this is its most monumental animal welfare announcement since banning it. ivory in 2017, âsaid Alexia Wellbelove HSI, Senior Campaign Manager.
The pangolin trade
Pangolins are considered the most trafficked mammal in the world. The trade concerns all eight species, four of which are native to Africa and four to Asia. With the sharp declines reported in Asian populations, animals are increasingly trafficked from Africa to Asia where they are consumed as food and for their supposed medicinal properties. Some believe that pangolin scales in particular treat a range of ailments from lactation problems in women to asthma and skin conditions.
A TRAFFIC study published in 2017 found an average of 20 tonnes of pangolins and their parts trafficked internationally each year. The study was published in the wake of the world’s largest pangolin seizure ever, when China announced the seizure of 11.9 tons of scales from a ship in Shenzen.
In July 2018, the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department seized more than seven tonnes of pangolin scales in a shipping container from Africa to mainland China.
A recent report from TRAFFIC notes that around 895,000 pangolins were trafficked from 2000 to 2019, while over 96,000 kg of pangolin scales were seized from 2017 to 2019 in Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam, which accounts for about 94% of the total amount of scales confiscated in the southeast. Asia during the period.
Last year, 14 major courier and logistics companies in China signed a voluntary code of practice to refuse the delivery of wildlife and illegal products to demonstrate their commitment to tackling the illegal trade in animals and animals. wild plants. The signatories of the voluntary code are: EMS, SF-Express, ZTO-Express, UTO-Express, TO-Expres, Yunda-Express, Deppon-Express, Best-Express, JD-Logistics, ZJS-Express, Suning-Logistics, China Air Express, DHL and FedEx.