More than 2,700 people have died as a result of the novel COVID-19, with another 81,000 cases confirmed across the globe. And now, China’s government has officially banned the trade and consumption of wildlife in their ongoing efforts against COVID-19 epidemic that has taken over the world since 2020 began.
It’s an indisputable fact that China was the top market for the breeding and trading of wild animals. The wildlife trade is even estimated to be a multibillion dollar industry. According to the South China Morning Post, a government-sponsored report published by the Chinese Academy of Engineering found that China’s wildlife trade and consumption industry is valued at US$74 billion (520 billion yuan) and employs more than 14 million people across the nation.
More than half of those employees work in the fur and leather industry, estimated to be valued at US$55 billion (390 billion yuan), while the other half work in breeding farms or processing plants. On Monday, February 24, China’s top legislative body, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, laid the groundwork to amend China’s Wildlife Protection Law in a move to permanently criminalize the consumption of wildlife and illegal wildlife trading.
The new ban took effect immediately. Although China does have existing laws regarding wildlife protection and conservation, it’s filled with loopholes as consuming wild animals and captive breeding was allowed for commercial purposes. “There has been a growing concern among people over the consumption of wild animals and the hidden dangers it brings to public health security since the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak,” Zhang Tiewei, a legislative spokesman for the Legislative Affairs Commission, said to Reuters.
Zhang said the decision was made at the “critical moment for the epidemic prevention and control. Crackdown after crackdown have been taking place across the nation after warnings that eating wild animals could pose several threats to the public health. It remains to be seen how long this ban will last, however. After all, during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic in the early 2000s, China held a similar ban too.