Wuhan has banned the consumption of wild animals for five years – with the move following similar bans in the cities of Beijing, Shenzhen, and Zhuhai – although these regions have implemented permanent bans.
Chinese authorities have been under international pressure to tackle its wildlife trade as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 330,000 people worldwide and infected almost 5 million.
The general consensus is that the virus originated from a wet market in Wuhan, where the first cases of the illness were reported. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 75 percent of recent infectious diseases affecting humans began in animals – leading for calls to change the way animals are treated to reduce risk.
The regulations cover both wildlife and wildlife products, banning the consumption of land animals and endangered and protected wild aquatic species. Artificial breeding of these species will not be allowed.
The majority of wild animal hunting will also be banned, with the local administration saying the city will become a ‘wildlife sanctuary’.
However, there will be exemptions to the rules: under ‘scientific research, population regulation, monitoring of epidemic diseases and other special circumstances’ wild animals can still be used – though according to reports, special hunting licenses must be obtained for research purposes.
The move was branded ‘extremely welcome’ by Dr. Peter Li, Humane Society International’s China policy specialist, who said it was ‘a clear recognition that the public health risk of zoonotic disease spread via the wildlife trade must be taken very seriously if we are to avoid another pandemic’.
He added: “There will however be no less severe of a disease risk from wildlife consumption in five years, so anything short of a permanent and comprehensive ban is still a risk too far.
“Wuhan becomes the fourth city in mainland China to show such leadership, but we now need cities and countries across the world to step up to the plate and shut down the dangerous wildlife trade.”
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