China has banned the consumption and trade of wild animals in an effort to halt the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus, which is believed to have originated at an animal and seafood market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, according to a Monday report.
China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress passed a resolution Monday banning the “illegal wildlife trade, abolishing the bad habit of overconsumption of wildlife, and effectively protect the lives and health of the people,” AFP reported, citing state media.
The ban comes after Chinese leader Xi Jinping said earlier this month that China should “resolutely outlaw and harshly crackdown” on the illegal wildlife trade because of the public health risks it poses.
Officials say some 1.5 million markets and online operators nationwide have been inspected since the outbreak began. About 3,700 have been shut down, and around 16,000 breeding sites have been cordoned off.
Before the outbreak, it was legal in China to sell 54 species like pangolins and civets – as long as they were raised on farms.
Jinfreng Zhou, of China Biodiversity, Conservation and Green Development Foundation, an environmental group in Beijing, said anything less than a total ban on all wildlife trading would fail to address the problem, given the lucrative nature of the industry.
“The profit is huge … like drugs,” Jinfeng said.
Others expressed doubt that such overreaching measures could work,
Li Shuo, a senior global policy adviser with Greenpeace, told Bloomberg that the ambiguities in defining “wildlife” would make to difficult to stop people from trading and consuming products like traditional medicines and fur.
The coronavirus, or COVID-19, first emerged in China late last year. As of Thursday, some 79,570 cases have been reported, with nearly 2,500 deaths. The majority of these have taken place in mainland China.
The White House submitted a request to Congress Monday, asking for $2.5 billion in additional spending to help combat the outbreak.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.