As more news emerges about the connection between wild animal markets and trade and coronavirus, Chinese citizens are pushing for additional bans. The Chinese government temporarily banned the wildlife trade on January 26 to try to stop the virus.

According to the Washington Post, the restrictions apply to transport and sale of wild animals. Specifically, this means that outdoor markets, supermarkets, restaurants and online outlets are banned from trading animals in any form. The government said that consequences for violations would be “severely” dealt with.

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The regulations were released in a joint statement by the the State Forestry and Grasslands Administration, Agriculture Ministry, and the State Administration for Market Regulation. Text of the regulation included, “Consumers should fully understand the health risks of eating wild animals, stay away from ‘game’ and eat healthily.”

From news media reports, it seems that the tradition of eating wild animals is widespread in the country. But with China’s population past 1.4 billion people, the reality is more delicate. Eating wildlife in Beijing is rare but in the southeast, in cities like Guangzhou, its more common. According to the Washington Post, wealthier families tend to consider wildlife delicacies.

In 2014, a study found that in Guangzhou 83% of people had eaten wildlife in the past year, but only 15% in Beijing and 14% in Shanghai had. A National Geographic reporter spoke with two teenagers in Guangzhou who shared that it’s older citizens who eat wild animals, and the younger generation is not as interested. An 18-year old that was interviewed said, “I think after this terrible spread of coronavirus, citizens will realize that the belief that eating wild animals is beneficial is not reliable.”

Experts say that to make a ban permanent it would need “buy-in from citizens,” and that the government would need to financially compensate farmers and traders.

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Christian Walzer, chief global veterinarian at the Wildlife Conservation Society, told the Washington Post that the ban needs to be permanent, “Surely it’s time for an advanced country like China to reassess the viability of a tiny industry that risks global pandemic, national image, animal cruelty and conservation concerns.”

Click here to sign the petition to ban the wildlife trade.

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