Despite Covid-19, China did not abandon the $ 74 billion wildlife market

Photos in a seafood market in Wuhan in January 2020. Photo: SCMP
Photos in a seafood market in Wuhan in January 2020. Photo: SCMP

Consumption of wildlife was once the industry worth tens of billions of dollars in China, until the Coronavirus outbreak.

According to the South China Morning Post, when he and his colleagues went to the wholesale market of fresh agricultural products in Thanh Nguyen City (Guangdong Province) two years ago, Mr. Yin Shanchuan was stunned by what he saw.

For more than a decade, Mr. Yin – an animal conservationist – has fought against wildlife traffickers and owners of wildlife butcher shops throughout China. But images of bamboo rats, ground snakes, foxes, snakes and ducks stuffed into cages at Thanh Vien market still made him shiver.

“We have never seen so many rare animals in a market before,” he said. Mr. Yin reported what he witnessed and was told by the local authorities that he would fine owners of wildlife stall sales.

But the wildlife trade in Thanh Vien continued to make money until it was closed in late January, after authorities identified the new strain of corona virus spread from a seafood market in Wuhan city, Hubei province.

Industry 74 billion USD

Civet was sold at a market in Guangzhou in 2004. The tradition of eating wildlife has been for centuries in China. Photo: Dustin Shum.
Civet was sold at a market in Guangzhou in 2004. The tradition of eating wildlife has been for centuries in China. Photo: Dustin Shum.

The Wuhan virus has infected nearly 89,000 people worldwide, killing more than 3,000 and crippling the Chinese economy, international tourism industry and global supply chains.

The Chinese government passed a resolution on February 23 to ban wildlife trade and consumption. For now, only meat from animals on the national livestock and seafood list is legally consumed in China.

However, observers say the Chinese government needs to close the gaps in wildlife protection laws, especially when wildlife consumption is very common in the country of 1.4 billion in many century.

According to a 2017 government report, in 2016, more than 14 million people worked in the wildlife trade industry in the country. The sector is worth up to 520 billion yuan ($ 74 billion), half of China’s pork industry ($ 140 billion).

The consumption of wildlife is closely linked to traditional medicine concepts in China. But at the same time, this habit is also a way of showing the social status and wealth of consumers.

For many years, the Chinese government sought to limit the consumption of wildlife. The wildlife protection law has been in place since 1988 and has been revised four times.

Only about 400 species of wildlife have special state protection. Traders and consumers have the right to trade and consume commercially about 1,480 other protected species if providing evidence of legal origin.

In addition, there are 1,000 other wildlife species not protected by Chinese law, including bats, mice and crows. Anyone can easily find and trade them in fresh markets throughout China, similar to the market in Wuhan.

It is difficult to enforce the ban

Wildlife was sold in Qingyuan, Guangdong Province, in June 2018. Photo: Handout.
Wildlife was sold in Qingyuan, Guangdong Province, in June 2018. Photo: Handout.

Luo Xinsong, a porcupine-breeding specialist in Fujian province, opened the company 10 years ago when he saw the potential of the wildlife trade industry. Each year, Lou earns about 500,000 yuan (more than $ 70,000).

But things changed a month before the outbreak of Covid-19. Now Luo worries about the risk of the company being shut down and he has to lay off all employees. “I am still waiting for announcements from the government every day. I don’t know what I can do now,” Lou said anxiously.

On February 27, Liang Aifu, an official with China’s State Market Administration, stated that the government allowed only the breeding and use of ordinary livestock. “We will strictly handle illegal wildlife trade,” said Liang.

Still, experts say it’s not easy for the Beijing government to enforce the ban. Zhou Haixiang, member of China’s National Commission on People and Biosphere, said that licensed farms often lend a hand to traders trading in rare animals.

After poached wildlife is moved to licensed farms, all will be “enchanted” to become legal.

Song Keming, an environmental activist in Henan province, said that things are better now than in the 1990s when only one or two wildlife protection workers worked full-time in the city. his town.

“But even so, rangers still have to supervise a district of 800,000 people and cover more than 1,000 square kilometers with tasks ranging from protecting wildlife to fire protection. them, “Mr. Song said.

Zhu Xiaaming, a forest ranger in Henan province, said his job was difficult because of limited funding and equipment, especially compared to poachers. “The poachers have off-road motorcycles, but we only have one police car. Even when we found out, we couldn’t catch up,” he explained.

The cost of DNA analysis of prohibited animals is also a problem. Each analysis of an animal’s DNA can cost up to 1,800 yuan (nearly 260 dollars).

Wildlife management in China is also too troublesome as many government agencies are involved in regulating the wildlife market, from the forest and market monitoring bureau, to the agriculture departments. and forestry police.

Sara Platto, China ‘s Biodiversity Conservation and Development Organization, said the government needs to make the rules transparent and accurate. “Italy has very strict rules about wildlife ownership. If you are found dead or captive, you will go to jail,” she said.

She asked the Chinese government to set up a national committee of researchers, non-governmental organizations, legislators and businesses to ensure effective enforcement of the law. “The Chinese government has a chance to make a big change,” she stressed.