IFAW Concerned About Lifting Wildlife Trade Ban in China

Tuesday, July 22, 2003
Beijing, China
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org) today warned against the lifting of China’s wildlife trade ban, put in place across the country in May after the link was established between SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and the consumption of wildlife.
Only two days ago, IFAW applauded initiatives taken by the Beijing Forestry Bureau to ban the eating of wildlife in Beijing restaurants and markets. But, at a seminar held recently in Beijing by the State Forestry Administration in Beijing talk of lifting the ban emerged from discussions with the wildlife industry on how to utilize wildlife species.

At the seminar, more than 30 provinces submitted their shortlists of species they intend to trade and consume. The seminar resulted in a proposed list of approximately 54 species of animals suggested for captive breeding and commercial exploitation.

“Eating wild animals is definitely a hazard to public health. How can we give wildlife eating the green light, only days after the World Health Organization lifted the travel ban to China?” asked Li Zhang, IFAW China Country Director who attended the seminar.

“Have we already forgotten the link between the catastrophic SARS and the wildlife markets and restaurants? Have we already forgotten the devastation SARS caused to the Chinese economy and China’s international image?” Zhang added.

Wild animals in captivity tend to have a weaker immune system and are more prone to viruses. “The concentration of animals with weakened immune systems conditions seems inherent to factory farming,” says noted expert Dr. Michael Greger in one of his articles on SARS and intensive farming of livestock.

SARS has dealt a heavy blow to the tourism industry in China and Asia in general. The exact damage to the economy of the region is still being determined. “Now is the time for the responsible government departments to make China’s wildlife protection law stricter. Lifting the trade ban will confuse the public and create obstacles for law enforcement. We simply can not afford to allow the wildlife industry to put public health and our country’s economy in jeopardy again,” Zhang emphasized.

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