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An online survey, which attracted over 100,000 responses in 22 days, showed overwhelming support to ban wildlife trade. The results: 87.9% strongly support and 7.5% support the ban. In total, 97% of the respondents disagree with eating wildlife meat.
The outcry against wildlife trade and consumption prompted China’s top legislative committee to ban the buying, selling, and transporting of protected wildlife, and to commit to abolishing the bad habit of wildlife consumption. The ban is indefinite until the country revises its Wildlife Protection Law.
Experts have long warned that pathogens are now jumping from animals to people because of the escalation in global trade of exotic wildlife for meat, parts, and exotic pets. Wildlife trade brings a variety of wildlife species into close contact with each other and people, creating the perfect petri dish for growing epidemics.
As wildlife crime specialist Pauline Verheij points out, many diseases originated from global wildlife trade.
Scientists believe the novel coronavirus also jumped from bats—known to host a variety of viruses—to another animal, likely one sold at the wildlife market, before jumping to people. Recently, some initial research suspects pangolins may have been the intermediary host for the COVID-19 virus.
Though scientific evidence is still needed, it is highly plausible that pangolins were a host given the consumption of pangolin meat as a delicacy and their scales for medicinal remedies, which also makes this species the most trafficked mammal in the world. The precarious situation for this elusive ant eater in the wild prompted CITES, the global convention that regulates wildlife trade, to ban the international trade of all eight pangolin species. Law enforcement around the world seized over 80 tons of pangolins and their body parts in 2019 alone.
I am encouraged to see China step up to curtail wildlife trade. Breaking the petri dish that grows epidemics needs global coordination and vigorous enforcement along every link in the trade chain.
I am heartened to see China’s trade ban has rallied support from society.
During the peak of the outbreak, enforcement officers risked their own safety to crack down on wildlife trade. On March 9th, customs agents in China demolished a wildlife smuggling network, arrested 9 suspects, and confiscated 820 kilograms of pangolin scales.
Dynamic Winning Partners Media Group (DWP), one of our media partners, generously provided advertising spaces in Beijing’s new international airport for IFAW’s campaign PSA—Eating Wildlife is a Crime.
Within days of launching a campaign jointly with IFAW, Meituan Delivery, one of China’s largest food delivery/shopping app, has removed over 8,000 restaurants and businesses engaging in the trade of wildlife meat. And a call is going out to Meituan’s 35 million daily users to reject consumption of wildlife. Over 17,000 restaurants and food brands receiving transactions via Meituan have joined the initiative.
Perhaps it is time we learn to be humble and respect the natural world.
-Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
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