China’s top legislature has announced stronger measures on trade in wild animal species in order to reduce the risk of unregulated wildlife trade to human health. This includes an immediate and unprecedented ban on the consumption of terrestrial wild animals as food, including animals from the wild and from captive breeding facilities. Fauna & Flora International (FFI) welcomes this step and would like to see it extended to cover all trade in protected species including for medicinal consumption and display.
This move comes in the wake of the devastation of the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak and with support from many Chinese citizens, most of whom do not consumer wildlife illegally. China has been applauded for its measures to prevent the spread of the novel virus – thought to have originated from zoonotic transmission in Wuhan’s seafood market – including the introduction of a temporary ban on all wildlife trade on 26th January.
This new decision announced on Monday 24th February, will make the ban on consumption of all wild animals for food permanent. The decision further stipulates that “where there is a need” to use wildlife for “special purposes” such as “scientific research, medicine or display”, this will be subject to “strict supervision and approval, quarantine and inspection”. Whilst the introduction of stricter controls is to be welcomed, there are concerns that this will permit continued trade in illegally-sourced species and their parts used in medicinal products, such as pangolin scales, and from protected species in private breeding facilities in China such as tigers.