China restricts trade in wild animals . . .
In late January as the coronavirus was quickly spreading in China, the country temporarily banned trade in wild animals and began a crackdown on wild animal breeding facilities. President Xi Jinping said that the country should root out the “bad habits” of eating wild animals and announced future revisions to the existing Wild Animal Protection Law, as well as the drafting of a new Biological Security Law. It is widely presumed that COVID-19 passed to humans from one or more infected live animals in ‘wet’ markets (which sell perishable goods such as meat and live animals) in Wuhan, the outbreak’s epicentre.
Big business vs. wildlife protection . . .
Trade in illegal wild animals is a lucrative industry, with the global market estimated to be valued at C$30.7 billion. China’s legal domestic wild animal industry is even larger, with an estimated value of around C$98.8 billion. This is big business and the associated networks, both legal and illegal, are myriad. Wild animal protection organizations and activists are hopeful that President Xi’s restrictions will curtail this industry, both illegal and legal.
Preservation a welcome by-product . . .
Meanwhile, we still do not have firm evidence about the origin of COVID-19. Scientists believe the most likely trajectory is that it originated in bats, was picked up by intermediary animals, and was then transmitted to humans, likely in the Huanan wet market in Wuhan, which was closed on January 1. While there is still no definitive evidence for the pathway of the virus or that the market in Wuhan served as COVID-19’s breeding ground, China’s new and future policies and laws can only contribute to a decrease in the future transmissions of animal-origin diseases. The preservation of wildlife may be just be a welcome by-product.