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Coronavirus: China proposes immediate ban on wildlife consumption as food

Written by Blood Lions
Pubished on 26 February, 2020

The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) epidemic remains a daily news item with many new cases appearing worldwide. Following the outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan (China) in December last year, there are now three global hot-spots outside China, namely Iran, South Korea and the latest one Italy.

To date, the virus is believed to have infected more than 80,000 people globally and killed at least 2,700. 

In early February, the Chinese government issued a temporary ban on all trade in wild animals until the end of the “national epidemic”, after the virus was reportedly linked to a live animal market in Wuhan City, where both domestic and wild animals are sold. This has not been the first time that infectious diseases have been linked to animals in recent years. Others have included the Ebola virus disease, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), H7N9 Bird Flu, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.

When a temporary ban was imposed, all sectors of government, academia, media and members of the public were urgently calling for the ban on wildlife markets and trade to be made permanent.

Last week, the Chinese authorities finally announced tougher new measures, including an unprecedented ban on the consumption of wild animals as food.

Blood Lions welcomes the proposed immediate ban on the consumption of wild animals and stricter enforcement measures of relevant legislation around wildlife trade, as announced by the Chinese government. We would like to point out that such a ban should be made permanent and not only applicable during a time when the threat of the coronavirus has the global attention.

The Born Free Foundation echoed our sentiment in a letter to the Director General of the World Health Organisation, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme and the Director General of the Office International Epizoologie, undersigned by 236 organisations and individuals, including Blood Lions. They urged these three organisations to strongly encourage governments across the world to introduce and enforce legislation to close wildlife markets, particularly those at which trade in live animals is commonplace, and to introduce mechanisms designed to significantly and demonstrably reduce demand for live wild animals and products derived from them.

Although the Chinese proposed ban is a step in the right direction, the Standing Committee to the 13th National People’s Congress is still defining “special circumstances under which wild animals may be used for purposes other than consumption as food, such as for scientific research, medical use, and display”. This could mean that the use of lion bones for Traditional Chinese Medicine be made exempt from the wildlife consumption ban.

Blood Lions is extremely worried about this potential exclusion on the proposed wildlife consumption ban and urges the Chinese government to rethink their position, as there is a real and substantial risk of zoonosis in the lion bone trade. Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) is prevalent in wild and captive lions and risk of zoonosis in the lion bone trade is real. Not only for people in South East Asia directly involved in the consumption of lion bones products, but also for workers at the breeding farms in South Africa. The risk of contracting Bovine TB by, for example, South African lion abattoir workers is very real.

Linda Park (director Voice4Lions) says “we have been talking about the risks of TB in lion bones for a couple of years. The advent of the coronavirus epidemic, which stems from the wildlife markets in China, makes this even more important. Consumers of lion bones open themselves up to a drug-resistant form of TB, which is then spread from human to human.”  “The thought of drug-resistant TB spreading globally is quite terrifying and not to mention the other health risks in lion bones. We are indeed surprised that the consumption of lion bones has not been banned by the Chinese government, especially considering consumers are favouring bones with flesh left on them, which pose an even greater threat”, Park continues.

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