NEWS/VIEWS – OPINION ARTICLE: Reports are all over the Internet of the local administration of the city of Wuhan (11 million people) banning the eating of all wild animals. The city also banned almost all hunting of wild animals within its limits. They declared themselves a wildlife sanctuary (laugh). However, the exceptions they include in this ban makes the whole process, in my opinion, a public relations exercise. However in taking these steps they are by implication admitting their guilt as the source of the coronavirus which has decimated many economies, ruined many lives and killed hundreds of thousands of people. Not to mention the crass cruelty to animals in the first place.
One exception is that hunting is not banned when scientific research, population regulation, monitoring of epidemic diseases and other special circumstances apply. You see what I mean? Too many exceptions make the original ban almost useless because you can always find an excuse to do something by using one of the exceptions.
In addition, Wuhan has imposed strict new controls on the breeding of all wild animals. No wild animal can be bred for food. The city is taking part in the wider national scheme to buy animal breeders out of business and encourage them to enter into new less dangerous and acceptable businesses. The word ‘strict’ is laughable as corruption undermines it.
China has already banned the sale of wild animals for food. But it remains legal for the purposes listed as exceptions including research and traditional medicine. Traditional medicine is a terrible and persistent cause of mass wildlife abuses. It is the cause of poaching of Bengal tigers for instance. Is the cause of the persistent declining population numbers of rhinoceroses on the African continent because sellers of this ridiculous medicine insist that the horns of rhinoceroses contain something which is good for people when in fact it is simply keratin (nails and hair) and utterly useless to humans but of great value to rhinos.
Another couple of central provinces in China have already set out their details of buyout programs to stop farmers breeding wild animals for food and encouraging them to switch to alternative ways to make a living.
On Friday, last, Hunan province set out a compensation scheme. They evaluate the businesses and their inventories and offer a one-off payment of US$16 per kilogram of rat snake, king rat snake and cobra. A kilogram of bamboo rat fetches 75 yuan. A civet cat fetches 600 yuan. It is believed that the civet cat was the origin of the SARS outbreak nearly 20 years ago.
Neighbouring Yiangxi province is also going down this route of compensation to encourage businesses to change their ways. Both the provinces mentioned are, according to the animal-rights group Humane Society International, “major wildlife breeding provinces where there has been a rapid expansion of trade over the last decade”.
Revenues from these breeding programs reached 10 billion yuan in 2018, they said. After the SARS outbreak, administrators also took measures to ban the consumption of wild animals but they failed to bring the trade to a halt. The same will happen this time. There is a complete lack of commitment and as I said at the beginning this is a PR exercise to appease countries affected by the coronavirus crisis.
China is wedded to its abuses of wildlife and once the dust has settled they will be back to their usual ways. Unfortunately there are a lot countries who feel compelled to trade with China in the interests of their own economies and will conveniently brush under the carpet China’s attitude towards wild animals which caused the coronavirus pandemic rather than take the moral high ground and force China to change in the interests of human and wild animal health.