China must not only fight the trade in wildlife for food, but also eliminate the legislative gaps that allow disease-prone species to be bred, experts say after a team of investigators determined that Covid-19 humans may have originated in animals.
A World Health Organization-led study released last week found that the global pandemic SARS-CoV-2 was “highly likely” to be transmitted to humans through bats, and that wildlife farming plays an important role in this process.
Ton Yegan, a Chinese expert on animal diseases who participates in the joint study, says the findings of the study shed light on Beijing’s decision last year to ban the trade in wild animals for consumption.
The report also focuses on wildlife farms, whose work is still allowed by law. Such farms mainly support the traditional Chinese medicine industry and the fur trade. Specialists believe that working on farms carries great risks.
“Animals raised on farms are more or less genetically homogeneous, homogeneous. “In that case, the virus could easily develop,” said Christian Walzer, chief veterinarian at the Wildlife Society in New York.
China has examined samples of thousands of animals to determine the origin of the virus, but research says a broader investigation is needed. The study also recommends examining the farms of mink and raccoon dogs, whose operation is still allowed under Chinese law, even though they are particularly susceptible to viruses.
“In these violent industries, the gathering of millions of wild animals is a great hotbed for pandemics. “If such farms are not banned, we will continue to play Russian roulette, which poses a threat to global health,” said Peter Lee, a spokesman for the International Humanitarian Society in China.
Prohibitions and weak enforcement
Deficiencies in regulators and poor enforcement allow international organized crime groups to continue trading in wildlife, experts say. Pangolins, endangered mammals that are not considered a potential mediator of transmission of the virus to humans, remain the main target.
Pangolin occupies an important place in traditional Chinese medicine. Until last year, pangolin was used to treat some diseases, including arthritis. Although China has banned the trade in pangolins, activists say the ban cannot be enforced. Activists say small fines have been imposed on pangolin dealers in recent cases. One of the main places of trade in pangolins is also considered to be the free economic zone in the Myanmar border region, which belongs to Chinese business.
“There is no real control of the government over the free trade zone, no kind of enforcement is taking place. In many places, trade in wildlife is not considered a priority. “That’s why we’re suffering from a pandemic,” said Chris Shepard, head of the Conservation Monitoring Research Society.
China says the initial spread of the virus may have taken place outside its borders, but opponents of this view say that wildlife trade in Myanmar and Laos would not have existed had it not been for Chinese investment and market demand.