Ban on consumption of wild animals backed
China's decision to comprehensively ban the trade and consumption of wild animals across the country gained strong support from experts and general public as a crucial move to curb the eating of wildlife.
The decision, made by the National People's Congress on Feb 24, calls for harsh penalties for the hunting, trading and transportation of wild animals on the protection list of existing laws.
A decision made by the NPC Standing Committee is usually about a single issue and not as comprehensive and systematic as a law, but such decisions have equal legal effect.
The hunting, trading and transportation of wild terrestrial animals for purposes of consumption are banned, according to the decision, which comes after the outbreak of novel coronavirus.
As of March 14, the novel coronavirus had infected more than 80,844 people and caused a total of 3,199 deaths, according to the National Health Commission.
"The current emergence and spread of the coronavirus, as well as SARS, MERS and other similar outbreaks in recent history underscores the need to take urgent action and raise awareness of the potential threats to human health posed by illegal and unregulated wildlife trade," said Zhou Fei, chief program officer of World Wide Fund for Nature's China office.
On Sina Weibo, a micro-blogging platform, millions of people supported the ban and believed it will benefit both the wildlife and human society.
"This is the first time that China's top legislature has imposed a nationwide ban, rooting out the decadeslong habit of eating wild animals," said Li Binbin, assistant professor at Environmental Research Center, Duke Kunshan University in Jiangsu province.
She said the decision showed the significant relation between wildlife protection and public health as well as ecosecurity.
"It's a crucial step to regulate China's wildlife market and will be constructive in changing the country's international image,"
Wild animals covered under the ban include those that the Wildlife Protection Law and other laws prohibit people from eating, terrestrial wild animals that China protects as they have "important ecological, scientific and social value" as well as other terrestrial wild animals, such as those bred and farmed in captivity.
China's laws and regulations focus on wild animal protection. The eating prohibition applies for animals under State protection as well as those without quarantine certificate, according to Yang Heqing, deputy director of the Legislative Affairs Commission's economic law office.
"Eating wild animals with important ecological, scientific and social value are not clearly regulated in the existing laws, which became a loophole for some activities that may threaten people's health," he said.
According to the latest decision, aquatic wild animals like fish, however, are not on the prohibition list, since fishing is an important agricultural mode of production and also an internationally accepted practice.
Common poultry and livestock, such as pigs, cattle and sheep, are also not on the list.
Those raised in farms for a long time, and that have formed value chains which are helpful in poverty alleviation, such as pigeons and rabbits, are also excluded.
"The decision gives a general future plan, which defines the role of different sectors in the wild animal protection and management work," said Li. "But the list of animals being raised in farms for a long time should be further explained."
She said related departments should make detailed standards for making the list. Moreover, the Animal Husbandry Law should also be improved to meet the industry requirements.
Yang said some farmers raising wild animals will encounter financial loss due to the practice required by the decision.
He suggested that local governments extend support to those farmers. "Subsidies should be given in accordance with the condition," he added.
According to the latest decision, use of wild animals for nonedible purposes, including scientific research, medical use and display, will be subject to strict examination, approval and quarantine inspection. Violators will be severely punished, and venues of illegal production and trade will be seized and closed.
The decision also emphasized strict inspection and quarantine of wild animals and related products.
Next, the NPC Standing Committee plans to amend the Wild Animal Protection Law.
A draft revision to the Animal Epidemic Prevention Law is expected to be submitted to the committee for review in the near future, said Zang Tiewei, a spokesman for the committee's Legislative Affairs Commission.
The top legislature is also accelerating legislation on biological security, and is considering revising the Law on Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases and some other laws to improve the public health emergency management system, he added.
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