Wuhan has officially banned the sale and consumption of bats and other wild animals.
The city also banned the vast majority of wild animal hunting and declared itself “a wildlife sanctuary,” reports CBS News. Wuhan did exempt government-sanctioned hunting for the purposes of scientific research, epidemic disease monitoring, and for regulating wildlife populations. The five-year ban also prohibits the breeding of wild animals for food, according to the Independent.
The announcement comes amid mounting pressure for China to put an end to its wildlife trade. Some experts believe the coronavirus pandemic originated at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan.
There is currently no evidence that supports the fact that the market caused the virus. However, many experts do agree that COVID-19 originated in a wild animal like a bat. Experts also say it’s possible that another animal host—such as a pangolin—helped the virus make the leap to humans.
There are currently nearly five million confirmed cases of coronavirus around the world.
Calls For Wildlife Food Bans
China previously banned the consumption and trade of wild animals. However, it still allowed the wildlife trade to persist for other purposes like research and traditional medicine use.
Following a months-long lockdown to limit the spread of the virus, Wuhan merchants began reopening their wet market stalls last month.
Wet markets are common across Asia and Africa and sell produce like fruit and vegetables, as well as meat. The markets occasionally sell wildlife. In addition to providing affordable food to local communities, wet markets also provide a livelihood for locals.
Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged governments around the world to “rigorously enforce” bans on the trade of wildlife for food.
“WHO’s position is that when these markets are allowed to reopen it should only be on the condition that they conform to stringent food safety and hygiene standards,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s Director-General, said in a statement.
A number of celebrities, including Courteney Cox, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Ricky Gervais, have also called for a ban on the wildlife trade and the consumption of wild animals.
“For the sake of people and animals, wildlife trade and consumption has to end, now,” Gervais, a vegetarian and animal lover, told the Mirror.
According to CBS News, Wuhan’s government will offer farmers cash payouts to stop breeding wild and exotic animals.