Emergency call on illegal wildlife trade

Wan Lixin
China's Public Security Department urging stepped-up crackdown on criminal activities may be a timely warning about the food we eat and the need to respect nature.
Wan Lixin

China's Public Security Department issued an emergency circular on January 31 calling for stepped-up crackdown on criminal activities concerning wildlife, in a bid to help contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The circular pointed out that major campaigns be coordinated at grassroots level to solve some high-profile cases involving traffic in wildlife across different regions. It said the wildlife trade in some regions was a major threat to public security.

Preliminary analysis blames a certain bat as the first bearer of the coronavirus.

Although there is still speculation as to how people got infected, videos and pictures posted online featuring how bats are prepared as a delicacy have drawn widespread condemnation.

Hopefully, establishing the fatal link should be a timely warning that humans should refrain from viewing at least some species as legitimate food.

On February 1, in a crackdown in southern Guangdong Province, over 3,000 law enforcement personnel inspected 690 markets and over 2,000 restaurants and eateries. During the campaign 342 turtles, in addition to other animals, were removed from sale. 

The battle against the illegal hunting of wild species has been an ongoing one.

One of the more recent cases in Shanghai occurred on January 22, when Jinshan District police, acting on tip-offs, apprehended a suspect in Songjiang District who, in a monthlong period, had trapped over 30 wild birds, 10 of which had already died when police arrived.

There was a time, in an age of scarcity, when wild game was viewed as a supplementary source of nutrition. But today, wildlife is sometimes eaten for its own sake, as a kind of hunt for novelty or even showing off.

In most parts of the world, we have already reduced the once complex wild ecosystem to simplified human food. But we are far from being satisfied.

Mahatma Gandhi once said: "Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed.”

The breakout of the epidemic should be sobering moment that what we eat is a serious matter, and we pay the price if we don't respect nature.

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