BEIJING, 19 May 2020:
China’s Hunan and Jiangxi provinces will offer subsidies to farmers to abandon wild animal husbandry and take up livestock breeding or fruit and vegetable farming, following a government ban on the trade and consumption of these animals, local media reported today.
Hunan launched a provincial-level plan on Friday to compensate wild animal farmers after the Chinese government banned the trade and consumption of wildlife – owing to their alleged link to the origin of the coronavirus, state-run newspaper China Daily reported.
The breeders of 14 species will receive compensation of up to 600 yuan (US$84) for every civet cat, 630 yuan per porcupine, 378 yuan for every wild goose and 2,457 for each Chinese muntjac deer.
The farmers will also be paid 120 yuan per kg of cobra, king rattle snake or rat snake and 75 yuan for every kg of bamboo rat.
In addition, breeders will also receive financial assistance to transform their activity and engage in the cultivation of fruits, vegetables, tea or breeding livestock, according to the newspaper.
This provincial directive comes after the Chinese authorities banned the trade and consumption of wild animals after the origin of the Covid-19 outbreak was believed to be found in the mutation of a virus from one of the animals sold in a market in Wuhan in central China.
There – in addition to fish and shellfish – rat meat, peacocks, freshly slaughtered hares and even crocodiles were illegally trafficked, according to photographs shared on social media.
Beijing reacted by ordering the temporary suspension of these activities in January and, in late February, it approved another proposal to ban the trade permanently.
Peter J. Li of the Humane Society International animal protection group welcomed these proposals.
“Chinese farmers not only have an opportunity to leave a trade that poses a direct threat to human health – something that can no longer be tolerated in light of Covid-10, but also to transition to more humane and sustainable livelihoods such as growing plant foods popular in Chinese cuisine.”
However, he added that China still faces “challenges to enforce a ban on wildlife trade because of local protectionism, violation by the traders and catering businesses and others, and poor law enforcement.”
The expert also noted these plans do not cover wild animals which, although not consumed, are used to make furs, traditional Chinese medicine and for entertainment, and warned breeders could end up culling these animals in order to try to comply with the new directives.
Li also said that, although the government decided to revise the country’s Wildlife Protection Law at the end of February, a final text may not be prepared in time for approval during the annual session of the Chinese legislature, which will begin on May 22 after being postponed on account of the virus.
Scientists, media, civil associations and individuals in China have, in recent months, called for more regulation and more transparent information for consumers as well as awareness campaigns in order to curb trade and consumption of these species.