Revised law to stamp out wild animal consumption
Officials and experts have called for a revision of laws to forbid people to eat wild animals, as part of efforts to prevent the possible transmission of viruses from animals to human beings.
These appeals have become even stronger after scientists said the SARS virus is 99 per cent similar to one carried by animals such as the masked palm civet.
No laws or regulations - including the Law on the Protection of Wildlife that became effective in 1989 - have articles forbidding people from eating wildlife.
"Forbidding people to eat wildlife is an effective way of eliminating huge market demand with staggering profits, which is the main motivation for various illegal trades of wild animals," said Chen Runsheng, secretary-general of the China Wildlife Conservation Association.
Amendments to the existing wildlife law, such as the addition of a clear clause forbidding the consumption of wildlife will be considered, said Chen Genchang, director of the department of laws and regulations at the State Forestry Administration.
Relevant departments of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislative body, have been collating the views of experts on how to revise the law to prevent the possible spread of diseases from animals to humans.
The trade of wildlife has been rampant in South China's Guangdong Province, where SARS was first discovered.
A new clause was added to regulations in the province this week, saying people should not eat wild animals.
But the local clause did not specifically ban the activity which has existed for hundreds of years as a so-called "Chinese food and drink culture," Chen noted.
Activities such as eating wild animals in restaurants are not "cultural" but rather stupid as it is well-known that many infectious diseases have broken out after people ate wild animals, Cheng added.
About 10,000 tons of snake are eaten in China every year, Chen said.
In April, when SARS was spreading quickly in the country, more than 930,000 pieces of wildlife including more than 40,000 protected animals were rescued by police in more than 9,000 cases, official statistics said yesterday.
To make the new clause more practical, the government and legal departments must give an exact definition of wild animals to tell people which can be eaten, said Meng Zhibin, an expert from the Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology Institute of Zoology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.