Coronavirus offers more proof why China needs to shut down live wild animal markets for good

By on January 27, 2020 with 77 Comments

The Chinese wildlife trade is mired in long-held beliefs about the benefits of eating exotic and often endangered animals for good health. But the reality stands in stark contrast. The markets in China where live wild animals, including endangered species like pangolins, are bought and sold have often acted as petri dishes for the germination and spread of deadly diseases like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the deadly bird flu, with each outbreak claiming hundreds of human victims.

Now, once again, China’s wildlife markets have spawned another global public health crisis with the deadly coronavirus, a pneumonia-like illness that has so far claimed nearly 80 human lives and sickened at least 2,700 more, providing more evidence than ever why the country needs to shut down its wildlife markets for good.

The threat has spread to several other nations outside China, including the United States, where five cases of the illness have been confirmed.

Reports coming out of China describe a nation in panic, its people angry over the government’s failure to act decisively to address the public health dimensions of the crisis. But it has also generated criticisms of the nation’s guarded efforts to end the wildlife trade despite the many deadly precedents of past scares.

“Chinese society is boiling with anger at wildlife policy failures,” says Humane Society International’s China policy specialist, Peter Li. “Social media is full of posts condemning the refusal to shut down the wildlife markets. This is the worst Chinese New Year in China’s recent history.”

Nearly two weeks after the world heard of this new coronavirus, China took a decisive step by announcing a temporary ban on all wildlife markets, as well as wildlife transport and online wildlife trade, in the interests of its citizens’ health and safety, and in the interests of safeguarding public health worldwide. According to the Washington Post, in a commentary published Friday, state China Central Television condemned the consumption of wild animals and called the new coronavirus a “game meat virus.” It also took to task those “who love to eat, poach, and trade wild animals.”

But censure and temporary bans are not enough; China needs to act firmly to end all wildlife markets for good, in the interests of its citizens’ health and safety, and in the interests of safeguarding public health worldwide. Part of this involves educating people about the dangers of consuming wild animals.

China needs to act firmly to end all wildlife markets for good, in the interests of its citizens’ health and safety, and in the interests of safeguarding public health worldwide.

The virus is said to have originated at the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market in the city of Wuhan, where vendors were selling animals, including live cats and dogs, turtles, snakes, rats, hedgehogs and marmots. Menus and signboards posted online also listed foxes, wolf cubs, monkeys and masked palm civets, among other animals. These wildlife markets are filthy, crowded places where animals are displayed alive in small cages. Once purchased, they are often slaughtered on site, creating not just a human health hazard but also an animal welfare nightmare.

Many of the animals traded and killed at the markets are threatened with extinction. In fact, global wildlife experts say trade in live wild animals is one of the biggest threats to the survival of several species. And while China may be in the news right now, such trade is not limited to one country—it happens globally, and even right here, in the United States, where diseases like salmonellosis, food poisoning caused by bacteria, have spread to humans from pet reptiles.

The last time China made an effort to close down its wildlife markets was after the SARS outbreak some 17 years ago in 2003, although that effort ceased about six months later. HSI is supportive of the Chinese government making the wildlife trade ban a permanent policy. China has shown great resolve in recent years in ending the unnecessary exploitation of wildlife, most notably by cracking down on the ivory trade. We hope that this latest outbreak, and the havoc it has caused, will inspire the government to act just as decisively to end the country’s wildlife markets. For the people of China, and the world, an ounce of prevention, in this case, would certainly be worth much more than a pound of cure.

Humane Society International, Wildlife/Marine Mammals

Subscribe to the Blog

Enter your email address below to receive updates each time we publish new content.


Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Karen says:

    Ban it now

    • Jwatts says:

      Yes, this disgusting practice has to end. Not only is it horrific for the animals, it threatens the world. Asians need to consider how the world thinks about them.

    • Julie Brown says:

      What a vile and disgusting place. People who boil, burn and skin animals alive have no place in this world. The world has moved on.

      • Jay Bunny says:


      • Amadeo says:

        All of you constantly talking about animals “tortured” and boiled/burned alive do realise that places in Southeast Asia, Korea, and even Western slaughterhouses are doing the same thing, right? Wikipedia has articles on these things, and you can also google ‘Belgium pigs boiled alive’, ‘Australia pigs boiled alive’, ‘chickens boiled alive’, ‘UK sheep beaten’ etc. for evidence in the West.

  2. Nicole Braun says:

    I ageee 100%! SARS also started in an exotic animal market. Enough us enough!

    • Ihatechinese says:

      Disgusting humans torturing and eating these animals. A lot of them are endangered species. Those people are eating up the whole earth and the oceans.

  3. georgi tan says:

    please stop eating wild animals including dog and cat meat trade! stop spreading all this virus cause!

  4. nikolai wee says:

    please implement animal rights!!

    • Edyie says:

      This sounds like an answer to a horrible action of the death of Wildlife!
      Thank you!

    • Kristen says:

      Please stop this animal trade , it’s inhumain to these animals and causes many to become sick!!! it’s affects us here in the United States not just over there in your country, we are terrified. This I have to is really selfish if you want to ask me. It’s needs to stop!!!!

  5. nathis wee says:

    stop dog meat trade!!

  6. Edith says:

    We can make this happen!!!! Lord please end this animal cruelty once and for all, let’s be that voice! Let step up, sign, participation, donate if possible!!! We can do this we def can help make this movement happen!!! God bless to all

  7. Blog Editor says:

    Some comments have been removed for violating the commenting policy. We appreciate your feedback. Please read the commenting policy and be respectful when you share your thoughts.

  8. David Bernazani says:

    If this pandemic doesn’t wake up China to the dangers of live wildlife markets, nothing will. Scientists have been warning for years that this would happen. Greed and gluttony indeed.

  9. Jennifer McNeilly says:

    How does anyone in 2020 honestly believe that if you eat an exotic , wild animals’ flesh ….that you will change your dna and take on it’s characteristics !?!

  10. Ruki says:

    Stop torturing these are poor wild life who is meant to be in the wild. And this goes for cats,dogs and all the tortured soul in China. Please introduce animal law protection and educate them how to treat animals with respect , kindness and empathy

  11. Jennifer Kerr says:

    The animals in the forest belong to the creator

  12. Dianna says:

    If China will not enforce a permenant ban on eating domestic and wild animals then perhaps all the other goverments on the planet should do sanctions against China to show that the rest of the world does not want to be infected with these viruses plus its been cruel and inhumane for long enough now what they do to these animals.

  13. Sandy Anderson says:

    I have never wanted to visit China for the simple reason I would be devastated to see these beautiful animals in cages sitting in filthy markets and slaughtered on site. For the life of me I cannot fathom how anyone with a conscience could be involved with this trade.

    • Lisa says:

      Man you are so right I could never be able to go see how and what they do to all the animals they cage and treat terrible. I’m not sure what I would do.

    • Eve Henly says:


    • Cheryl says:

      Yes – going to China is an assault on every animal lover’s heart. Everywhere you turn there are heads, feet and tails of beautiful animals not to mention live ones in awful cages and living conditions. The only animals they treat well there are the panda bears, but that is because an international community is taking care of them and they are big $ makers when they are alive and well. I went there once and that was enough for me.

  14. Michele says:

    The China need to stop eating dog,cat,wild animals but doing same in the oceans two.Anything in ocean’s or in forests live they kill and eat

  15. Jon Dayton says:

    Let the world put its foot down on wildlife markets in China. PRESSURE them to stop this most insane practice. Time is NOW to save the beautiful pangolins.

  16. Alan Alejandro Maldonado Ortiz says:

    Ya no mas al tráfico de animalitos es muy importante que esto termine para evitar sufrimiento y crueldad y más contagios

  17. Davis Tukamushaba says:

    Why would it even come to this? We have talked and signed petitions, written different articles and opposed to China Wild Animals trade but why have not listened. So now see the results.

  18. Sonya says:

    China needs to shutdown wildlife markets for good.

  19. Lisa says:

    China needs Human-welfare laws & Animal-welfare laws – first and foremost. Chinese government must implement drastic measures to ensure these efforts for their citizens and animals ….. international pressure from countries, including USA, is needed to move China forward in this huge endeavor.

  20. Harmony says:

    For all of China’s medical and technological advances it makes no sense how they are stuck in the “dark” ages of superstitious and mythical folklore based beliefs. Do they not understand “placebo effect”! I wish the government would educate people on the consequences of their wildlife consumption and adopt a humane attitude towards animals. China, its time to wake up and set a good example to the rest of the world!

  21. Croma says:

    God is telling them!!! Stop eating and torturing animals!!!

  22. Ella says:

    It’s really time to stop it all !

  23. Helene Mackey says:

    Oh God. If I thought that with this outbreak of the coronavirus it would end the Chinese wildlife markets (including dogs and cats to my extreme sorrow) then maybe it will finally do some good. But, sadly, I doubt it.

    • Aj says:

      I agree with you. It will continue. The innocent ones will continue to be tortured, kept in despicable ways and killed horrifically.

  24. Haze Everest says:

    Our beautiful planet is suffering all over the world humans are destroying the planet It is clear to say that mother nature is paying us all back even the poor suffering animals are paying us back with deadly disease When will we all learn life is more important in love and peace not in wars and greed
    If we all tried so hard To Abbe the 10 Commandments there would be peace on Earth amen

  25. Bobbie Bob Marley the man says:

    There is a protocol for sanitation and proper cleaning 4 fruits and vegetables and also meats.. eating any old thing is not going to do you any good but everything has been tested ..

  26. Julie Wilkinson says:

    For many years now I have seen China’s cruel methods of boiling dogs and cat’s alive as they think the pain they endure prior to a very slow death will make the meat tastier. I have seen videos of them stringing animals up and skinning them alive, or using a blow torch to skin them alive and then cook them in the filthiest conditions you can imagine. Many rescue have fought hard to help these animals including buying them off the butchers prior to these gruelling acts were performed. I am elated at the moment as I feel that there may actually be a little hope for these poor animals although at the expense of some innocent people, but the whole World can now see what is happening. YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW comes to mind

    • Wildlife Warrior says:

      The Chinese have a long disgraceful track record of animal rights violations! They will eat anything that moves. Time to regulate and BAN the use of live animals in these heinous markets. Time to END the bushmeat and wildlife trade in China! WAKE UP!

    • Wildlife Warrior says:

      It’s horrific! China, wake up!

  27. Nick Ogu says:

    The latest information from WHO is that the source of novel coronavirus and the extent of spread are yet unknown. It sounds outrageous. It is treating a serious matter with a kid’s glove. China should take seriously the points made in this article and urgently look into its wildlife market.

  28. Virginie Wyss says:

    Please sign the Friend of The Earth Petition on :
    These unregulated markets must stop. Not only are they wiping out precious wildlife, but they are also the root of most modern epidemics and outbreaks. They literally threaten all life on the planet.

  29. Melissa sangenario says:

    What happened to the animals in the cages at the wuhan market?were they left to starve to death?

    • Tina Wilson says:

      Probably eaten or killed. Although, I doubt they were just killed and all that good meat let go to waste. If they will slaughter them on the spot with no conscious those animals are probably in cages starving to death waiting to be someones next meal. Sad.

    • Kathryn says:

      Probably 😢 why would they even care

  30. Kathryn says:

    I have lost sleep after seeing pictures of the china wet market. It’s beyond comprehension. These poor animals must endure unfathomable pain and suffering. It must stop NOW!!!!!!
    I will not buy anything made in China until this ends

  31. Nataliia Honcharova says:

    That’s terrible! We must stop the Chinese wildlife trade!

  32. Monica Morales says:

    We humans are being corrected. Corrected by God or the Source or by Natural Law – however one wishes to think about it. We’re all culpable. But some more than others. Consider where these diseases originate. My thoughts and tears are for all of the tortured, murdered nonhuman animals. And I continue to to think about how the rest of the still living animals in the Wuhan market were “dealt with” when the market was shut down. I shed NO tears for any human who dies from Corona virus. God is letting the “powerful ” arrogant human animals see that we are no more valuable or loved than the rest of creation.

  33. Hugh says:

    The only way to get the Chinese Government to act on this is to hit their hip pocket. Stop buying anything from China – check all labels. And don’t use traditional Chinese medicine.
    Any other pressure will fall on deaf ears.

  34. Laura says:

    This is sick and disgusting and horrific beyond words.I don’t want to buy anything from China until they stop their cruel and barbaric treatment of animals.There is something wrong with the Chinese people that abuse and torture animals especially cats and dogs. There are no laws to protect animals in China so they are allowed to do this. Shame on the Chinese government, I will never visit that country until they stop their cruelty

  35. Valerie says:

    I find these times senseless and most commentaries or concerns regarding the coronavirus equally senseless. We are all skirting the point. Xenophobia, racism, fear, money… none of that address the core issue, which to me is the loss of humanity when we disregard how we treat each other and other life forms. Ethnicity did not create this disease and money and fear will not solve it. What caused the problem is our support of countries where people are allowed to torture animals, even consuming them while alive. How eviscerating is that? It is now time to put pressure on China to stop the practice of capturing and torturing wildlife. This should no longer be allowed. When we put our foot down to save lives is how we win as a planet and as a connected people. Let’s stop China’s inhumane treatment of animals. Turning away from the horrors animals face in China makes us all accomplice and will continue to expose us to pandemics like this one. This is a call for love, compassion and respect to one and all. #coronavirus #china #xenophobia #humanity #compassion #respect

  36. Liz says:

    Billions of factory farm animals are subjected to inhumane cruelty in the USA and other Western countries. This is infinitely worse than China. Read this story on the World Animal Protection website.

    • Nick says:

      Very well said! We are doing the same in our country to the ” pigs, cows, chickens, etc…” Meat is suffering! We inflict so much pain on other sentient beings, all for our selfish pleasures.
      Factory farms are just as disgusting as the markets in China!

      Coronavirus=Animal Liberation

      That’s the way I see it!!
      Time to wake up people!

    • Helene B says:

      Tell me something Liz, have you ever seen a stolen pet pig being torched alive in broad daylight in front of children? have you ever seen farm animals being tortured for the taste of their meat? Have you ever seen a dog being peel alive for its fur in North America? Have you ever seen………But I know why you are upset about our own sins towards animals, but at least, we have some laws that protect them. I’m vegan for the animals, for my health and the health of my planet.

    • Frankie says:

      Agree and as I commented look at things in our own back yard before you comment on others

  37. Patricia Paisley says:

    Empty words…….no one has the balls to do anything to protect the suffering of these innocent beautiful creatures, we are all to blame for allowing it to continue despicable!!!!!

  38. Julie says:

    Absolutely disgusted with the human race. Trophy Hunting and Wet Markets are cruel and despicable. Mother Nature at last having the last say.!!!!!

  39. Lorie Test says:

    Humans are EVIL….. there is no other way to word it …….DOWN RIGHT EVIL….COLD & EVIL!!!!!! How can people live with themselves after doing this to these poor animals? How??????????!!!!!!!!!!!?????????!!!!!!!!

    • christine chance says:

      I agree with you humans are evil. they are devastating the world , all for power and money. and the people that do care will suffer

  40. Patricia Fowler says:

    I have read that China has banned the wild animal markets at this time but I fear they will continue when the Coronavirus is under control – as happened after SARS. There should be condemnation of these markets from governments globally as the obnoxious Chinese appetite for the use of wild animals either in their diet or medicinal potions has proven to have dire consequences for the rest of the world. The hideous conditions and treatment of animals in China, many endangered is heartbreaking. This has been going on for so long there had to be a’fight back’ Karma comes to mind. Sadly, money speaks louder than anything and should this virus result in wrecked economies around the world, only then I fear, there maybe global pressure on China to ban these markets permanently.

  41. Adelia says:

    I think that God is fed up with the cruel slaughter of His animals.

  42. Arindam Chowdhury says:

    Wild life torturing and eating need to STOP immediately. COVID-19 is a wake up call.

  43. Chris says:

    While in Beijing three years ago, some of the market vendors had live lizards, frogs and snakes impaled on sticks so their movement would attract tourists taking photos. Under such extreme conditions, these poor creatures emit fierce immune responses that are sloughed off and picked up by humans. This complete disregard for the suffering of animals is what has caused these viruses. We need to hold China accountable for not enforcing humane guidelines and allowing this to continue. Apparently the earth has already decided to do something about it.

  44. CJVR says:

    The world should take a tougher stance on China to end their cruel treatment of animals, including things like bear bile farming, using live animals in keychain ornaments, hunting rhino to extinction just for their horns and chopping up live snakes to eat. The covid virus did not make nearly a big enough impression, and now they are demanding concessions from other countries to help with this problem they started. They should be apologizing and offering to help for free. I agree with Patricia Fowler, the moment the crisis is over they will continue exactly as before with no remorse and no regard to the rest of the world.

  45. David Bernazani says:

    I have read that these hellish markets continue to remain open not only in China, but other Asian countries as well. What will it take for these people to wake up? The world is losing thousands of lives and trillions of dollars, and yet the Covid virus is actually not very deadly. What about the next one? Does it take the entire human population to die to stop the greed and gluttony of a few thoughtless people?

Share a Comment

The HSUS encourages open discussion, and we invite you to share your opinion on our issues. By participating on this page, you are agreeing to our commenting policy.
Please enter your name and email address below before commenting. Your email address will not be published.