How It All Started, Part 2
Last blog I talked about how a virus can spread today. I am going to continue what the Chinese government did wrong. It encouraged the domestication and breeding of wildlife. With these underlying factors, a new industry is born. For example, bear farms in China started with just three and eventually grew to more than 1000 bears. More significant populations meant higher chances that a sick animal could spread disease. Farmers were also raising a wide variety of animals, which meant more viruses on the farms. Despite these odds, these animals were funneled into the wet market for profit. While this legal wildlife farming industry started booming, it simultaneously provided cover for an illegal wildlife industry. Endangered animals like tigers, rhinoceroses, and pangolins were trafficked into China. By the early 2000s, these markets were teeming with wild animals when the inevitable happened, which was the cause of the SARS Virus.
In 2003, the SARS outbreak was traced to a wet market in Southern China. Scientists found traces of the virus in farmed civet cats. Chinese officials quickly shut down the markets and banned wildlife farming. However, a few months after the outbreak, the Chinese government declared 54 species of wildlife animals, including civet cats, legal to farm again by 2004, the wildlife farming industry was worth an estimated 100 billion Yuan, and it exerted significant influence over the Chinese government. The wildlife farming industry was tiny in China's gigantic GDP. Despite this, the industry had an enormous lobbying capability. It is because of this influence that the Chinese government has allowed these markets to grow over the years. In 2016, for example, the government-sanctioned the farming of some endangered species like tigers, and pangolins. By 2018, the wildlife industry had to grow 148 Billion Yuan and had developed smart marketing tactics to keep the markets around.
The industry has been promoting these wildlife animals as tonic products. As body-building, sex-enhancing, and of course, disease-fighting. None of those claims, however, proved to be factual. However, these products still became popular with a substantial portion of China's Population. The majority of the people in China do not eat wildlife animals. Those people who consumed these wild animals are rich and powerful. A small minority. It's this minority that the Chinese government chose to favor over the safety of the rest of its 1.4billion population. This parochial commercial interest of a small number of wildlife eaters is hijacking China's national interest. Soon after the coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese government shut down thousands of wet markets and temporarily banned wildlife trade again. Organizations around the world have been urging China to make the ban permanent. Chinese social media, in particular, has been flooded with petitions to ban it for good this time. In response, China is reportedly amending the Wildlife Protection law that encouraged wildlife farming decades ago. But unless these actions lead to a permanent ban on wildlife farming, outbreaks like this are bound to happen again