"The , as the science writer Brian Resnick concluded, is due to behaviour. How so? Scientists and reporters in explain that one must go back to 1970."




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"That year, there was a heavy famine in China, which resulted in more than 36 million people starving. The Communist Party administration, which controlled food production, failed miserably to save the people. As a result, in 1978 it relinquished exclusive control over agriculture and allowed private entrepreneurs to trade. The private sector began to grow."




"While most farmers domesticated animals such as poultry, pigs and cows, as well as growing cereals and legumes, a smaller, richer sector began to hunt and domesticate wildlife, such as , turtles and . At first it was very small, growing and trading only around the home. Although initially this was illegal, the government turned a blind eye because it contributed to the livelihood of those engaged in it, necessary during those years of crisis."




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"Having come to realise the economic potential of selling wildlife, in 1988 the government changed the law, determining for the first time that wildlife was a ‘natural resource’ which one could therefore use for one’s own needs. This made wildlife trading increasingly interesting to the industry at the margin."






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"It soon became clear, however, that the decision was a precursor to the spread of new . As the industry developed, in limited spaces huge emerged, selling a wide variety of animals: , , , crocodiles, ducks and snakes, alongside pigs, chickens and more. Where there is a concentration of large animal populations, there is an opportunity for an animal disease to spread to other species and on to man—which is exactly what happened."





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"In 2003, in a market in province, the virus (SARS-CoV) broke out, the source an Asian wild animal called the masked palm civet. The reached 71 countries, killing about 774 people. Following the outbreak, the government shunned the wildlife food industry."





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"Although its value was minimal for China’s overall gross domestic product, those who lost huge profits following the decision lobbied to allow the trade to recommence. The pressure told: a few months later, the government declared 54 species as legitimate to in once more. In 2016, more varieties were added, such as and (scaly anteaters)."




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"What is common to the two markets in which the and viruses erupted is the high concentration of different types in dense conditions, allowing the transmission of from one to another. The interaction of the three (bat-pangolin-human) depends on close proximity. As Peter Li, a professor of animal trafficking in China, explained,‘The are stuffed with each other. The animals at the bottom are soaked in fluids. One after the other.’ This is exactly how viruses emerge."






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"Is the problem the sale of wildlife intrinsically or is it the living conditions of the animals? Probably both.

In other countries, animals also live under harsh conditions which cause disease . For example, the source of flu which radiated from Mexico in 2009 was probably the town of La Gloria, east of Mexico City, where industrialised pig pens were located. Bird flu and the ‘mad cow’ disease which erupted in Britain can also be seen in this light."






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" welfare—human welfare. It is time to think about the implications of our actions for animals, not just in terms of but also . And of course (but that’s another topic) the environment."





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