The controversy of wildlife consumption in Chinese cuisine and medicine

In the Chinese classic The Water Margin, when the outlaws of Liangshan try to take Daming city, heroes Xie Zhen and Xie Bao sneak past the guards disguised as hunters presenting wild game to noble lords.

This centuries-old dietary custom, controversial even in ancient history, is now officially ended: On February 24, China’s National People’s Congress adopted legislation banning the consumption of any field-harvested or captive-bred wildlife.

The change comes after years of campaigning by wildlife activists and medical experts on the environmental and health risks of China’s wildlife trade. The masked civet, sold for meat in some markets in Guangdong province, had been identified as the intermediate host of 2003’s SARS virus, and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has been linked with a seafood market in Wuhan where various species of exotic wildlife were being illegally sold as food.

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author Sun Jiahui (孙佳慧)

Sun Jiahui is a freelance writer and former editor at The World of Chinese. She writes about Chinese language, society and culture, and is especially passionate about sharing stories of China's ancient past with a wider audience. She has been writing for TWOC for over six years, and pens the Choice Chengyu column.

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