China’s wildlife trade

Beijing has banned the trade and consumption of wild animals in response to a coronavirus epidemic linked to a wildlife market in Wuhan in the central Chinese province of Hubei.

By Adolfo Arranz and Han Huang March 4, 2020

China has traded and consumed wildlife for centuries, using the animals for everything from traditional Chinese medicine to laboratory research, and fur to food. Since the coronavirus epidemic began, the National Forestry and Grassland Administration has confiscated 39,000 wild animals and “cleaned up” more than 350,000 sites such as restaurants and markets where the animals are traded.

Use of wild animals in China's breeding industry

According to a report released by the Chinese Academy of Engineering, the industry is valued at 520 billion yuan (US$74 billion), and employs more than 14 million people.

Value by sector in 2016

Employment by sector in 2016

Value by sector in 2016

Employment by sector in 2016

China is the world’s largest producer of fur products. Mink, fox and raccoon dog pelts are the most profitable.

Pelt production in China in 2018

For centuries traditional Chinese medicine has used various wildlife to treat a range of human ailments. Pangolins are in particularly high demand, used to treat conditions such as blocked breast ducts, rheumatoid arthritis and poor blood circulation, despite no scientific evidence of their effectiveness.

There has long been a wildlife-eating culture in southern China and consuming exotic foods has become a status symbol over the past three decades. The wide-scale breeding of wild animals means it is relatively easy to order delicacies such as bear paw, pangolin and migratory birds straight from the menu in certain restaurants. And in some of China’s impoverished regions, such as Guizhou and Guangxi, wildlife farming is an important source of income for people.

Employment in wildlife breeding farms for food

The Chinese government has long encouraged the commercial use of wild animals. A 2018 document, issued by the State Council even called for farmers to “accelerate the growth of the farming and watching/display of wild animals”.

Share this story

Follow our graphics team

Enjoying South China Morning Post graphics?

Here are some other digital native projects you might want to visit

Or just visit our graphics home page

Hi, Internet Explorer user!

This site has some features that may not be compatlibe with your browser. Should you wish to view content, switch browsers to either Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox to get an awesome experience