By Associated Press - Wednesday, April 1, 2020

BEIJING — China’s southern technology powerhouse of Shenzhen has issued the most sweeping ban yet on the breeding and consumption of wild animals in an effort to prevent a future outbreak such as the global coronavirus pandemic.

The virus, first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December, has been traced to a food market in the city that sold wild animals such as pangolins and civet cats, along as more conventional fare such as chicken and fish.

The consumption of wild animals is considered even more popular in the south where Shenzhen is located. That is where the 2002-2003 global SARS outbreak was believed to have first been spread by people who consumed or worked with wild animals in areas around Shenzhen and who may originally have caught it from wild bats.

Shenzhen’s regulations permanently ban the trade in and consumption of wild animals, a step beyond the temporary ban issued by the central government at the start of the current virus outbreak. Along with snakes, lizards and other wild animals, it also bans the consumption of dog and cat meat that have long been a local specialty, citing humanitarian reasons.

Households pets have not been found to spread the coronavirus.

The ban allows for fines beginning at 150,000 yuan ($21,400) and rising considerably depending on the value of the animals seized. It continues to permit the farming of wild animals for medicinal purposes, which has been criticized as cruel and unsanitary, although consumption of such animals for food is banned.

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