A worker inspects the chicken farm of an agricultural technology company in Cheng'an County, north China's Hebei Province, March 4, 2020. /Xinhua
China on Friday vowed to gradually phase out the slaughter and sale of live poultry at food markets, in a move welcomed by animal rights activists amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement came as China stepped up inspections of wholesale food markets and outlawed the sale and consumption of wildlife, after a recent COVID-19 outbreak in Beijing was traced to a major agricultural wholesale market.
"China will restrict the trading and slaughter of live poultry, encourage the mass slaughter of live poultry in places with certain conditions, and gradually close live poultry markets," said Chen Xu, an official at the State Administration of Market Regulation, at a press briefing.
File photo shows a trader piling vegetable at the Xinfadi farm products whole sale market in Beijing, China. /Xinhua
Chen urged local governments across China to "strengthen supervision of food safety at agricultural wholesale markets" and "investigate hidden safety risks," taking the Beijing Xinfadi market virus hotspot as an example.
"It is understood that more than 70 percent of meat, poultry, seafood, fruit and vegetables enter the market through wholesale agricultural markets," he said.
There are more than 4,100 wholesale markets nationwide, a commerce ministry official told the briefing.
The announcement was welcomed by animal rights groups.
"We are happy to see that live-poultry markets are on their way out in China," said Jason Baker, senior vice president of PETA Asia.
"PETA hopes the State Administration of Market Supervision and Administration continues to stretch their wings and ban all live-animal markets nationwide."
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