Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the Covid-19 pandemic has banned the consumption of wild animals.

Wuhan, in China's Hubei province, officially prohibited eating wild animals as well as hunting them within city limits, declaring itself a "wildlife sanctuary" Wednesday, CBS reported.

Cash incentives are also being offered to farmers who quit breeding exotic creatures.

The new policy went into effect on May 13 and will stay in place for five years, according to a notice released by the Wuhan government today.

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Experts in China said in January that the virus had likely jumped on to humans from wild animals sold as food at a wet market in the city of 11 million.

The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, the place responsible for spawning the global outbreak, was shut on January 1 following the spread of the virus.

Wuhan wet market.
Wuhan wet market.

The market offered the sale of live animals such as foxes, crocodiles, wolf puppies, snakes, rats, peacocks, porcupines, koalas and game meats.

The Chinese province of Hubei, of which Wuhan is the capital city, in March passed a law to ban the eating of wild animals completely, including those bred or raised by people.

In China alone, the virus has claimed 4634 lives and infected 82,965 people, according to official figures.

 Australia has pressured the World Health Organisation's decision to allow the reopening of wet markets in China despite strong evidence they were the origin of the coronavirus. Photo / Getty
Australia has pressured the World Health Organisation's decision to allow the reopening of wet markets in China despite strong evidence they were the origin of the coronavirus. Photo / Getty

Globally, at least 324,000 people have died and nearly five million have contracted the killer infection.

PETA is calling on the World Health Organisation to act now and close live-animal markets and PETA Asia has sent letters to top officials in countries where the markets are still operating, urging them close.

"Blood-soaked live-animal markets filled with sick and stressed animals are known to be ripe breeding grounds for pathogens that can cross the species barrier, so why are they still open?" PETA spokeswoman Emily Rice said.

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"Another pandemic is inevitable if we fail to learn from this one, which is why PETA is calling on the WHO to take action against these cruel and dangerous operations."

Clive Phillips, professor of animal welfare with the Centre for Animal Welfare and Ethics at the University of Queensland, wrote in The Conversation, "Poorly treated animals are stressed, and stressed animals are more likely to harbour new diseases because their immune systems are compromised.

"This means these wet markets, where there are stressed animals in close contact with humans, are the perfect breeding ground for new diseases."