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Wildlife Gourmands Urged to Stop after SARS Link Found
The wildlife cuisine of southern China's Guangdong Province is under fire from animal welfare activists and medical experts after the SARS coronavirus was traced to wild animals.

Experts said the outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) might persuade some people in the province to change their dining habits.

"The latest findings that there may be a link between wildlife and the emergence of SARS may set off the alarm for the wildlife gourmands," said Yuan Xicai, a research fellow at the Guangzhou-based South China Endangered Species Research Institute.

On Friday, scientists in Guangdong and Hong Kong announced they had discovered a link between the SARS virus and the masked civet.

Guangdong people have earned a reputation for eating anything that moves, including snakes and other wild animals.

Before the SARS outbreak, restaurants in Guangdong tempted their customers with exotic and sometimes endangered species -- popularly known in China as "enjoying wild flavors."

Many believe the meat of some wild animals increases virility, enriches the blood and is healthy in other ways.

Experts warned that once eaten as delicacies, wild animals carrying parasites and viruses could greatly threaten people's health.

"Our experiments have detected various parasites and viruses in snakes, crocodiles, giant lizards and many other reptiles which Guangdong people used to eat," said Chen Shijun, a research fellow with Guangdong Provincial Wildlife Rescue Center.

The tradition of eating wild animals has persisted for a long time in Guangdong. But there is a different attitude towards wildlife.

"Ancient Chinese philosophy has taught us: 'Man is an integrated part of nature'," said Zhang Weiliang, deputy director of Baiyun District Forestry Bureau, Guangzhou. "And the outbreak of SARS is the punishment we deserve for eating wild animals."

"Mankind should treasure animals rather than slaughter them," Zhang said.

Authorities in Guangdong banned the trade in wildlife this week following suspicions that the virus might have come from wild animals.

A new draft of regulations ordering people to stop eating wild animals has been submitted to Guangdong provincial People's Congress, the provincial legislature, for approval.

Traveling animal shows have been ordered to cancel performances, and restaurants that specialize in wild game dishes have been ordered to turn over any live animals.

"The current introspection of gluttonous wildlife diners is mainly attributable to the outbreak of SARS," said Dr. Li Wangen, a nutritionist at No. 2 Hospital affiliated to Guangzhou Medical College.

"It is just the beginning of further progress in giving up wildlife consumption," he said.

(Xinhua News Agency May 30, 2003)

Revised Law to Stamp out Wild Animal Consumption
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Stricter Measures to Stop Wild Animal Eating
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