The Chinese city of Shenzhen has banned the eating of dogs and cats as part of a wider clampdown on the wildlife trade since the emergence of the new coronavirus.

It comes after the coronavirus outbreak was linked to wildlife meat, prompting Chinese authorities to ban the trade and consumption of wild animals in the central city of Wuhan, where bats, snakes, civets and other animals were sold. Shenzhen went a step further, extending the ban to dogs and cats. The new law will come into force on May 1. Thirty million dogs a year are killed across Asia for meat, says Humane Society International (HSI).

CORONAVIRUS FAQ: WIKI OF MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 

China’s legislature said in late February it was banning the trade and consumption of wild animals. Provincial and city governments across the country have been moving to enforce the ruling but Shenzhen has been the most explicit about extending that ban to dogs and cats. The Shenzhen city government said;

“Dogs and cats as pets have established a much closer relationship with humans than all other animals, and banning the consumption of dogs and cats and other pets is a common practice in developed countries and in Hong Kong and Taiwan.”

The city’s campaign to stop the eating of wildlife has won praise from animal welfare groups.

“With Shenzhen taking the historic decision to become mainland China’s first city to ban dog and cat meat consumption, this really could be a watershed moment in efforts to end this brutal trade that kills an estimated 10 million dogs and four million cats in China every year,” Peter Li, China policy specialist for HSI, said in a statement. “The majority of these companion animals are stolen from people’s back yards or snatched from the streets, and are spirited away on the backs of trucks to be beaten to death in slaughterhouses and restaurants across China.”

“Shenzhen is the first city in the world to take the lessons learned from this pandemic seriously and make the changes needed to avoid another pandemic,” said Teresa Telecky, the vice president of the wildlife department for Humane Society International. Shenzhen’s bold steps to stop this trade and wildlife consumption is a model for governments around the world to emulate.”