Live poultry kept in cages is a common sight in agricultural wholesale food markets and “wet markets” — smaller-scale fresh food markets — across China.
The poultry is traditionally butchered on the spot by stallholders, or buyers can opt to slaughter the live animal at home.
Some Chinese people traditionally believe that this allows for maximum freshness. Live seafood, amphibians and other creatures are also commonly sold at wet markets.
Scientists believe the pathogen originated in bats before jumping to humans through a yet-unknown animal intermediary.
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.”