While the origin of COVID-19 is still under investigation and the subject of a propaganda battle between China and the United States, conventional wisdom holds that it transmitted to humans via bats in a wet market in Wuhan.
My Visit To A Chinese Wet Market
In 2016, I spent a couple days in Guangzhou to visit the newly-opened Park Hyatt Guangzhou. During my visit, I took a wonderful bicycle tour of the city, which included a stop at a traditional wet market.
A wet market is a marketplace selling fresh meat, fish, produce, and other perishable goods that are widespread throughout China and many parts of the world. Some wet markets have live animals that are slaughtered upon selection. Others are more like a crude grocery store. In China, wet markets were prohibited from stocking wildlife after the SARS epidemic in 2003, but that ban was lifted a few years later. With the spread of COVID-19, it has been reintroduced nationwide and on a permanent basis. That said, wet markets have already begun to re-open as China recovers from COVID-19.
While I did not see any bats or even sheep or goats waiting to be slaughtered, the market had one of the most pungent smells I have ever encountered and there were many moving things available for purchase.
Here are some of the photos I took. Note the live turtles, snakes, frogs, and other live creatures:
Have you ever visited a wet market in China or elsewhere? What were your impressions?
> Read More: Explore Guangzhou with Cycle Canton
No dogs? I have seen freshly butchered ones in Thailand and Korea. Made one of the guys I was with so sick he had to immediately leave the market.
I remember when they passed a law in California 25 years ago that you couldn’t let cooked meat sit out for more than two hours since it was unsanitary. The Chinese in Chinatown rose up and said the Government was racist, since they traditionally left the whole duck hanging in the window all day long as you show here. The law was immediately modified to exclude Chinese cooking methods.
I stayed in Kowloon in Hong Kong and walked through one every day while I was there. I did not notice any live animals (other than fish in tanks). So maybe this was more of a traditional market, and Hong Kong (even in Kowloon) has “westernized” a little more than mainland China.
As a white person I see the practice as impossible for my people and dangerous. But at the same time it is nice to see people following their traditions and not eating boxed junk food filled with preservatives. Of course as a westerner I’m not going to eat most of these exotic foods and maybe most Chinese people won’t either but this makes them different. There is something interesting and revolting about these markets at the same time. China has a long history of not being the most hygienic and their air quality speaks for itself. SARS, H1N1 and COVID-19 all originated or had a strong foothold in China and then spread to the West. Modern thinking dictates closing these wet markets would be the best course of action but it would be sad to see orient tradition like this go away. Part of why we travel is to see different cultures that we never want adopted or brought home (nor the people) but enjoy seeing and taking part in just for a few weeks.
Disgusting who cares about their traditions if they are killing people around the world.
They r savages
You know what’s a real shame? 100,000 dead across the world, ripped from their loved ones as they drowned in their own lungs. These markets are horrendous and belong in history books.
At this point I don’t care what happens to Chinese culture, their attitude throughout this pandemic has been abhorrent; they lied about the severity, lied about it being transmissible via human-human contact and then had the gall to strut around saying they’ve beaten it, citizens taking to social media to brag about how “well” they’ve handled it while the world despairs at the rising death toll.
Sod them and their feral eating practices.
That sums up my feelings perfectly. Blood on hands in more ways than one
You still belive those disgusting lies from your media and gov. ? the Chinese gov. didn’t handle it right in the beginning but the severity was known to the whole world since around 20 JAN. the western world chose to ignore it and see it as a
flu….then, watching how well China has controled it, the western world again think they can do better. This is deep freaky arrogance towards China all along.
Stupid. You should at least google it before you comment. H1N1 is said to be originated in Mexico but the outbreak was in the United States. And we don’t know yet if COVID~19 originated in China.
Is that for breakfast? Snakes turtles frogs
I’ve been to wet markets individual stores that have live animals in Thailand, Cambodia and China. I’ve never encountered a bat or a pangolin, but, yes, bugs and scorpions. The sanitation standards were not up to the standards I see at home. But this business of western germophobes telling Asia how to manage public health, even in current times, is ridiculous.
I’m not sure we can trust the info that is coming out from behind the Red Curtain. Who knows how contained it really is there…
Chinese can’t have it both ways. Either continue with medieval sanitation that has long since been proven unsanitary and disastrous for public health, or be a part of the modern world and all that it has to offer….they are mutually exclusive.
Couldn’t agree more. China has to decide: will it adopt a more reasonable system to process animal products or will it continue to permit the disgusting, unsanitary markets to continue. They made all the right noises after SARS but in reality did nothing.
This time is different, given the level of hostility being directed at Beijing.
The PRC has been the source of multiple viral outbreaks that have had worldwide consequences over the past 20 years. Wet markets such as these, with their disgusting lack of sanitation and disgraceful treatment of animals, are part of the problem. I don’t know that covid-19 actually started in a wet market, but these places offer a perfect environment for contagions to spread at an explosive rate.
I can’t help but imagining how much people must have sneezed all over that place every single day…
Utterly barbaric. It’s just shocking.
So snakes I get. But, umm … scorpions???
I had one in Thailand on a stick. It was yummy.
Not exactly the same but similar concept. My parents grew up…not wealthy…in India in the 1950s and 60s before moving here. Their families were vegetarian, but mom’s and both grandma’s recipes include using vegetable scraps you would never think of using these days. You grow up poor, you eat what’s handy to find and catch…
I went to one in Taipei many moons ago. My host/coworker called it the snake market. Lots of snakes and turtles. I watched a vendor harvest a snake’s gall bladder, then mix the bile in a small glass of beer that an older man drank down. Apparently, this was a centuries’ old, organic, form of Viagra.
Westerners may sneer at Chinese consumption of “exotic” animals, but is the factory farming of animals any better? Why should any animal be consumed for the gustatory pleasure of people? Recall that the H1N1 virus originated in North America and in the US we have experienced multiple E. coli outbreaks due to effluent from factory farms. Pretty much every global disease outbreak in recent memory can be attributed to human consumption of animals. Don’t forget about the environmental degradation intensive animal husbandry entails.
“C’mon Jimmy, lets take a peek at the killing floor. Don’t let the name throw you, Jimmy. It’s not really a floor; it’s more of a steel grating that allows material to sluice through so it can be collected and exported.”
Wouldn’t you say this is a false equivalency? I’m perfectly willing to stipulate that North American meat production is disgusting. But that doesn’t make the Chinese situation any less grievous.
It isn’t just the disgustingness that is at issue; it is the morality of consuming another animal purely for pleasure and concomitantly destroying the environment. Chinese per capita meat consumption is still only half that of the US. Can you imagine the absolute amount of suffering that animals will have to endure as that gap narrows? My point was that Westerners shouldn’t absolve themselves from complicity in spreading disease through the abhorrent treatment of animals. I am no fan of Communist China, but neoliberal Westerners love to peer down at the rest of the world while perched high upon their horse (riding/racing horses also being of questionable morality).
East Asia is the location most likely to produce disastrous a Zoonotic virus; the West’s commercial farming is contributing to the rise of antibiotic resistant superbugs.
Both are highly dangerous to our species, but we only think about one of those for the moment.
Found the vegan! Since youre so concerned about killing animals for pleasure, please ensure you only forage for your food. Please do not buy anything that is cultivated as animals are killed so that food crops arent harmed.
@cargocult I don’t disagree that perhaps we are too reliant on meat but note the majority of food illness outbreaks is not from meat but from consumption of vegetables! This is for many reasons such as fecal matter from birds and other animals contaminating growing crops. It’s a bigger problem because often vegetables are not cooked before consumption (e.g. cilantro, salads) and are improperly washed.
Are you saying we should eat more meat to avoid contaminated vegetables? If contamination of uncooked vegetables is a problem, cook the vegetables (though this won’t protect you from prion disease). Less than a third of crop production in the US is directly consumed by people. Two-thirds of crops go to feed animals (the balance goes to biofuels, another waste, or industrial uses). How much land, water and other resources are we to devote to satisfying our lust for meat? How much of the Amazon needs to be burned down to satisfy the ever-growing Chinese lust for meat? My hope is that in the near future lab-grown meat will become available and our descendants will look back in wonder and even disgust at our barbarism as we now do with our progenitors. To bring this back to air travel, consider that it is said to contribute just 2.5% of carbon emissions, while agriculture contributes anywhere from five to 20 times that (there are many conflicting estimates). While people may try to make you feel guilty for flying in business or first, there are far more people eating meat and doing greater damage in aggregate to the environment. One need not even believe in anthropogenic climate change to see the damage we inflict on nature through expanding agriculture.
Basically all major human illnesses are zoonoses. It started in the bronze-age and it’s still going on (as we see right now). I definitely agree with cargocult that we have to reconsider our meat consumption globally
I have seen many pundits (yes, you TED) say that this virus is due to global warming and forcing humans to interact with exotic animals. The truth is that, at least Chinese, eat these weird animals due to long traditions that they increase male potency or cure some disease. Bats and snakes are not eaten for nutritional value, but for superstition. These traditions are dangerous and need to be stopped by governments everywhere.
Note the Chinese soft power campaign and how it is enlisting the aid of the WHO in spreading acceptance of traditional Chinese medicine. As the US withdraws its influence around the world, the Chinese are all too happy to fill the void. Still, the cruelty and destruction due to Chinese animal consumption practices Westerners might find bizarre pales in comparison to that imposed by “conventional” meat consumption worldwide.
I’ve been to the same wet market in old “Canton”. Mostly, amphibians, reptiles, fish, & birds if I remember correctly. I bought a Snake to eat in Shanghai once & drank the blood in some sort of heavy grain like alcohol. Meat tasted like chicken. It was my 1st visit to China and was given suggestions on what to do as we had heard of some of the more exotic foods & traditions. No monkey brains for me, though I didn’t see it either. Also, no dogs or cats in those markets.
While awaiting for the effective vaccine, the world has two options to eradicate this highly infectious and deadly virus: science and fact based leadership and the cooperation of residents. We will not mitigate the casualties when we give relevance and influences to voodoo healers, cult members and religious zealots. We, as the world, must reduce population growth, preserve wild life habitats, ban wild animals consumption, and abolish all traditional and religious practices that endanger public health, national security and economy. We can raise animals for consumption that are historically and scientifically safe. Preservatives and hormones in meats may cause cancer but they will not inflict so many casualties and damages worldwide. I will strongly advocate that all affected but resourceful and influential countries to sue China for damages because it has vast resources and power to compensate us. But it requires strict solidarity and tough enforcement. It did not learn from past experience so it deserves to face the costly consequences. It is repugnant to watch people sell, kill and eat snakes, pythons, turtles, porcupines and alike. It is so barbaric and savage.
I’m vegetarian. Its a shame to humanity what these so called humans eat
Easy to say when you’re privileged enough to eat what you want.
Um- sure. While we are at it, why don’t you add the invention of gun powder the suit? That was another baddie that came out of China and killed hundreds of millions of people. I also think the Japanese, and probably much of the rest of the world have a decent suit against the US for the invention of the nuclear bomb.
I met several people who had lost limbs to mines in Cambodia- they have as valid a suit against Germany for inventing the modern land mine. What about religions? So many people have been killed for Christ or Allah- both the Catholic church, and Saudi Arabia have deep pockets and would make an ideal candidate for a broad law suit.
I have travelled to dozens of countries either during my military career or now in retirement. I have always enjoyed meeting people, experiencing their customs and courtesies in many different ways. Today, we see China’s medieval, barbaric and gruesome wildlife wet market ultimately kill thousands of people around the globe- not to mention the other species this virus affects. In addition, this pandemic has upended hundreds of countries economic stability for the near future. It is way past time for these countries who engage in wildlife wet markets to move into the 21st century and abolish this trade, enforce the law and take responsibility for their conduct. At this point it is not just one of their “customs” to experience anymore….. it can kill globally. For my part I’ll do what I can and that means to never spend my hard earned dollars to visit a wildlife wet market country.
You might also do your part by never spending any money on industrialized produced meat at all. Remember H1N1? That was mainly because of the abhorrent conditions in Western (mainly US) meat production.
Yes, indeed. I’m done with pretending they’re not there and simply hoping they’ll disappear…they will not, unless we pressure for change.
The weird thing about the consensus theory is that the Wuhan market never sold bats… it’s weird how people keep repeating that
I guess you can blame the New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, and other leading worldwide newspapers…
So… it’s just a food market. See these everywhere in Asia?
I don’t think we have the right to blame anyone’s culture or traditions without knowing it’s origin. I don’t know why Chinese people started eating exotic animals, but I suspect Chinese history with its over population, wars and famine, drove people to eat whatever they could get their hands on, such as dogs etc. But times are different now, they are not starving. They have enough food to eat and don’t have to hold on to this tradition which may have born out of necessity. China or the wet market culture has produced dangerous epidemics and pandemics, such as Asian flu, H7N9, SARS, now COVID 29, atleast 4 in less than 100 years. It is the conscious responsibility of the Chinese people to realize this and end it themselves.
Those seafood markets look nasty, but then I’m from the United States so I guess it would look that way to me but not to people from those countries.
I guess we are living in a fragile world created by God as we are made to believe and miss used by crechers cald heumans that we think got some kind of intelligence, prhapse to much more than other Gods crechers, how that can be when we can’t even get a grip on our destruction and greed, our greed is far greater than the rest of Livings on earth.
because of our intelligence we have or think we are untouchable, yes some how we are, for now till we go to far the pave we are curated and keeping on building on it.
Cultural of our behaver that some how the way food tast better when a dog has been scared to death tast better shows us our understanding of our behaver, this is only one example of our behaver, can’t only blame on one culture but all cultures have their own entellegens of inhumane ways not to be proud of as we know and can’t change nor can or want to get to understand each other through greed and power that is and leading us towards hurm towards end or no end.
Where the raw meat was being sold — was it at least on ice? Or was there anything to keep meat from rotting?