Walking down Nanjing Xi Lu on my way to the office this morning, I witnessed something that I had never seen in Shanghai: an elderly woman was carrying a dead chicken home for Chinese New Year dinner.
Now chickens that you see on the streets of Shanghai are usually dead, but this one still had it’s feathers and all. I’d seen this in small villages in the countryside and in suburbs of big cities but not downtown and not on the city’s main shopping street (chickens tend to clash with that LV bag). That meant it had been purchased from a nearby live poultry market.
I tried to not look too shocked and slowly walked by the woman, making sure I had a large space between myself and the bird. Yes bird flu (aka the H5N1 virus) was the first thing I thought of. Not a fear of catching it mind you, but rather how well regulated that market was when it came to monitoring for signs of the disease?
As if Xinhua was reading my mind, Beijing announced today that it is ordering the regulation of animal markets to be stepped up. One of the measures that the government asked local bureaus to carry out was shutting down animal markets in urban areas as well as daily monitoring and disinfecting of markets that can’t be shut down.
Is that enough, though? I am all in favor of cultural traditions and I believe that they should be maintained, but I care about public health more. Closing the wet markets could hopefully ensure more people are getting their meat from sanitary sources. I understand that not everyone can afford to pay the prices for meat that grocery stores here charge. Maybe Beijing needs to step in with a food assistance program to make up the shortfall. There’s no need for people to eat animals kept in unsanitary conditions even if Beijing just boosted its health care spending.