NANNING/NANJING, April, 2 (Xinhua) -- When night falls, food streets in Nanning, capital of southern China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, spring to life with eager diners and bustling restaurants as the coronavirus outbreak wanes in the country.
Huang Shixiong, co-owner of a restaurant specializing in snake meat along a food street, has shut down his eatery since late January, even though his competitive neighbors have started attracting diners after the prolonged Spring Festival holiday due to the epidemic.
Huang holds shares of three chain restaurants in Nanning registered with the name "Rongji," with snake meat featured prominently on the menu. However, he now plans to change their signature dishes as the consumption of wild animals is prohibited nationwide.
On Feb. 24, China's top legislature issued an order to ban the illegal trade of wild animals, in a bid to wipe out the habit of eating game meat to safeguard people's lives and health.
Terrestrial wildlife of important ecological, scientific and social value are not allowed to be traded or consumed, according to the order.
"It is still unclear whether snakes are on the prohibited list, so we are waiting for further notice at the moment," Huang said, noting that the snakes his restaurants used are captive bred ones.
Local authorities have told Huang and his counterparts selling dishes made of game meat in the city to suspend business immediately after the ban came into force.
"If snake-related dishes are prohibited, Cantonese cuisine will be a suitable alternative for us to ease the losses as our restaurants are inspired by the cooking culture in Guangzhou," he said.
The same goes for the Huahua Hot Pot, another restaurant chain in Nanning. One of the main ingredients of its signature dish "stir-fried rice frog legs" has been replaced with bullfrogs after a public announcement on March 5.
"We have banned the use of rice frogs at all of our restaurants, including those raised by humans because we do not want to risk touching the red line," said Li Yongjiu, manager of the Huahua Hot Pot.
"We have discouraged the catering industry to cook and provide dishes made of wild animals, and received active response not only from the restaurant owners but also from the chefs," said Wu Dongdong, secretary of the Guangxi Restaurant and Catering Association.
"In fact, the consumption of game meat accounts for little in the business," Wu said, noting that there are a limited number of restaurants specializing in wild animals.
In Nanjing, capital of eastern China's Jiangsu Province, Yang Derong, a restaurant owner, removed the words "game meat" from the name of his eatery before he resumed business.
"I've been in the business for 12 years, mostly offering dishes of wild boar, hare and other farming animals," Yang said. "They are captive-bred animals supplied by qualified farms in the neighboring Anhui Province."
"We have also added a number of local specialties to maintain the popularity among the regulars of my restaurant," he added.
Zhang Min, deputy director of a sub-bureau of the Nanjing Administration for Market Regulation, said that more eateries in the city have readjusted their market strategies to cope with the new rule.
"Jiangsu Province has banned market entities from naming with words of 'game meat' or 'wild animals'," Zhang said.
Lyu Zhi, a professor of conservation biology at Peking University, said many people mistakenly think that eating wild animals can nourish their bodies and it is a way to show off.
"But nature is an organic ecosystem, and the health of human beings can hardly be sustained without the well-being of wild animals," Lyu said. "Moreover, people do not need to rely on eating wild animals to survive."