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In 2004, authorities in southern China ordered the slaughter of thousands of civets, a cat-like mammal thought to have transmitted SARS to humans. At the time, China was in the middle of a crackdown on the wildlife trade — a huge business that supplies exotic cats for restaurants, pangolin scales for traditional medicines and much else. China’s wild animal markets, once an urban fixture, were to be a thing of the past.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. As recently as 2016, officials estimated that the legal breeding of “wild” animals for markets and medicine cabinets was a nearly $75 billion business, employing some 14 million people.

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