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China's exotic meat trade draws fire as deadly virus spreads

Belief about health benefits behind old tradition despite growing skepticism

A muntjac, or barking deer, sits in a cage at a Chinese market in 2003. The animal tastes like tough beef, said one family in Guangzhou.   © Reuters

GUANGZHOU -- China's centuries-old tradition of eating civets, porcupines and other exotic meat is facing renewed criticism as scientists tracking down the origin of the new coronavirus zero in on bats as a potential host.

Though Chinese health professionals and many city dwellers have shied away from eating wild animals in recent years, the practice continues in many communities. In addition to enduring beliefs about health benefits, people go after their exotic taste or show off their wealth by eating rare animals.

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