For the past two weeks China's police have been raiding houses, restaurants and makeshift markets across the country, arresting nearly 700 people for breaking the temporary ban on catching, selling or eating wild animals.
The scale of the crackdown, which has netted almost 40,000 animals including squirrels, weasels and boars, suggests that China's taste for eating wildlife and using animal parts for medicinal purposes is not likely to disappear overnight, despite potential links to the new coronavirus.
Traders legally selling donkey, dog, deer, crocodile and other meat told Reuters they plan to get back to business as soon as the markets reopen.
"I'd like to sell once the ban is lifted," said Gong Jian, who runs a wildlife store online and operates shops in China's autonomous Inner Mongolia region. "People like buying wildlife. They buy for themselves to eat or give as presents because it is very presentable and gives you face."
Gong said he was storing crocodile and deer meat in large freezers but would have to kill all the quails he had been breeding as supermarkets were no longer buying his eggs and they cannot be eaten after freezing.
Scientists suspect, but have not proven, that the new coronavirus passed to humans from bats via pangolins, a small ant-eating mammal whose scales are highly prized in traditional Chinese medicine.
Some of the earliest infections were found in people who had exposure to Wuhan's seafood market, where bats, snakes, civets and other wildlife were sold.
"In many people's eyes, animals are living for man, not sharing the earth with man," said Wang Song, a retired researcher of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The outbreak of the new coronavirus, which has killed more than 1,600 people in China, revived a debate in the country about the use of wildlife for food and medicine. It previously came to prominence in 2003 during the spread of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which scientists believe was passed to humans from bats, via civets.
Many academics, environmentalists and residents in China have joined international conservation groups in calling for a permanent ban on trade in wildlife and closure of the markets where wild animals are sold.
Online debate within China, likely swayed by younger people, has heavily favoured a permanent ban.
Nevertheless, a minority of Chinese still like to eat wild animals in the belief it is healthy.
The United Nations estimates the global illegal wildlife trade is worth about $23 billion a year. China is by far the largest market, environmental groups say.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), an independent organisation based in London which campaigns against what it sees as environmental abuses, said in a report this week the coronavirus outbreak has in fact boosted some illegal wildlife trafficking as traders in China and Laos are selling rhinoceros horn medicines as a treatment to reduce fever.