GRAPHIC: China’s wet markets should be banned
Warning: Graphic content
Even for a carnivore like me, the images are gruesome and disgusting enough to consider whether I'll eat meat again.
A smorgasbord of dogs being boiled alive, bats served on sticks like lollipops, kittens slaughtered, rats fried and giant snakes carved up for human consumption, with the blood splattering everywhere.
There are no hygiene standards. Cross-contamination is rampant. The animal cruelty is off the scale.
Bears, tigers, wolf cubs, crocodiles, hedgehogs and turtles are not spared in this notorious wildlife food trade, either.
Now the despicable wet markets used by some Chinese people - markets already responsible for the Sars outbreak in 2002 - have finally brought the world to its knees.
Scientists have established that it is highly likely COVID-19 was linked to a notorious live animal market in Wuhan.
Gene sequencing analysis shows the new coronavirus probably started in bats and was transferred to humans via the scaly anteater the pangolin.
So why is there so little outrage about the wet markets that we know have the potential to cause catastrophic outcomes to human health?
Even Donald Trump - slammed for branding COVID-19 the "Chinese virus" - avoided criticising the wet markets when prompted during a press conference at the White House on Wednesday.
Maybe that's because the moment someone tries to speak up they are accused of racism.
That happened to reality star and retail entrepreneur Luisa Zissman earlier this week when she posted a video on Instagram of a wet market and called for them to be "banned completely".
After the usual social media outrage, she told me: "I wholeheartedly disagree with this particular part of Chinese culture, but that does not make me racist."
It should be remembered there are many campaigners within China desperately trying to get the wet markets banned too.
After all, the addition of more exotic animals only dates back to the 1970s, as the ruling communist party struggled to feed the population and 36 million people perished in what became known as the Great Famine.
By 1988, the ironically named Wildlife Protection Law encouraged industrial-level breeding of the likes of bears, bats and turtles to be sold through wet markets. And that's when the viruses began to form.
When the Sars crisis was linked to a wet market in southern China, officials shut it down and made wildlife farming illegal. But they reversed the decision just a few months later.
As of 2018 it was a GBP150 billion industry, mainly because the rich and the powerful pay copious quantities of money to eat rare wildlife as they believe false claims about their role in Chinese medicine.
Now with coronavirus spreading, the government has again temporarily banned wildlife trading and shut down wet markets.
But it's not permanent yet - and it must be.
We already know that the early Chinese cover-up of COVID-19, which makes Chernobyl look like a misdemeanour, resulted in the disease's rapid spread.
In fact, if China had taken early action experts reckon the number of coronavirus cases could have been cut by 95 per cent, making its rampage all over the globe far less likely.
The new illness was directly linked to the infamous wildlife market in Wuhan on December 16, but it wasn't until New Year's Eve that the World Health Organisation was informed and the site closed.
The brave Chinese doctors who tried to spread the word about COVID-19 were shut down by the authorities too, and early testing was stopped and samples destroyed.
I have no doubt the Chinese government has blood on its hands over coronavirus.
And saying that now, at the peak of the health crisis, is not the time to tackle the issue is wrong.
We must have this uncomfortable discussion while our anger is raw and the pain all too real.
Originally published as China's wet markets should be banned