Farmers in China are being offered cash to quit breeding exotic animals as pressure grows to crack down on the illegal wildlife trade that has been blamed for the coronavirus outbreak.

Authorities have for the first time pledged to buy out breeders in an attempt to curb the practice, AFP reported Tuesday, citing animal rights activists.

China has in recent months banned the sale of wild animals for food, citing the risk of diseases spreading to humans. The trade remains legal for other purposes including research and traditional medicine.

Two central provinces have outlined details of a buyout program to help farmers transition to alternative livelihoods. Hunan on Friday set out a compensation scheme to persuade breeders to rear other livestock or produce tea and herbal medicines.

Neighboring Jiangxi province has also released documents on plans to help farmers dispose of animals and get financial aid.

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