To prevent the next pandemic, ban commercial wildlife markets
The full human and environmental impacts of commercial wildlife markets have been revealed in a new report from the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF). Commercial wildlife markets are responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic currently sweeping the planet, as well as many other diseases which have made the jump from animals to humans. They also deplete wildlife populations and cause significant cruelty to animals. EJF is calling for a complete global ban on commercial wildlife markets.
There have now been more than 33 million global confirmed cases of Covid-19. As the world reels from the human and economic impacts of the pandemic, attention has turned to finding its source. There is substantial evidence to suggest that the pandemic first emerged from Wuhan’s commercial wildlife market, with the coronavirus jumping from animal hosts to humans.
75% of emergent diseases make this same jump from humans to animals, and past diseases to do so include Ebola, MERS, SARS and many more. Commercial wildlife markets, with a huge range of species crammed together in tiny spaces, are the perfect breeding grounds for new pandemics to develop.
While some small local bans on commercial wildlife markets have been introduced, they do not go nearly far enough to protect us. To break the chain of transmission and prevent another Covid-19, EJF’s new report Why ban commercial wildlife markets? says that commercial wildlife markets must be closed, globally and for good.
Commercial wildlife markets don’t just have a devastating effect on humans, but also on wild animals. While they remain legal, it is easy to smuggle illegally caught wild animals like pangolins, the world’s most trafficked mammal, into legal outlets. Globally, one in five vertebrate species are caught up in the wildlife trade. Once they arrive in commercial wildlife markets, animals are kept in horrific conditions, in small cages between which faeces, saliva and blood travel easily.
Hopefully we will not see another coronavirus develop in the next few months or even years. But we should expect it in decades to come, unless bans on commercial wildlife markets are put in place and enforced worldwide. We have the opportunity here to safeguard species threatened with extinction, reduce cruelty to animals, and protect our economy and health at the same time. Why would we not take this simple, hugely beneficial, cost-effective action?
EJF’s report supports medical professionals, global health experts and conservationists, and calls for a ban on commercial wildlife markets. To be effective, it must be permanent, enforced, and global. Banning commercial wildlife markets will not make another deadly pandemic impossible, but it is a first step on the road to making it much less likely.
Read the full report here.
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