Coronavirus: Wildlife groups join hands to force China to close wet markets considered epicenter of pandemics
Wildlife conservationists from across the world are taking steps to ensure that animal markets such as the one in China's Wuhan — where the novel coronavirus is believed to have originated — are shut down.
According to reports, more than 200 wildlife groups have signed an open letter to the World Health Organization (WHO) urging it to shut down the "wet markets" to prevent future pandemics. The letter also urges WHO to raise the alarm about the risks posed to human health by wildlife trade, since several other pandemics, including Ebola and the 2003 SARS, have also been linked to viruses spreading from animals to humans.
Many experts believe that the novel coronavirus was passed on from bats to a mystery animal that then passed it on to humans from the wet market in Wuhan.
“Once COVID-19 is behind us, returning to business, as usual, cannot be an option. We need to dig deep and reset our fundamental relationship with the natural world, rethink our place in it and treat our planet and all its inhabitants with a great deal more respect, for its sake and for ours,” Dr Mark Jones, head of policy at Born Free, one of the charities involved, said.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara, has also joined animal rights activist groups like the Humane Society of the United States, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and Animal Wellness Action to put pressure on China to close the markets like the one in Wuhan.
“It is undeniable that the risks posed by wet markets are too great and the cruelty too severe to allow them to operate even one more day. I hope for the sake of humanity the country immediately discontinues this horrific and cruel tradition,” said Lara Trump, the top reelection campaign official.
Though the effort taken by the conservationists has no official leader, people close to Lara said that she would help build the coalition in a personal capacity unrelated to her campaign duties. The 37-year-old, who is married to Eric Trump, the President’s third child, has been into animal advocacy for a long time and has worked with the administration on vital issues in the past, including banning the consumption of dogs and cats in the US, pushing to close puppy mills, and linking ailing veterans with support animals.
Speaking about the issue, Humane Society President Kitty Block said, “The ongoing coronavirus crisis, which could result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions of other people the world over, has taught us many important lessons about what we should and shouldn’t be doing to keep ourselves healthy. One of the most important is the link between wildlife markets, which cause so much animal suffering, and the public health risks of a pandemic.”
Animal Wellness Action, run by former Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle, has also posted a petition against China’s decision to open wild animal markets. “China's decision to pull back on its decision to close wet markets just days after announcing a ban on them is a public relations disaster. You can draw a straight line from the Chinese government's decision to promote wet markets as a business enterprise and the emergence of a deadly infectious disease that was the agent of this global catastrophe,” Pacelle said.
Meanwhile, Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also said that the international community should work towards closing such markets as he argued that the current public health crisis is a direct result of unsanitary shopping places. “I think we should shut down those things right away. It boggles my mind how when we have so many diseases that emanate out of that unusual human-animal interface, that we don’t just shut it down,” he said, adding, "I don’t know what else has to happen to get us to appreciate that."