Public Opinion in Asian Nations Overwhelmingly Favors Closing Unregulated “Wet Markets”

Image: WWF-US

The World Wildlife Fund – U.S. (WWF- US) commissioned a public opinion survey in Hong Kong SAR, Japan, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam in early March and they found that 93% of respondents in the four countries with active illegal wildlife markets support efforts by their governments and health ministries to close all illegal and unregulated markets selling wild animals – Japan was the lone exception.  This welcome news comes as a chorus of health officials and environmental groups are calling for an end to unregulated wet markets around the world because they have led to numerous pandemics, which are occurring more frequently.

Why This Matters:  Before the COVID-19 outbreak, China was set to host the next meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the U.N. Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) — it has now, for obvious reasons, been postponed.  The CBD is the global body that could finally put an end to illegal and unregulated wildlife trade — and it should do so ASAP.  This is not about cultural insensitivity or pinning the blame on any single nation or region.  But as Dr. Fauci says, if we do not have enough evidence of the global toll unsustainable practices like this are having on our world, then what will it take?  

Humans Cause the Increased Risk

The Washington Post highlighted the increasing danger of transmission of devastating diseases between humans and animals due to a variety of causes such as the global wildlife trade, agricultural intensification, deforestation, and urbanization.  The closer humans and wild animals are in proximity to one another, the more chances there are for viruses found in animals to infect humans, and then spread quickly around the globe.  The COVID-19 virus is believed to have originated in an unregulated street market in China where a civet (cat-like mammal) that is sold for its meat had been infected by a bat.  According to scientists, we need to fundamentally change ”  Humans also increasingly encroach on wildlife in ways that are proving dangerous — Lyme disease is spreading in the U.S. because fragmented forests and other habitat loss means we are losing predators like foxes that eliminate mice that host ticks.  We need to leave more ecosystems intact rather than destroying them, scientists recommend, which is at the heart of the campaign to save 30% or the planet for nature by 2030.

The Time For Action Is Now Given Increasing Agreement Globally

Countries with wet markets have closed them for now — but without laws prohibiting certain practices and tougher regulation of such markets generally — this kind of disaster could easily happen again.  “Urgent action is paramount to curtail future pandemics,” said Jan Vertefeuille, senior advisor, advocacy, WWF-US. “We know what needs to be done to help prevent future zoonotic pandemics, and we call on decision-makers everywhere to immediately and urgently undertake these steps to halt biodiversity loss and reduce the chances of another zoonotic pandemic.”

The Hill reports that the United Nations’ acting head of biodiversity (who we recently interviewed on the importance of conserving nature) is also urging a global ban of wet markets; she told The Guardian  that “the message we are getting is if we don’t take care of nature, it will take care of us.”

According to The Post, “Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-diseases expert and the face of the U.S. response to the pandemic, said Friday that the world community should pressure China and other nations that host such markets to shut them down, saying “It just 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,'” Fauci said on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends.”

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