Vietnam Joins China in Taking Steps To End Wildlife Trade to Help Prevent Future Pandemics

Hanoi, Vietnam Wet Market   Photo: Bao Yen, VnExpress

By Zoey Shipley and Monica Medina

China has taken “concrete steps” to close its “wet” or wildlife markets and now Vietnam is following suit, according to Sierra, the magazine of the environmental group The Sierra Club.  Vietnam’s Prime Minister Phuc earlier this month responded to a request from numerous environmental groups by directing the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) to create a directive to ban the trade and consumption of wildlife by April 1.

Why This Matters:  The world has faced many major pandemics, such as SARS and now COVID-19, that are believed to have been spread from human contact with wild animals.  Laws against selling endangered animals have not been enforced, even when past disease outbreaks led to a temporary closure of wildlife markets.  But a real ban from both these countries that have major wildlife trading could begin the trend toward an effective solution. To prevent future crises, restrictions on trade must continue after the end of the pandemic and the new laws must be enforced.  This will require a difficult cultural change because many people go to wildlife markets to buy  “status symbols, pets, food or to be used in traditional medicines But if a devastating global pandemic doesn’t create the impetus for the changes needed to prevent the next one, what will?

There is No Easy Solution but Habitat Protection Can Help

As Our Daily Planet recently reported, zoonotic diseases such as these will become more common if humans continue to destroy natural habitats.  As humans move in, wild animals are pushed out and as climate change intensifies so does the forced movement of animals to escape changing ecologies (which can lead to more animals getting sick). This creates more chances for diseases that we have never experienced before to spread.

“I think it’s quite clear that the rapid rate of biodiversity loss is a measure of how much we’re disturbing the living world upon which our health depends,” said Aaron Bernstein (director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital). “People get really upset when the stock market takes massive punches. Well, if people think the stock market is a measure of human welfare, magnify that by a millionfold and look at the amount of life we share the planet with. Then you have something to really be concerned about.”


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