Anew PETA billboard in Grand Island accuses JBS, and those who eat meat, of causing the partial destruction of the Amazon rainforest.
According to a news release from PETA, “More than 80% of deforestation in the Amazon is linked to meat production, either for grazing or for growing food for cattle, including those in the U.S. market. In addition, the United Nations states that animal agriculture is responsible for nearly a fifth of human-induced greenhouse-gas emissions — and warns that a global shift to vegan eating is necessary to combat the worst effects of climate change.”
JBS spokeswoman Nikki Richardson said, “JBS USA does not source cattle from the Amazon region. In Grand Island, the beef facility supports producers from Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas, Iowa and Minnesota. We are focused on producing food sustainably and supporting American agriculture.”
The PETA billboard is at 300 East Highway 30, about seven-tenths of a mile east of the intersection of Highway 30 and Stuhr Road.
The PETA news release states that “new evidence connects JBS to a ranch that has illegally destroyed parts of the Amazon rainforest.” That evidence, PETA said, prompted the animal rights organization “to place a graphic new billboard near the local JBS slaughterhouse blaming the meat industry and those who support it for the deaths of parrots, monkeys and other wildlife who make the Amazon their home.”
PETA said it plans to place an identical billboard near other JBS locations across the country, including Greeley, Colo.
The billboard states, “Eating meat kills more animals than you think. Ranches set fires in the Amazon rainforest to graze cattle and grow crops for them. Go vegan.”
JBS has erected a billboard near its Grand Island plant that states, “Thank you for coming to work. We appreciate you being a part of the JBS team.”
On Highway 30, a little ways west of the Stuhr intersection, is another JBS billboard, which states “The BEST employees in the WORLD come to work at JBS everyday. Thanks for being a part of the team.”
In the PETA news release, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said “JBS is complicit in the deaths of not only cattle but also other animals as well as habitat devastation — and so is anyone who’s still clinging to the meat habit. PETA wants everyone to know that they can help save the rainforest by going vegan and we’re here to help them make the transition.”
The press release refers to the “JBS deforestation scandal.” The release is headlined that the “rainforest and its inhabitants are burning because of U.S. consumers’ greed, not need.”
PETA’s motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat.” The organization “opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview,” according to the news release.
“In addition to saving the lives of nearly 200 animals every year, each person who goes vegan also helps prevent future pandemics: Confining and killing animals for food has been linked to SARS, swine flu, bird flu and COVID-19,” the release states. “The meat industry has also allowed slaughterhouse workers, including those at JBS, to face a nearly unchecked spread of the novel coronavirus. The JBS slaughterhouse in Grand Island reported more than 200 cases by April 21.”
What the world does not need now is another pandemic. Yet in Victoria, hundreds of thousands of chickens, turkeys and even emus are now being killed in the hope that wholesale carnage can stop or slow the spread of at least three different, extremely virulent strains of bird flu. This is not surprising – confining and killing animals for food has been linked to SARS, swine flu, bird flu, and COVID-19.
You’ll never catch the flu from tofu, but when tens of thousands of birds are crammed into sheds and forced to stand in their own waste and breathe in the fumes, diseases spread and can mutate into different strains quickly. People can be co-infected with an avian and a human influenza virus. The genetic information in these viruses can then reassort to create a new virus, against which humans have little or no immunity.
If you care about animals, and your own health, do what many others are doing nowadays and choose healthy vegan meals. If everyone went vegan, these birds, each of them a personality who wanted only to enjoy life, wouldn’t have lived in misery and died in terror, and humans wouldn’t be facing yet another catastrophic virus.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
PO Box 20308 World Square
Sydney, NSW, 2002
The demonstration shows the technology to be significantly closer to delivering on Musk’s radical ambitions than during a 2019 product debut, when Neuralink only showed photos of a rat with a Neuralink connected via a USB-C port. It’s still far from reality, but Musk said the US Food and Drug Administration in July granted approval for “breakthrough device” testing.
Musk also showed a second-generation implant that’s more compact and fits into a small cavity hollowed out of the skull. Tiny electrode “threads” penetrate the outer surface of the brain, detecting an electrical impulse from nerve cells that shows the brain is at work. In line with Neuralink’s longer-term plans, the threads are designed to communicate back, with computer-generated signals of their own.
“It’s like a Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires,” Musk said of the device.
It communicates with brain cells with 1,024 thin electrodes that penetrate the outer layer of the brain. Then there’s a Bluetooth link to an outside computing device, though the company is looking at other radio technology it can use to dramatically increase the number of data links.
Watch this:Elon Musk’s Neuralink demonstration in 14 minutes
Though the pig demonstration showed neural activity being broadcast wirelessly to a computer, it didn’t reveal any of Neuralink’s long-term ambitions, like a computer usefully communicating back to a brain or a computer understanding what the spikes of neural activity actually mean.
Medical start, sci-fi finish for Neuralink
Neuralink has a medical focus to start, like helping people deal with brain and spinal cord injuries or congenital defects. The technology could, for example, help paraplegics who’ve lost the ability to move or sense because of spinal cord injury, and the first human uses will aim to improve conditions like paraplegia or tetraplegia.
“If you can sense what people want to do with their limbs, you can do a second implant where the spinal injury occurred and create a neural shunt,” Musk said. “I’m confident in the long term it’ll be possible to restore somebody’s full body motion.”
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Musk envisions people using Neuralink to connect to their own digital AI incarnations so “the future is controlled by the combined will of the people of Earth,” Musk said. “It’s going to be important from an existential threat perspective to achieve a good AI symbiosis.”
Back up and restore your memories
“The future is going to be weird,” Musk said, discussing sci-fi uses of Neuralink. “In the future you will be able to save and replay memories,” he said. “You could basically store your memories as a backup and restore the memories. You could potentially download them into a new body or into a robot body.”
He’s aware some people are going to see trouble in Neuralink, too. “This is increasingly sounding like a Black Mirror episode,” Musk said, referring to the dystopian TV series.
Musk also discussed seeing in infrared, ultraviolet or X-ray using digital camera data. “Over time we could give somebody super vision,” Musk said.
Neuralink is building a robotic installer that ultimately is designed to handle the full surgical installation process. That includes opening up the scalp, removing a portion of the skull, inserting the hundreds of “thread” electrodes along with an accompanying computer chip, then closing the incision. The installer is designed to dodge blood vessels to avoid bleeding, Musk said.
As with Fitbit, Apple Watch and other wearable technology, Musk sees a health benefit for Neuralink besides direct brain-computer communications. Neuralink chips can measure temperature, pressure and movement, data that could warn you about a heart attack or stroke, Musk said.
Computers need power, and Neuralink’s in-skull chip gets it by charging wirelessly through the skin, Musk said.
Neuralink’s previous work
Since the Neuralink launch event last year, Musk and Neuralink have published one scientific paper, in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, in October. The paper described the development of their robotic device, an arm able to delicately insert hundreds of thin threads, about a tenth of the width of a human hair, into the brain. It’s sometimes dubbed the “sewing machine” and is capable of inserting around six threads per minute, each one composed of flexible plastics and featuring 192 electrodes.
The company’s early research focused on interfacing with the rodent brain. In the October paper, Musk and Neuralink detailed two Neuralink systems, A and B, tested on rats. The former can insert more than 1,500 electrodes and the latter, 3,000. The paper describes a free-moving rat attached to system B, with a USB-C slot sticking out of its head, but there’s no clear indication of Neuralink having settled on the best place for electrodes.
In the paper, Musk and Neuralink acknowledge that “significant technological challenges must be addressed before a high-bandwidth device is suitable for clinical application.”
The rodent work is impressive, but what caught people’s attention last year was Musk’s assertion that a monkey had been “able to control a computer with his brain.” No evidence was provided in the JMIR paper to support that assertion, and Musk didn’t mention it Friday.
The report also detailed accelerated timelines, noting that the push to move the technology forward resulted in failures in animal experiments. One former employee said Neuralink moved from rodent experiments into primates faster than expected in medical science.
Neuralink responded to Stat’s assertions in the article, suggesting some of them were “either partially or completely false.”
Holes in your skull? Really?
Neuralink’s success will hinge on convincing us to install chips in our brains and tamper with the very nerve impulses that make us who we are. That’s a hard sell — particularly in view of Neuralink competitors who prefer noninvasive headsets.
“There’s a segment of people who are enthusiastic about invasive BMI,” including members of the Transhumanist movement, Max Newlon, CEO of BrainCo, said, referring to brain-machine interface. “Noninvasive BMI technology could be a bridge to the future that people will accept today.”
“The safety and health risks of invasive implants are significant,” added Sid Kouider, founder and CEO of NextMind, a Neuralink competitor. Problems include infection, inflammation and follow-up surgery to adjust electrode positioning, he said. He credits Neuralink for stimulating interest in neural interfaces, though.
Musk is stretched thin, but he’s also delivered on key promises like producing compelling electric vehicles and lowering satellite launch costs. Musk has a knack for picking business problems that are difficult but attainable. To succeed, though, Neuralink will have to convince scientists and doctors along with the rest of us.
Talk of zoonotic diseases has increased in public discussion since the rise of COVID-19, however, diseases that are transmitted from humans to animals have had a long history. In fact, 6 out of every 10 infectious diseases in people are zoonotic.
The prevalence of zoonotic diseases is mostly due to human encroachment on animal habitats as well as human consumption of animals. Contemporary farming practices have only exacerbated these problems. In order to maximize profit, most farms keep animals in cramped, unsanitary facilities where diseases spread rapidly. To survive in these squalid conditions, animals are given an excessive amount of antibiotics.
PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania — COVID-19 has been a miserable, even tragic, experience.
Another killer pandemic? It’s certainly not something we want to experience again anytime soon, or ever.
I know San Diego, where I grew up, has suffered greatly at the hands, or spikes, of the coronavirus.
But here’s the good news. If we’re serious about greatly reducing the chances of a second, quite possibly worse, pandemic, the solution is simple and comes with wonderful side effects.
A transition to plant-based diets on the individual level, and away from animal agriculture on the societal level, will not only help prevent another pandemic – it will improve your health, spare animals from suffering, reduce environmental degradation, and even lessen world hunger.
A little history is in order.
Throughout most of human history, there were no epidemic diseases.
“No one got the flu, not even the common cold, until about 10,000 years ago,” said Dr. Michael Greger, author of Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching.
What happened 10,000 years ago? We began domesticating animals.
“When we brought domesticated animals to the barnyard, they brought their diseases with them,” Greger said.
Measles, for instance, has killed 200 million people over the course of history. It entered into the human population from cattle, in the form of the rinderpest virus.
The flu, which takes the form of many viruses, originally came from domesticated ducks.
Even the common cold came from horses.
In the mid-20th century, scientists developed vaccines to slow and even stop the spread of some of the worst infectious diseases. Measles. Polio. Smallpox.
But in the last 35 years or so, humanity has been visited by an unprecedented variety of frightening virus outbreaks.
AIDS. Ebola. Mad cow disease. SARS. MERS. The swine flu. And now COVID-19.
In addition to their lethality, these viral outbreaks have something else in common. All of these diseases are zoonotic, meaning they spilled over from animals into the human population.
In fact, all of them have come about because of the confinement, slaughter and consumption of animals. Yes, even AIDS.
HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, made the jump from animals to people when someone slaughtered a chimpanzee for meat. The chimpanzee was carrying the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV).
Fortunately, we have the power to greatly reduce our chances of creating another pandemic.
“To prevent future outbreaks like COVID-19 or worse, we have to treat planetary, animal and human health as inseparable,” Viveca Morris, executive director of the Law, Ethics & Animals Program at Yale Law School, wrote recently in The Los Angeles Times. “This will require … changes to business as usual.
“To date, we’ve operated under the fallacies that medicine and ecology can be understood independently and that the conditions that impact the animal kingdom are separate from those that impact humans.”
Preventing future outbreaks will require some dietary modifications. Positive ones. Eating plants, not animals.
In the words of University of Oxford zoologist Cynthia Schuck, “Our purchasing and dietary choices can build a safer future for generations to come.”
Jeffrey Spitz Cohan is the executive director of Jewish Veg, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring and helping Jews to adopt plant-based diets. He grew up in El Cajon and became a Bar Mitzvah at Temple Beth Israel. For more information on the connection between pandemics and meat-eating, and for free resources on transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, visit JewishVeg.org/pandemic
An epidemiologist from the World Health Organization warned that live animal exports could spread a “ghastly disease” and must be stopped in an interview with The Project on Sunday.
“A pandemic of some sort was inevitable,” explained Prof. Marylouise McLaws, a member of the WHO Health Emergencies Program Experts Advisory Panel for Infection Prevention and Control Preparedness, Readiness and Response to COVID-19. “As soon as you push the natural environment further in and they’ve got nowhere else to go, humans and animals will mix, and not respectfully.”
“I think it’s getting to a stage where it can’t be safe and it’s not nice you see the suffering of animals,” added McLaws, stressing that live animal trade has to stop.
Mclaws stated that she realized ending live animal exports “won’t be liked” and admitted that she didn’t think it would change until “maybe there’s an outbreak of some ghastly disease in animals while they’re being shipped to other countries.”
Last year, an outbreak of tuberculosis was found in cows from Portugal that had been imported to Israel, according to Globes.
There are six proposals that are being brought to the Knesset plenum for a gradual end to the live transports by both coalition and opposition MKs. A proposal by Coalition Chairman Miki Zohar had been approved in an initial reading in the 20th Knesset but the legislative process ended after elections were called.
The proposals would have the transports end within three years. “The animals are imported from Australia and Europe, on lengthy sea voyages, which can take weeks,” read the explanatory notes of the bill. “During the journey, the animals are kept in heavy density, wallowing in their feces and that of their fellows, and suffer from intense heat, bumps and other serious injuries. Many of them are sick and many do not survive.”
“Experts and professional bodies in Israel and around the world all share the position that the transport of live animals should be avoided as much as possible, the transport durations should be shortened as much as possible and live transports should be converted into the meat trade,” continued the explanatory notes.
“The live shipping industry is interested in one thing – money. Any other consideration, animal welfare or public health simply does not interest them,” said Animals Now, an Israeli non-profit aimed for animals rights. “The businessmen of this industry are packing together animals at an unimaginable density for days and weeks, wallowing in their own feces, so it is clear that the diseases will run wild. For the sake of animals, for the sake of our health, we must hurry up and promote legislation to stop live shipments already in the current Knesset.”
Some 315,770 calves and lambs were imported into Israel in the first half of 2020, marking a drop of about 16% compared to the first half of 2019.
There are lines that must never be crossed. For the Tesla community, one such line was crossed recently, after a video was shared on Twitter showing a fellow Tesla owner abandoning a yellow labrador at Orchards Park in Vancouver, WA. The clip was quite shocking, as it showed the dog’s owner seemingly tricking the pooch before coldly leaving it behind.
The incident spread across the Tesla community over the weekend, and it did not take long before numerous netizens were calling for the dog’s owner to be reprimanded. KATU News reporter Kellee Azar took to Twitter to voice her frustration at the incident as well, stating that “no dog, animal or person should be treated this way.”
Fortunately, the incident was recorded by a neighboring resident’s surveillance camera. Amidst the video’s spread on social media, an investigation was promptly started and handled by the Clark County Animal Protection and Control, and it was not long before the abandoned pooch was found. In a later social media post, animal shelter “I Paw’d it Forward” noted that the yellow lab was safe.
That being said, “I Paw’d it Forward” has explained in an update on its official Facebook page that the yellow labrador involved in the incident, 13-year-old Henry the Dog, won’t be up for adoption until the investigation was completed. The announcement was done after numerous people volunteered to take him in. In this light, at least, Henry seems to be heading to a loving home in the near future.
As of the Tesla owner who abandoned Henry, she has been identified and cited for animal cruelty. The update was related by Clark County Animal Protection and Control on Saturday. In a statement to KOIN 6 News, a program manager from the organization stated that animal control officers were able to identify the woman in the video, and that she was interviewed the same afternoon. While authorities did not reveal the name of Henry’s owner, they opted not to disclose her name to the public.
Part of the Tesla community’s outrage on the incident is partly due to the fact that Teslas themselves are actually one of the most pet-friendly vehicles available today. This is evident in the company’s efforts to make its electric cars as safe for pets as possible. A good example of this is represented by Dog Mode, which allows owners to maintain their vehicles’ cabin temperature even when they are not around.
Attacks and calls to ban “wet markets” because of their potential for spreading diseases such as Covid-19 may be missing the point, say experts.
Earlier this week Sir Paul McCartney, a long-time vegetarian campaigner, called wet markets “medieval” and said that it made sense to ban them. “When you’ve got the obscenity of some of the stuff that’s going on there and what comes out of it, they might as well be letting off atomic bombs. It’s affecting the whole world.”
Last week more than 60 US lawmakers called for a global ban on what are referred to interchangeably as “live wildlife markets” or “wet markets”. And animal welfare groups have also been calling for a ban.
According to US lawmakers: “‘Wet’ markets in particular pose a threat to global public health because wildlife comes from many different locations without any standardised sanitary or health inspection processes.”
Appetite for ‘warm meat’ drives risk of disease in Hong Kong and China
Animal Equality argues that the markets are not only “inhumane” and a source of “intensive suffering inflicted on farmed animals”, but that they are also a “threat to public health”.
But experts who know the markets well say that they are just one link in a chain of both legal and illicit wildlife trade that needs intensive regulation, monitoring and enforcement to reduce heath risks, demand and consumption.
In China, much of Asia, and some other parts of the world, a “wet market” is a term used for any market where fresh meat, fish, vegetables and fruits, and other perishable goods, are sold in an open-air setting. The “wet” part comes from sellers sloshing water on produce to keep it cool and fresh.
While the markets may be considered unsanitary by western standards, most wet markets in China do not sell live animals other than fish in tanks, or sometimes in open pools.
Many markets in China stopped selling live poultry after widespread avian flu outbreaks led provinces and local governments to ban such sales over the past decade.
And while it is rare to see wildlife sold in these markets, the practice has continued in poorly regulated sites, such as the now-infamous Wuhan South China Seafood Market, which was suspected to be a primary source for spreading Covid-19 during late 2019.
“If we really want to prevent future pandemics, we have to do a lot more than just stop live wildlife being slaughtered at markets or wild meat being sold at markets,” Debbie Banks, head of the tiger campaign at the Environmental Investigation Agency, told the Guardian.
“In some countries, wildlife is commercially harvested and commercially farmed and transported direct to restaurants, consumed at private banquets, and used in traditional medicine, so there is a need to address demand and other retail venues besides wet markets,” she said.
Using terms such as “wet markets” in debates on the issue also risks further stoking misconceptions and cultural prejudices, argue some.
“This call for a ban comes from cultural differences often mixed with prejudice,” Kartini Samon, a Jakarta-based campaigner with the nonprofit Grain who has studied wet markets in the region, told the Guardian. “Wet markets are very common and have a long history in many places in Asia.”
The Wuhan market was closed on 1 January. Authorities in China placed a temporary ban on all trade in wildlife in late January, including any trade in wildlife to be consumed for meat, to be used in traditional medicine, and for fur and other purposes.
Further fine-tuning of the laws and regulations around the trade is ongoing. But it is the regulatory environment that allowed for such trade at the Wuhan market and the networks that supplied it that needs to be addressed, say experts, not simply the existence of the markets themselves.
Across many countries wet markets provide an important outlet for small farmers to sell their produce, said Samon. “In a country like India or Indonesia, between 25 and 40 million people rely on wet markets and informal food vendors for their livelihoods.”
And while markets like Wuhan’s may be an outlier for their trade in live wildlife, others say that more needs to be done to address general sanitation and hygiene at wet markets.
“That means setting standards and sticking to them and having strict enforcement measures against practices that could transmit illness and disease. [That] is more sensible than shutting them down, which won’t be consistently enforceable,” said Dirk Pfeiffer, chair professor at City University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences in Hong Kong.
Pfeiffer believes that over time many wet markets will disappear in places like China due to changes in consumer preferences and convenience.
Some supermarkets already try to replicate a “mini-wet market” atmosphere with a butcher available under familiar reddish lighting for shoppers to chat with about which cuts are more fresh in a way that is harder to do in larger, impersonal, brightly-lit supermarkets.
“I do think that wet markets are an issue when it comes to food safety standards and to adverse environmental impact. But that can be dealt with by regulation and raising awareness among consumers and traders,” Pfeiffer said.
“We need to focus on changing the demand, because as long as that is there it will be a way for people to trade in wild animals and their products,” he said.
by Dan Challender, Amy Hinsley, Diogo Veríssimo and Michael ‘T Sas-Rolfes, The Conversation
The early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic have been linked to a “wet”
market in Wuhan, in the Hubei province of eastern China. Wet markets are common in Asia, Africa and elsewhere, selling fresh fruit and vegetables, poultry, fresh meat and live animals, including wildlife.
Reports initially indicated that the coronavirus which causes COVID-19 may have been transmitted to people from wildlife at this wet market because of unsanitary conditions.
The pandemic has led to some wildlife conservation organisations to call for blanket bans on wildlife trade on public health grounds. They include bans on commercial trade in wildlife for human consumption and the closure of these markets. More extreme calls from more than 200 organisations include ending the keeping, breeding, domestication and use of all wildlife, which also covers traditional medicine.
But blanket bans are unlikely to benefit people or wildlife, and are unfeasible because they overlook the complexity of the wildlife trade.
The COVID-19 outbreak should not be used opportunistically to prescribe global wildlife trade policy. A more appropriate response would be to improve wildlife trade regulation with a direct focus on human health.
Wildlife is used globally on a daily basis, from medicinal plants and edible fungi, to wild meat in Europe, North America, Southern Africa and elsewhere. Wildlife trade enables people in many parts of the world to meet their basic needs and can provide livelihood benefits from harvesting or farming.
Despite the way it is often presented, wildlife trade involves far more than animals harvested in tropical regions and sold in China. It includes species from land, freshwater and marine habitats, including fisheries, in production systems ranging from wild harvesting to captive breeding. It takes place at local and international levels, includes legal and illegal, sustainable and unsustainable components, and is measurable in billions of dollars annually.
A fish market in Seoul, South Korea. Credit: Rodrigo Oyanedel, Author provided
Bans are seldom the answer
Unquestionably, wildlife trade regulations require review in response to
COVID-19 for public health reasons. However, while bans may appear to be a logical solution, their impact on public health cannot be assumed to be positive. They could also do more harm than good for biodiversity.
Typically, prohibition does not deter all traders in marketplaces. This would mean that trade in some products would likely continue illegally.
Traders would be motivated by financial profits, with an increased risk of trade being controlled by organised crime.
Bans may not stigmatise consumption either, especially where products are socially desirable, meaning consumer demand for many products would persist. This is a public health concern because, unregulated, such trade would likely be clandestine and, if unsanitary, could pose the risk of transmitting disease from animals to humans. Bans, especially where they remove legal supply options, such as captive breeding, could raise perceptions of scarcity, and drive up black market prices and increase incentives for poaching. This could accelerate the exploitation and extinction of species in the wild.
The outcome for wildlife economies would also be uncertain. For example, the wildlife “breeding economy” in China is estimated to involve 14 million people and be worth more than US$74 billion annually. The fate of animals under human care and the people employed in these industries would require consideration. In China, bamboo rat and badger farmers are to be compensated and given grants for new businesses following the closure of almost 3,000 farms in response to COVID-19.
To be effective, bans would need to be largely in step with local social norms and well enforced. But this is unrealistic in many parts of the world where law enforcement is cripplingly under-resourced in terms of technology and manpower. Local people may also challenge the legitimacy of any bans. Requiring agencies to enforce comprehensive bans in these circumstances would most likely overwhelm them.
Even where there are strong laws and enforcement, implementation is challenging and illegal trade still occurs frequently, such as the harvesting and trafficking of the European eel in Europe. It is also unlikely that law enforcement would receive the financial investment necessary to enforce bans in the long term, due to political constraints on spending and other more urgent priorities.
Scientists have discovered a virus similar to COVID-19 in the threatened pangolin, which is heavily trafficked for its meat and scales. Credit:
Better regulated trade
Banning all wildlife trade is a knee-jerk and potentially self-defeating measure. A more appropriate response would be improving regulation of wildlife markets, especially those involving live animals. This should include full consideration of public health and animal welfare concerns to ensure there is low risk of future animal-to-human disease outbreaks.
This could be achieved by focusing on highest-risk species and improving conditions along supply chains and in markets, such as health and safety and sanitation, and regular animal health checks. These practices could draw on existing standards that apply to regulations for transporting live animals by air.
Like bans, any new or revised regulations would require enforcement. But approaches such as “smart regulation” could be used to aid the process.
This could ensure that new measures are culturally appropriate and incentivise local people, traders, buyers and law enforcement agencies to comply. Devising regulations in this way would mean they are more likely to be effective, rather than undermined which a blanket ban would do.
Rushing to indiscriminately ban all wildlife trade in response to
COVID-19 would not eradicate the risk of animal-to-human disease outbreaks. It could also have a severe impact on livelihoods and biodiversity. Improved regulations that focus on health, if implemented well, would avoid these effects while ensuring a low risk of future disease outbreaks.
The comments came as officials around the world ramp up their calls for countries such as China to crack down on wildlife markets that are believed to play a leading role in the spread of infectious diseases. Experts believe the novel coronavirus first appeared in a wet market in Wuhan, China, known for selling exotic game alongside more common animals.
Mrema cautioned that simply banning wet markets would not fully solve the problem, noting that many communities around the world are dependent on wild animals to sustain their livelihoods.
“It would be good to ban the live animal markets as China has done and some countries. But we should also remember you have communities, particularly from low-income rural areas, particularly in Africa, which are dependent on wild animals to sustain the livelihoods of millions of people,” she said.
Mrema added that a ban on these markets may help promote “illegal trade in wild animals” if no clear alternative is in place.
“We need to look at how we balance that and really close the hole of illegal trade in the future,” she said.
In the U.S., Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has led the calls for China to keep its wet markets closed. Earlier this month, he called on Senate lawmakers to sign on to a letter he sent to the Chinese ambassador to the U.S. “urging the immediate closure of these wet markets for the safety of the world at large.”
He argued in a series of tweets earlier this month that “bringing wild and exotic animals to open markets to interact with humans and other food supplies is both crazy and dangerous.”
Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, echoed those comments, saying last week that the novel coronavirus was a “direct result” of unsanitary marketplaces.
“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 on “Fox & Friends.” “I don’t know what else has to happen to get us to appreciate that.”
Jinfeng Zhou, secretary general of the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, has also said that an international ban on wet markets would “help a lot on wildlife conservation and protection of ourselves from improper contacts with wildlife.”