Ricky Gervais demands global shutdown of all wildlife ‘wet’ markets to avert future pandemics

Ricky Gervais demands global shutdown of all wildlife 'wet' markets to avert future pandemicsImage: Ron Adar / shutterstock.com

For the sake of people and animals, wildlife trade and consumption has to end, now.’

Ricky Gervais called for a global shutdown of wet animal markets and a ban on wildlife trade while speaking to the Mirror on the current pandemic situation that has claimed more than 1,26,681 lives at the time of writing.

The actor and animal rights activist made the comments after the tabloid revealed images of live bats and reptiles still on sale alongside dogs in Indonesia.


According to experts the coronavirus reportedly spawned from one such wet market in China, Wuhan and has since spread globally forcing countries into lockdowns.

“For the sake of people and animals, wildlife trade and consumption has to end, now,” the 58 year old told the tabloid, adding that if humans kept on exploiting the animal kingdom, we could soon again find ourselves facing another pandemic.

“We can’t carry on exploiting animals, eating wildlife and trashing the planet,” he warned.

“The wildlife trade and markets have to close, otherwise it will be a case of when, and not if, we have another global pandemic.”

Wet markets

In a separate livestream on his Twitter account, the animal lover reiterated the risks posed by wet markets and stressed on how COVID-19 could easily not be the last pandemic humanity has witnessed, if stricter measures are not enforced.

He said: “This will happen again. The wet markets are already opening in China and other parts. They are already getting back to it. This comes from animals, like all the other things, MERS and SARS… it comes from animals and f***ing eating things you shouldn’t. I don’t know what to do. What can I do? I’m annoyed at sunbathers so if I saw a wet market, I don’t know what I’d f***ing do.”

According to reports China reportedly allowed its markets in south-west China’s Guilin and southern China’s Dongguan to reopen and resume selling bats, pangolins and dogs for human consumption. Also, footage released by the Mirror showed that wet markets in Indonesia and Thailand continued to operate despite the pandemic.

Ironically, while Asian wet markets are going unchecked, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs released a draft policy earlier this month banning dog meat from consumption. The newly proposed regulation states that dogs “have evolved from traditional livestock to companion animals,” and thus excluded.

‘Shut them down right away’

Gervais is not the only one to have called for a global wet market ban.

America’s chief infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci mentioned that the ongoing public health crisis is a “direct result” of the thriving wet animal markets and demanded  that they “should shut down those things right away.”

PETA has even launched a petition urging the WHO to shut these markets across the globe to prevent future pandemics and end the horrific torture that animals are subjected to for food.


“Just as we don’t want to be infected with or die from COVID-19, other animals don’t want to suffer or be killed for food, “wrote PETA in a statement

“No matter what species they are peddling, live-animal meat markets will continue to put the human population at risk as well as sentencing countless animals to a miserable death.”

Share this story to reveal the truth of wet markets.

Lawmakers in California and New York to introduce legislation to ban wet markets and exotic wildlife trafficking to reduce future pandemic risk and prevent mass extinction

By Social Compassion in Legislation – April 13, 2020, 08:40:24 AM

Sacramento, CA – April 13, 2020 – On the heels of a bipartisan Congressional coalition’s letter to the World Health Organization and other intergovernmental bodies urging a worldwide ban on live animal or “wet” markets, legislators in California and New York have announced plans to ban such wet markets in their respective states. The bills would also cut off imports of exotic and endangered wildlife that could spread zoonotic disease like COVID-19. Senator Henry Stern (CA) and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal (NY) are working with animal protection legislative advocacy group Social Compassion in Legislation (SCIL) to create the groundbreaking legislation.

“Social Compassion in Legislation wants to thank Senator Stern and Assemblymember Rosenthal in working with us to ban live animal markets in CA and NY. We are partnering with PETA and WildAid to help make this a global movement to end these markets. Time is of the essence to do away with the unacceptably cruel status quo which has cast a dark shadow over the entire world through COVID-19. As with our other sponsored legislation, California and New York can be models for the rest of the world,” said Judie Mancuso, founder and president of SCIL, who is leading the legislative advocacy effort and building the coalition.

With the outbreak of COVID-19 bringing the world’s attention to the effects of “wet” markets on both the animals suffering in them and the profound human health consequences of disease transmission, urgent calls from conservation, animal rights, and the general public to ban these kinds of markets, and wildlife trafficking in general, are growing louder. While each state has different levels of regulations around the sales and possession of live animals being sold for food, as well as body parts hunted as trophies, both legislators agreed that their respective states could do better to protect public health and the animals trafficked in domestic and international markets.

In California, amphibians, reptiles, and birds are currently allowed to be sold in “live animal markets,” which are defined as a retail food market where, in the regular course of business, animals are stored alive and sold to consumers for the purpose of human consumption, meaning they are sold to the public.

“We need to stop the brutal trade in exotic and endangered wildlife once and for all,” said California State Senator Henry Stern (D-Los Angeles), Chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee. ”Whether it’s a pangolin being sold for faulty medicine, a white bengal tiger being enslaved for entertainment, or a black rhino “trophy” used to satisfy some misguided hunter‘s ego, California must put an end to wildlife trafficking.”

Senator Stern’s legislation, SB 1175, would ban imports and sales of live wild animals that pose zoonotic disease transmission risk, as occurred in the Wuhan wet markets, as well as “trophy hunted” endangered species like lions, elephants, and rhinos.

In addition to sales as pets, medicine, food, or entertainment, many exotic and endangered species are also sold in the United States in their trophy form. In 2018, the Trump Administration reversed an Obama-era ban on the import of endangered African species like elephants and lions to a case-by-case system, which critics argue will exacerbate extinction trends across the planet.

On the domestic front, there are over 80 live-animal markets and slaughterhouses operating in New York City alone that sell and slaughter a variety of species for human consumption, including goats, sheep, chickens, guinea fowl, turkeys, partridges, rabbits, pigeons, Muscovy ducks, and quail. The animals are confined in small cages where they can easily spread diseases, both to other animals and the people at the markets.

“It shouldn’t take a pandemic to put an end to animal cruelty,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan). “COVID-19 has made plain that filthy live animal markets are breeding grounds for disease, in addition to animal torture, and have no place in New York. That’s why I will be introducing legislation to shutter New York’s live animal markets. If you must eat chicken, you can get it walking down the sanitary aisles of the grocery store.”

Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, who authored New York’s first-in-the-nation legislation to ban cat declawing and previously teamed up with SCIL to allow dogs to dine with their owners in outdoor restaurants. Assemblymember Rosenthal has passed more than 20 laws on animal welfare, while representing the 67th Assembly District, which includes parts of Manhattan.

The bills introduced by Senator Stern and Assemblymember Rosenthal follow a letter sent on April 8th by a bipartisan group of 66 U.S.
Members of Congress imploring Directors General of the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to take aggressive action to shut down these live animal markets.

Their letter states, “As leaders of organizations tasked with ensuring human and animal health, we urge you to work with member states to ensure that live wildlife markets are closed permanently in all countries and that the international trade of live wildlife not intended for conservation purposes is banned.” In addition, localized efforts to ban “wet” markets have started to emerge in light of recent events, like the one in Los Angeles led by Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Bob Blumenfield.

“We need filthy meat markets like a swimmer needs a crocodile—for as long as we keep them open, we put ourselves in mortal danger,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “PETA applauds the progressive legislators in California and New York on their common sense decision to shut down these dangerous disease incubators.”

“With these bills, California and New York demonstrate their leadership for protecting wildlife and public health, joining China and other countries in taking strong action to shut down wild animal markets and the wildlife trade,” said Peter Knights, CEO of WildAid.


How COVID-19 Will Transform the Fresh Food Industry in China

The COVID-19 virus, of which the origin is not fully confirmed, is generally believed to have infected its first human host at a wildlife market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the pandemic.

The highly contagious novel coronavirus, following the SARS virus in 2003, has reignited concerns on wildlife protection and fresh food safety in China. Consequential measures taken to contain the virus spread, such as city lockdowns, transport restrictions, and delays in resuming businesses, have also begun to upend the country’s fresh food industry and supply chain.

The crisis underscores an urgency Chinese business might soon encounter whereby consumers in the country become more wary of the sourcing and distribution of their meat products and other food supplies.

Given the cultural significance of fresh food in China – this is a time to look at new investment opportunities to tap into. This includes industrial farming, processing, storage, distribution – the whole gamut of the supply chain.

Chinese consumers resort to new shopping habits

With the emergency caused by COVID-19 and capability of coronaviruses spreading across animal species, consumers are concerned about how many similar wildlife markets that sell pangolins, snakes, civets, and other wild animals still exist in China, which could be a breeding ground for zoonotic diseases.

In addition, sporadic outbreaks of bird flu (H5N1 Bird Flu in 1997 and H7N8 Bird Flu in 2013) and African swine fever (ASF), which affect the meat supply in China and lead to the spike in meat prices, also raise questions on the way China’s wet market and meat supply chain operate.

While frozen food consumption is the norm in the US and Europe, Chinese citizens, especially the elder generations, still prefer live seafood, fresh meats, and seasonal fruits and vegetables from the less hygienic local wet markets to ensure freshness. Live animals, like poultry and fish, in wet markets are slaughtered or sold live right next to stalls selling fruit and vegetables.

In recent years, wet markets are losing ground to supermarkets in China, although traditional markets remain the major source of fresh food for most Chinese citizens.

According to a report by Forward, a Chinese industry information provider, in 2018, farmers’ markets accounted for about 53.7 percent of the fresh food sources of Chinese consumers, followed by supermarkets at 40.1 percent; fresh food e-commerce accounted for only 4.9 percent.

During the COVID-19 outbreak in China, farmers’ markets with live poultry trade were ordered to be shuttered temporarily or permanently in many regions across the country. People were reluctant to visit such places, in fear of cross-infection.

Instead, sales of hypermarkets, supermarkets, and e-commerce platforms with last-mile delivery services saw a short-term spike as people opted to go to the supermarkets or order online to stock up on various foods, reduce going out, and stay at home.

According to global consultancy McKinsey, since the Chinese Lunar New Year in late January, the meat sales of large supermarket chains observed year-on-year growth of more than 30 percent, going even as high as 70 to 80 percent.

Daily new users of major fresh food e-commerce and online to offline (O2O) platforms have increased by 50 to 200 percent, and year-on-year growth in transaction volume on these platforms has risen three to four times.

JD Daojia, an online grocery shop under JD.com, China’s second largest e-commerce company, saw its transaction volume increase by 374 percent year-on-year from January 24 to February 2, 2020.

Missfresh, an online fresh food e-commerce platform with its headquarter in Beijing, also saw trading volume increase by 321 percent from January 24 to January 28, compared with the year earlier.

Orders received by Freshippo, Alibaba’s retail supermarket chain, which also provides last-mile delivery services, were five to ten times higher than usual in major cities Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Chengdu.


Prior to January, the trading volume of China’s fresh e-commence market had been growing steadily.

With the onset of COVID-19 and several restrictions implemented by healthcare and administrative authorities, consumers have had no choice but to purchase fresh produce online. This intense crisis period could indeed cultivate long-term preferences for online shopping.

Still, China’s wet markets are reportedly reopening and some consumers may return to their old buying habits.

In the long run, however, it is likely that many Chinese consumers, especially young and middle-income groups, will continue to purchase fresh food online.

This consumer preference and shopping behavior will convert more strongly if e-commerce platforms constantly improve their warehousing and distribution capabilities and offer more types of high-quality fresh foods.

State of the cold chain network in China

A cold chain refers to the temperature-controlled supply chain, and includes refrigerated production, storage, and distribution activities, along with the associated equipment and logistics required to maintain desired temperatures.

Cold chain logistics are essential for e-commerce companies to reduce costs and ensure the quality of perishable goods. Naturally, the growth of online fresh food consumption is expected to push investments in cold chain transportation, storage, and other segments.

Logistics costs account for a huge proportion of the cost structure of fresh food e-commerce companies. According to the 2015 China Cold Chain Logistics Development Report released by China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing (CFLP), the cold chain logistics cost accounts for an average of 40 percent of the total cost of fresh food e-commerce companies.

The development level of cold chain networks determines the operation cost and profit distribution of these enterprises.

China’s cold chain logistics market is big. It was worth RMB 295.6 billion (US$41.9 billion) in 2018, showing a growth of 18.8 percent from the previous year – around half of the value of the North American cold chain logistics market (US$81.2 billion in 2018), according to Statista.

However, the construction of cold storage facilities in China is still somewhat backward.

In 2018, the per capita refrigerated warehousing capacity of China’s urban residents was only 0.156 cubic meters, far lower than the 0.5 cubic meters per capita capacity in developed countries.

What’s more, China’s cold storage market is scattered, with a low concentration ratio and strong regional attributes. The capacity of refrigerated warehouses, mainly distributed in the first-tier cities in east China, accounts for more than 36 percent of the country’s cold storage capacity.

Based on a recent report from Bain & Company, cold chain share of total meat supply in China is less than 40 percent, while in Europe, that share is more than 90 percent. Chilled and frozen share of total fresh meat supply in China is less than 50 percent, while the share in Europe is also over 90 percent.

In addition to this, according to Zhou Yuan, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the proportion of pre-cooled fruit and vegetable market share in China is around 10 percent, while in developed European countries and in the US, the share can be as high as 95 to 100 percent.

Limited by the low-level development of cold chain networks, the annual loss of fruit and vegetables alone amounts to hundreds of billions of RMB.


Consequently, Chinese governments have been rolling out policies to boost the construction of the country’s cold chain network in recent years.

The rise of fresh food e-commerce and Chinese consumers’ desire for higher-quality food after COVID-19 is projected to further drive this need for a more robust cold chain network and large cold chain logistics platforms – to create as unbroken a cold chain as is possible.

Industry automation, consolidation, and integration

In China’s animal husbandry industry, the animal breeding, slaughtering, and processing segments highly rely on manual labor force. However, worker shortage amid the COVID-19 outbreak exposed the shortcomings of this low-automation production model.

The long tail and scattered organization of the country’s animal husbandry supply chains inevitably led to large gaps between demand and supply.

In addition to COVID-19, a bout of African swine fever (ASF) also clobbered the country’s livestock industry. Between 2018 and 2019, a quarter of the world’s pig population died from an ASF outbreak that spread across China.

And this left many small-scale farms financially struggling to survive despite big industrial producers continuing to expand.

China’s government policy appears to have strengthened this trend of consolidating big enterprises.

On March 16, 2020, the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) announced the Implementation Opinions about Supporting Private Enterprises to Breed Hogs and Develop Related Industries (Fa Gai Nong Jing [2020] No.350), aiming to encourage leading companies engaged in breeding, slaughtering, and processing hogs to extend the industry chain at provincial or regional markets. (Hogs are domesticated pigs meant for slaughter for food consumption.)

The document said large hog breeding companies would be guided to build slaughterhouses near their farms, and slaughtering companies could develop processing operations or launch byproducts to improve their product structure.

A range of policy incentives were announced for large hog farms, such as subsidies for purchases of automatic feeding, waste treatment facilities, and easier access to land use.

In addition, the document also encouraged cold storage logistics as China switched to transport of meat rather than live hogs to boost bio-security after the outbreak of African swine fever and COVID-19.


Over the medium- to long-term, we are likely to see the consolidation and vertical integration of China’s animal husbandry industry where large livestock complexes and meat processing enterprises will be able to aggressively expand market share and control the operation of two or more successive stages of processing – from feeding and slaughtering, to creating the final products. We expect that larger players who invest in modernizing production lines will enjoy more benefits in the coming years.

Stricter food safety regulations and enforcement

Since the earlier COVID-19 infections were found in Wuhan’s wildlife market, where bats, snakes, civets, and other animals are sold, China has banned the trade and consumption of wild animals.

On February 24, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the country’s top legislative body, issued a decision laying the groundwork for amending China’s Wildlife Protection Law.

The decision imposed a permanent ban on the trade and consumption of live wild animals for food – to block the spread of zoonotic diseases, although ending this billion-dollar industry may not be easy.

With increased national and global attention to China’s wild animal protection and food safety, we expect Chinese authorities will enforce stricter food safety regulations.

Take a recent example – on March 18, the SAMR released an announcement to strengthen the safety management of refrigerated and frozen food (SAMR Announcement [2020] No.10), which requires any party commissioned to store and transport food to report to local market regulators when they suspect that the food does not meet laws, regulations, or food safety standards.

In the future, high-level food safety standards and a more mature food tracing and alert system are expected to be built up in China.

Opportunities for meatless meat

The COVID-19 and outbreaks of bird flu and swine fever are making people around the world rethink their diet structure, and consumption of meat products, which might also boost promotion for the meatless meat industry.

On March 16, Impossible Foods, the US artificial meat company, raised about US$500 million in in its latest series F funding round. The funding came after COVID-19 hit the US, with consumers panic-buying at grocery stores. Few days prior, on March 12, Starfield, a Chinese food technology company headquartered in Shenzhen, announced they’d completed the financing of tens of millions of Chinese RMB.

Foreign plant-based meat producers still face a different set of political and cultural hurdles to enter China’s meat market, such as the government’s daunting food regulatory procedures and an invisible food culture. But the outbreak of COVID-19 has increased investor interest in alternative meats and given plant-based meat producers greater confidence to continue to enter the market.

While the overall impact of the pandemic on China’s fresh food and cold chain industry is yet to be determined, we recommend, while taking short-term measures to maintain business operations, companies may also consider making long-term strategy adjustment.

As regulations become stricter, food producers are advised to double down on technology that improves food safety and quality control. When there is industry consolidation and vertical integration, stronger companies can focus on M&A opportunities. Enterprises that make the right moves now will be best placed to thrive in a more regulated market with changing customer expectations.

Coronavirus: Why a blanket ban on wildlife trade ‘would not be the right response’

April 9, 2020

by Dan Challender, Amy Hinsley, Diogo Veríssimo and Michael ‘T Sas-Rolfes, The Conversation
Credit: Shutterstock

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.


Shut down ‘wet markets’ worldwide: A job for the United Nations

Residents wearing face masks purchase seafood at a wet market on January 28, 2020 in Macau, China.
Residents wearing face masks purchase seafood at a wet market on January 28, 2020 in Macau, China.(Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

The underlying circumstances that made the explosive outbreak of today’s COVID-19 pandemic possible still exist. If we want to prevent another pandemic, it’s urgent we start eliminating those circumstances, right now. A good place to start would be by shutting down animal “wet markets” worldwide.

There is broad consensus that the present pandemic likely emerged from an animal wet market in Wuhan, China. Wet markets are place where wild and domestic animals, alive and dead, are bought and sold as food. They very commonly are uninspected, poorly regulated, noxiously unsanitary and appallingly cruel. They have repeatedly been identified as the key locations where newly emerging diseases are transmitted from infected animals to humans.

The Chinese authorities, to their credit, realized that such a market was the likeliest source of their epidemic, and moved swiftly to impose a national shut down on all wet markets. Alarmingly, no one else on Earth followed this important example. Wet markets today continue to conduct business as usual around the world — mostly in Asia and Africa. And it is entirely possible that another newly emerging infectious disease is festering in one of them right now.

There is clear and compelling need for collective international action to shut down all wild animal wet markets worldwide.

The United Nations Security Council is the agency best suited to do this. This is a perfect opportunity to apply the UN Charter’s statement of purpose that seeks to “achieve international cooperation in solving international problems.” Both the UN Secretariat and the World Health Organization have been active in addressing this pandemic. In particular, the UN has created a $2 billion “Global Humanitarian Response Plan COVID-19” which has many attractive elements that mobilize resources and focus initiative. Unfortunately, the closure of wet markets is not one of them.

Of the 10 countries with the most COVID-19 fatalities, six of them are members of the UN Security Council. They should be well motivated to initiate action to protect the world from a very conspicuous risk. But will they take the initiative?

COVID-19 is not the only serious zoonotic disease to escape from the genie’s bottle in a wet market. Scores of other deadly sicknesses emerged from these squalid and pestilent markets.

Some may argue that wet markets are important to human livelihoods and nutrition. But these are spurious excuses. Most Asian wet markets are often vanity emporia that specialize in exotic delicacies such as pangolin scales and cobra flesh, and have nothing to do with wholesome nutrition.

Many African wet markets do supply cheap, and usually illegal, “bushmeat” for local people. But this is not a solution to poverty or hunger. And there are several alternatives that are more attractive, such as village vegetable gardens that provide legitimate livelihoods and do not involve cruelty to animals, nor do they contribute to the endangerment of wildlife or destruction of habitat. There is no need for wet markets, nor for the bushmeat poachers who supply them.

The history of the COVID-19 pandemic eventually will record many inadequacies, irresponsibilities and self-inflicted myopia at many levels. But with prompt action now, the world can prevent the outbreak of the next pandemic and all the suffering and misery that necessarily would accompany it.

Wet markets have been repeatedly identified as critical links between dangerous diseases in wild animals and their transmission to humans. Cutting these links would be a commendable initiative for the UN Security Council to accomplish.

Feral, president of Friends of Animals, has presided over the international, non-profit animal advocacy organization since 1987.