With Covid-19, wild-animal markets face new pressures to shutter

The trade in wild animals is coming under increasing pressure to shut down, ever since the source of the Covid-19 pandemic was linked to a “wet market” in Wuhan, China, where throngs of customers shop for live animals held in cramped quarters, as Brian Barth reports in FERN’s latest story.

“When this connection emerged in January, the government ordered a freeze on the sale and consumption of wild animals, which was stiffly enforced — 700 people were arrested for violations in the first two weeks of February,” Barth writes.

Although wildlife conservation groups have long opposed these markets and the trade in wild animals, there has been “a convergence of interests among conservationists, animal rights advocates, health officials, and increasingly, the public, who want to see them shut down.”

The markets have long been linked to disease outbreaks, as they create the conditions for infectious diseases to jump from wild animals to humans. “Of the 30-plus pathogenic diseases discovered in humans in recent decades, three-quarters are of animal origin. One study estimated that 700,000 viral pathogens in the animal kingdom have potential to infect humans. If wild animal consumption continues unabated, outbreaks like SARs and Covid-19 are likely the new norm,” Barth writes.