Action to avoid another catastrophic pandemic received meaningful support this week when the German Ambassador to the UN announced his country seeks a global shut-down of all wildlife meat markets.
Dr. Christoph Heusgen, the German Ambassador announced the new policy Monday during a webinar hosted by the German Ministry of Environment, Nature Protection, and Nuclear Safety.
“We must close all wildlife meat markets, legal and illegal,’’ he said. “We must stop all commercial trade for human consumption. We need to act boldly, and we want a UN Resolution on this issue.”
Friends of Animals wrote to Ambassador Heusgen this spring requesting such action following his remarks at the U.N. Security Council when he described with frustration the “deafening silence” from the U.N. as COVID-19 pandemic raged globally killing hundreds of thousands of people.
Health experts have traced the virus’s origination to live wild bats captured and sold for slaughter that transmitted it to humans possibly via pangolins or other live animals also sold in a wet market in China.
COVID-19 is not the only deadly disease to emerge from wild animal meat markets. SARS, MERS, Ebola, Nipah virus and many others have been determined to have been communicated from wild animals to humans in wet markets or similar trade situations. Almost 60-75 percent of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic in nature, meaning they jump from animals to humans.
“The preponderance of evidence available today indicates that COVID-19 was communicated from a wild animal to a human at a wild animal meat market in Wuhan, China. But the transmission could have occurred at any of thousands of similar wild animal meat markets scattered across the globe, although mostly in tropical parts of Asia and Africa,’’ FoA President Priscilla Feral said.
In the April 16 petition of urgency, Priscilla Feral and FoA Wildlife Law Program Director Michael Harris requested the German Mission introduce a resolution to the Security Council for closure of the markets that sell wild animal meat, legal or illegal.
“As long as those wild animal meat markets remain open, the principal vehicle for transmission of zoonotic infectious disease to humans remain an active, serious threat. “There is no assurance that the next infectious disease will wait until the international community has brought the current COVID-19 pandemic under control,’’ they noted.
FoA said the resolution should require a deadline for the closure of all wild animal meat markets worldwide; failure to comply should result in a country being designated a health hazard subject to a strict sanitary quarantine; and a monitor should be established to verify that countries are complying.
“This may appear drastic but the consequences of another pandemic emerging from such locus are enormously greater,’’ Feral and Harris wrote.
Feral said she welcomes Ambassador Heusgen’s efforts and said America needs to support the resolution.
“The U.S. has suffered more fatalities due to the COVID-19 pandemic,’’ she said. “We should be right at the forefront of those campaigning for reforms that will prevent such a catastrophe from ever happening again.”
In addition to reaching out to the German Mission, FoA has offered to partner with other U.N. countries and the World Health Organization in this effort and has contacted Congressional representatives and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging action to close down the wildlife meat trade.
“The wet markets of the world have for too long cruelly consumed millions of wild animals and endangered the health of the entire planet,’’ Feral said.