Congress is considering bipartisan legislation FoA has been pursuing that would shut down exploitative global commercial wildlife markets and help stop the spread of zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, introduced the legislation, known as Preventing Future Pandemics Act of 2020 (S. 4749), in September. The bill would direct the State Department to work with international partners to shut down commercial wildlife markets and stop the associated wildlife trade, end the import, export and sale of live wildlife for human consumption in the United States, and phase out demand for wildlife as a food source.
FoA has been calling on U.S. and world leaders to shutter wild animal wet markets where wildlife is sold for consumption. The COVID-19 outbreak, which has killed more than 200,000 U.S. residents and more than one million people worldwide has been linked to a wet market where bats and pangolins were sold in Wuhan, China.
This spring FoA wrote to World Health Organization Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, officials in U.N. member countries, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Congressional representatives, including Sen. Booker about the need to end the trade of wildlife.
“The wet markets of the world have for too long cruelly consumed millions of wild animals and endangered the health of the entire planet,” FoA President Priscilla Feral said. “And for what? So someone could dine on the flesh of an exotic animal? Why should civil society tolerate such extreme risks to satisfy self-indulgent decadence?”
COVID-19 is not the only deadly disease to emerge from such markets across the globe. SARS, MERS, Ebola, Nipah virus and many others have jumped from animals to humans because of the wildlife trade. Three out of every four new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals and more than 34 million people worldwide have died from zoonotic diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization.
“The risk of disease transmission from wildlife to people is a persistent threat to global public health, and we know that commercial wildlife markets and the international wildlife trade significantly increase that risk,” said Sen. Booker. “As we continue to fight to get the spread of COVID-19 under control here in the United States, we must also be working with our international partners to prevent another deadly pandemic from occurring; that means working urgently to shut down commercial wildlife markets and end the international trade in live wildlife.”
The bill introduced by Booker would give the State Department tools, such as economic and diplomatic penalties, to crack down on wild animal markets and curtail the trade in wildlife for human consumption, authorize funding for USAID to help reduce demand for consumption of wildlife and support alternative food sources, prohibit the import, export and sale of live wildlife in the U.S. for food or medicine, and authorize the hiring of more U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff to disrupt illegal wildlife trafficking.
A companion bill was also introduced in the House by Representatives.
In a letter thanking Sen. Booker for introducing the legislation, FoA also described areas where the bill could be strengthened including that the legislation be applied to all wild animals, alive and dead and that sanctions include the U.S. imposing sanitary quarantines on countries continuing to expose the world to disease hazards through their markets.
“In the present pandemic, many countries closed their borders to diminish the risk of importing COVID-19. A corollary to this would be to isolate high-risk countries before any infectious disease may emerge from markets that are identified as high-risk,’’ FoA said.
More on FoA’s efforts on this issue can be found here.