WASHINGTON— A bipartisan group of U.S. senators and representatives have sent a letter urging the World Health Organization to take “aggressive action toward a global shutdown of live wildlife markets and a ban on the international trade in live wildlife.”
The letter, led by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Congressmen Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and Congressman McCaul (R-Texas), points out that a “wet market” is believed to be the source of the COVID-19 pandemic. Wet markets sell live wildlife, often in unnatural and unsanitary conditions.
Zoonotic diseases — diseases that jump from animals to humans — are responsible for 60% of emerging infectious diseases, the letter notes, and approximately 72% of those zoonotic diseases originate from wildlife.
“It’s heartening to see Congress step up and call for an end to the live wildlife trade and these terrible wet markets,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “As the coronavirus wreaks havoc around the world, it’s just common sense for the World Health Organization to use its power to make sure wildlife trafficking doesn’t cause another pandemic in the years to come.”
High rates of deforestation and ballooning human populations are increasing wildlife exploitation and human encroachment into previously undisturbed habitat, leading to biodiversity loss. Before COVID-19 other dangerous illnesses, like SARS, MERS, Ebola and HIV, derived from wildlife. Scientists believe the majority of all future emerging infectious diseases in humans will come from wildlife.
“The coronavirus pandemic shows we can’t just go back to the status quo with how we treat wildlife,” said Hartl. “Every nation on Earth, including the United States, must make changes if we’re to have any chance of making COVID-19 the last pandemic that stems from the destructive trade in wild animals.”
In a separate letter sent earlier this week, more than 240 organizations urged the World Health Organization to “recommend that governments worldwide permanently ban live wildlife markets and the use of wildlife in traditional medicine.”