In November 2021, scientists from various disciplines published a “Warning to Humanity” on the wildlife trade because of the risk of “diseases transmitted from wildlife to humans”.
As COVID-19 swept across China last year, the Beijing government closed live-animal sections of many markets and closed 20,000 wildlife farms across the country. Unknown to the outside world, however, three-quarters of the area’s value comes from the breeding of animals for fur, traditional medicine, and recreational purposes. Many of those wildlife farms are still in business.
These wildlife farms have become a focal point in the search for the origins of COVID-19, and have become a poignant issue for the Chinese – so much so that Beijing banned the researchers, a research conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO). was part of the mission. , from visiting wildlife farms and bat caves in southern China.
Read more: Coronavirus has finally made us recognize the illegal wildlife trade is a public health issue
In late 2020, researchers from the Belgium-based Humane Society International (HSI) visited 13 fur farms across China. Researchers found that not only were animals being killed, but no measures were being taken to stop the spread of COVID-19:
“The fur farms we visited did not comply with health and safety regulations,” says Wendy Higgins, director of international media at HSI. “Epidemic control regulations were violated and our investigators were welcomed into the fields, using basic biosecurity measures such as disinfection stations at entry and exit points, wearing protective clothing and a quarantine area for sick animals,” Higgins says. was not followed.”
In March 2021, the WHO concluded that the novel coronavirus was most likely to be transmitted to humans through an “intermediary” rather than through direct infection by bats, packaged food or laboratory accident.
WHO researchers identified mink, civet and raccoon dogs as potential “intermediary host species”, with mink being “highly susceptible” to COVID-19. While so far the focus has been on the risk posed by humans consuming the meat of these animals, the WHO report states that the virus can also be spread through direct contact with infected animals or their body waste.
Read more: Origin of the Covid-19 virus: The way to mink farming
Livestock or Wildlife?
Concern about the role of these animals in spreading COVID-19 has sparked an outbreak from 431 mink fur farms in Europe and North America.
Denmark and Poland, the world’s top two fur producing countries after China, have temporarily banned mink farming due to COVID-19 concerns. British Columbia will end mink farming by 2025, and France recently banned mink farming.
China farmed an estimated 14 million foxes, 13.5 million raccoon dogs and 11.6 million minks in 2019. But instead of banning fur farming, the Chinese government classified minks, foxes and raccoons as livestock, explicitly keeping them out of the wildlife ban.
“Virologists are concerned that the virus may lie dormant in fur farms. The virus is able to mutate so as we develop vaccines, new types may emerge that are resistant. Leaving such a potential threat untouched, for the fashion world to promote, seems like a huge risk,” Higgins says.
In May 2020, Chinese authorities offered purchases to farmers who raise wildlife for food, but fur farmers were not offered the same incentives. Recent figures are hard to come by, but in 2016, fur farming was valued at an estimated 389 billion Chinese yuan (US$55 billion), compared to only 125 billion yuan (US$17 billion) for wildlife food production.
luxury and profit
As a result of the closure of fur farms in other parts of the world, Chinese producers experienced a 30 percent increase in prices in December 2020.
Wildlife is considered a luxury product that is affordable to only a small but growing segment of consumers. A survey by the World Wildlife Fund found that in China, 10 percent of respondents had bought wild animals in the open market in 2019.
Worryingly, the scientists found that banning wildlife markets “does not discourage online wildlife trade.”
In addition to food and fur, parts of wild animals are also used in traditional Chinese medicine, a growing market that is actively promoted by the government. Chinese consumers were expected to spend US$420 billion annually on these items by the end of 2020.
China legalized the use of rhinoceros horn and tiger bone in traditional medicine in 2018. It went further last year with a law outlawing any public criticism of traditional medicine. Recently, the government started promoting the use of traditional medicine to cure COVID-19 without any evidence.
mitigation and policy
The government’s policy towards wildlife farming echoes its actions during the SARS outbreak in 2003. It initially shut down wildlife markets when the disease was detected in animals, but two years later, enforcement “was reduced as the wildlife trade industry lobbied against it, reporting that it was an economic and job loss for the country.” Contribution. ”
WHO continues its search for the definitive origin of COVID-19. It recently announced the formation of a scientific advisory group to further the investigation, and has recommended conducting “targeted surveys of fur farms” as a line of investigation.
Despite close encounters with Ebola, SARS-CoV-1, Middle East respiratory syndrome and H1N1, and decades of warnings from infectious diseases experts, tighter regulation and additional mitigation strategies are needed.
This article is republished from – The Conversation – Read the – original article.