People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) urged the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) on Thursday to forcefully advocate for the shutdown of live animal meat markets in the interest of public health, particularly in light of ongoing concerns that they may have played a role in the ongoing Chinese coronavirus pandemic.
The demand followed the publication by the animal rights group of video footage this week of these outdoor markets – often called “wet markets” in reference to the overflowing water and blood on the floor from the on-site animal slaughters – thriving throughout Asia. The wet markets depicted in the video footage are located throughout Asia, in at least seven countries, and can be plainly seen selling not just live chickens and domesticated animals but a variety of wildlife that includes bats, primates, rodents, wild cats, and other species known to carry infectious diseases.
All of the newly released footage, PETA noted, was filmed in 2021, long after the start of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic and warnings from the W.H.O. that live animal markets pose an infectious disease threat. The animal rights group referred to the sites as “perfect breeding grounds for disease” and a “virologist’s nightmare.”
Among the nations hosting the wet markets PETA uncovered are China, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka.
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The W.H.O. has stopped short of calling for the shutdown of all wet markets, claiming it is possible to maintain a sanitary market and that they play a critical role in the nutrition of underprivileged communities. The United Nations agency noted they “form part of the social fabric of communities and are a main source of affordable fresh foods for many low-income groups” in safety guidelines published in April. W.H.O. officials approved of China reopening their wet markets shortly after the pandemic became a global emergency in early 2020.
“You know how WHO and other parts of the international system work – we don’t have the capacity to police the world,” WHO’s coronavirus special envoy, Dr. David Nabarro, said at the time, conceding, “75 percent of emerging infections come from the animal kingdom. It’s partly the markets, but it’s also other places where humans and animals are in close contact.”
The Chinese Communist Party initially blamed a wet market – the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, a central Chinese metropolis – for the first human cases of Chinese coronavirus.
“The origin of the new coronavirus is the wildlife sold illegally in a Wuhan seafood market,” Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said in January 2020.
The Chinese government abruptly abandoned that theory in mid-2020 and has since instead claimed the coronavirus – not known to have infected humans before late 2019 – originated in a U.S. Army facility in Maryland. No evidence suggests that any cases of coronavirus were documented anywhere in the United States prior to the first case documented in Wuhan, which leaked Chinese government documents date to November 17, 2019, according to the South China Morning Post.
“Animals offered for sale include ferret-badgers and rabbits… as well as bats, monkeys, and civet cats, who can be hosts of coronaviruses,” PETA noted in a press statement on Tuesday. “In light of these findings, PETA is calling on WHO to demand the closure of all live-animal markets worldwide.”
The Wuhan wet market’s culpability in the pandemic has become an issue of more controversy following the publication of the W.H.O. initial report, based on an on-location investigation in Wuhan, on the origin of the Chinese coronavirus, which did not find a single animal host of coronavirus among 80,000 samples in Wuhan’s Hubei province. Coronaviruses are far from the only pathogens suspected to spread quickly in open-air animal slaughter markets, however, as PETA noted in its statement this week.
“PETA Asia… notes that outbreaks of swine flu, avian flu, HIV, hoof-and-mouth disease, mad cow disease, and other illnesses have also stemmed from capturing or farming animals for food,” the statement concluded.
The Chinese communist regime has typically responded negatively to animal rights campaigns targeting some of the riskier activities in the country and meat consumption there in general. In January, the Global Times, an official government newspaper, accused Western animal rights activists of racism for encouraging Asian people to eat less meat.
“In the eyes of some Western elites, Westerners can have the privilege to eat meat while Chinese should just eat grass,” a column in the Global Times protested. “They are reluctant to see Chinese are living an increasingly abundant life, and that the living standards of the Chinese are getting closer to the Westerners.”
PETA’s calls for an end to wet markets have spanned the globe.
“To protect the public, W.H.O. needs to act quickly, put politics aside, and protect millions of human lives by shutting down all live-animal markets worldwide, from China to New York,” a PETA representative told Breitbart News in May 2020.