WASHINGTION—Earlier this week, the World Health Organization (WHO), World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released a guidance urging governments around the world to take immediate action to reduce the risk of zoonotic disease spread in traditional markets.
Humane Society International urges governments to adopt the recommendations by WHO, OIE and UNEP to place emergency regulations suspending trade in live caught wild mammals and shutting down food markets selling these animals. Over a year ago, HSI pleaded to governments and released a science-based white paper calling for this type of action against wildlife markets and trade in wildlife. We congratulate WHO, OIE, and UNEP for taking this step towards ensuring safety for public and animal health. Concurrently, we urge the U.S. Congress to swiftly pass the Preventing Future Pandemics Act of 2021 as the most effective step toward ending the exploitation of wild animals and protecting global communities from future zoonotic diseases.
The guidance calls on governments to take the following six actions: (1) suspend trade in live caught wild mammals for food or breeding purposes and close food markets that sell live caught wild mammals (until effective regulations and risk assessments are in place); (2) improve standards of hygiene and sanitation in these markets; (3) develop regulations to control the risk of transmission of zoonotic diseases from wild animals in these markets; (4) train food and veterinary inspectors and enforce new regulations; (5) strengthen animal health surveillance systems to catch the emergence of a pathogen early on; and (6) develop and implement campaigns to communicate risk of consuming and trading wildlife.
“It’s imperative that all countries heed this call from the world’s health authority in order to prevent the emergence or spread of future pandemics,” said Teresa Telecky, vice president of Wildlife for Humane Society International. “If this had been done after SARS, we may have been spared the COVID pandemic and all the suffering it has caused.”