Calls to end global wildlife trade
World Animal Protection and over 1 million people worldwide, including 50,000 Canadians, are asking world leaders to consider ending the trade of wildlife during the G20 Summit this weekend.
Campaign Director Melissa Matlow says they're also asking the Canadian Government to champion the initiative and bring it to the table.
“There was a high cluster of cases that were traced back to this wildlife market and this 2002 outbreak was also linked to a wildlife market and these markets were temporarily closed at the time during the SARS outbreak and had they remained closed the COVID-19 pandemic may not have happened.”
Matlow says the concern is not only the suffering of animals when they are traded around the world for various products but also the zoonotic disease risk they carry.
“About 75% of new and emerging infectious diseases originate in animals and mostly from wild animals and the more that they are traded around the world and encountering over animals they wouldn't normally encounter in the wild and shipped and raised and captured in stressful conditions the more there is a concern that a new novel disease would emerge and infect us all.”
She added that the wildlife trade industry is growing exponentially with the rise in online access to products and the costs of a pandemic largely outweigh the benefits of this trade.
“If you look at these wildlife markets, these animals are crammed in filthy conditions. There are a variety of them kept in close proximity to each other. These are the perfect conditions for a new disease to emerge and spread to humans so it doesn't matter if they were sourced legally or illegally or if they are consumed for meat or traded as exotic pets.”
According to Matlow, there is a high level of support from Canadians as well as among government members to end this industry.
“We've done polling as well that show Canadians support government action on this issue. 75% of Canadians would like to see the government support a permanent ban on wildlife markets. 70% want the government to support a ban on the commercial trade in wild animals. So, we don't see any good reason for avoiding this question. I think now is the time for a commitment.”
There is widespread acknowledgment that Canada has a regulatory gap when it comes to addressing zoonotic disease from a wildlife perspective, said Matlow.
She is hopeful the government will commit to change by Monday.