End the next COVID-19: Ban global wet markets and illegal slaughterhouses now

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As the world faces the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic in unprecedented ways, we are learning quickly that infectious diseases pose a significant threat to our global population. Whether it’s COVID-19, SARS, or other recent public health disasters, outbreaks are having a profound effect on global health and the worldwide economy, and the day-to-day lives of billions of people.

What we’ve learned about COVID-19 and what we already knew about SARS is that these outbreaks can be linked to wet markets and illegal slaughterhouses. These markets, a popular source of produce, meat and live animals, are not only prevalent in Chinese cities, but cities across the region and indeed the world. And they’re so unregulated, many worry that they are going to be regular breeding grounds for viruses and diseases that kill millions around the world. 

That’s why we need solutions now. What we’re all experiencing today with COVID-19 could have been stopped if these wet markets and illegal slaughterhouses had been shut down, or at least significantly regulated. 

We need global leadership and intervention which is why we’re asking you to stand with us and call on the United Nations and World Health Organization to address the dangerous effects of these animal markets and slaughterhouses. 

Scientists tell us that keeping different animals in close, prolonged proximity with one another and with people creates an unhealthy environment, and that this is the probable source of the mutation that enabled COVID-19 to infect humans. Viruses long present in some animals show an ability to mutate from nonhuman to nonhuman host, and ultimately gain an ability to bind to human cell receptors. When that happens, we see tragedy on the scale of what we saw with SARS, and what we’re seeing right now as millions of people get infected, and hundreds of thousands or more die from COVID-19. 

The Vanderpump Dog Foundation has been warning about this for years, as we’ve seen first-hand the brutality and horrific practices that happen in many of these wet markets and slaughterhouses. In our documentary, “The Road to Yulin … and Beyond,” we uncovered graphic torture of dogs in slaughterhouses, as well as the dangers that come from digesting or coming into contact with meat of unknown origins. 

These risks include rabies exposure to slaughterhouse workers, antibiotic resistance, parasites, and bacterial infections when people eat dog meat. An estimated 60% of all known human infectious diseases and 75% of emerging pathogens originate in animals, according to the World Health Organization. 

We cannot wait any longer to address this. Pressure is already mounting on world authorities to address this. Chinese President Xi Jinping recently announced a study on the prevention and control of the coronavirus including the need to strengthen market supervision, resolutely ban and severely crack down on illegal wildlife markets and trade. Other cities like Shenzen in China, home to 30 million people, passed a law banning the consumption of dog and cat meat that goes into effect in May 2020.

These are helping, but we need more. To avoid future pandemics, we need a global effort to shut down and/or significantly regulate these wet markets not only in China, but across the world. Any lack of action with regards to addressing the source of the COVID-19 pandemic will present a danger for our future, and the threat that similar diseases will not only re-occur but expand.

Today, please stand with us and urge the UN and WHO to take action, so that wet markets and illegal slaughterhouses no longer pose a global health threat to our planet.