Should wet markets in China and around the world be banned?
- Wet markets in Wuhan, China have been linked to the spread of the novel coronavirus.
- It is common for wet markets to hold many types of animals in close quarters, including domestic and wild animals.
- The US' top infectious disease specialist, Anthony Fauci, stated in April 2020 that all wet markets should be 'shut down right away.'
- 'Wet markets are an important source of affordable food and livelihood for millions of people all over the world,' WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. 'But in many places, they have been poorly regulated and poorly maintained.'
Wet markets should not be banned, but understood and reformed instead. Not all wet markets carry live animals or meat products, as the term is widely used and includes markets that sell fruit and vegetables. In many parts of the world, these markets are an important staple of life, culturally and economically. Wet markets provide livelihoods and access to fresh and inexpensive food for many people, and are a vital alternative to supermarkets. Sustaining these markets with proper regulation is beneficial to sellers and citizens alike.
While exposure to viruses from animal contact is biologically unavoidable, wet markets are not solely to blame. Agriculture in the US is also a prime breeding ground for viral transmission due to cramped living conditions and antibiotic treatment of livestock that can inadvertently create superbugs. The risk of viral transmission can only be reduced by drastically decreasing livestock worldwide, including factory farming in the US
While wildlife sales in China are treated as the main focus, they are mainly a response to economic instability by small farmers who need a reliable cash crop. Due to policies made in recent years, small farmers were outcompeted by larger enterprises, which lead to many having to sell exotic animals to keep their place. Economic support to small farmers could reduce unhygienic wildlife sales in markets.
Banning wet markets would likely make exposure to novel viruses more rampant as they will be replaced by an unregulated black market. Clean wet markets have been executed successfully around the world using WHO guidelines, and reform to animal trading and sanitation must be urged instead of full bans.
Wet markets in China and elsewhere should be banned, as they, for starters, promote eating meat proven to be unhealthy for humans to consume, and this contributes to many conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
Further, wet markets contribute immensely to widespread animal cruelty and suffering, as well as the illegal exotic animal trade, and the mass extinction crisis. To underline and prove this, Animal Equality has launched a worldwide campaign against wet markets around the world, saying, “…animals such as deer, raccoons, crocodiles, and dogs are shown living in filthy conditions, suffering from dehydration, starvation, and disease.”
Animals in wet markets routinely suffer from abhorrently inhumane conditions akin to torture, in the name of people wanting to eat freshly killed meat. Wet markets are also a known cause and breeding ground of lethal pandemics, including the current COVID-19 crisis that has killed over a million people across the globe to date.
Furthermore, there is a well-documented link between animal brutality and human violence, homicides, and sociopathy. Accepted violence towards animals breeds a lack of empathy and compassion in entire societies, which has a profound overall effect on humans and how they treat each other. Wet markets also condone the ideology that animals are akin to inanimate objects used to turn a profit, instead of sentient beings with physical and emotional feelings, which promotes exploitation and abuse.
History proves when we start valuing money and indulgence over animal and/or human lives, there are dire societal consequences, like increases in violence and murder.