Although the region is working hard to contain the largest and deadliest COVID-19 wave since the pandemic began, continued efforts to curb the sale of wild animals and their meat have failed to bring about change in the fresh food market in the Asia-Pacific region.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly three-quarters of new infectious diseases transmitted to humans originated in animals.

This SARS virusFor example, the virus that killed 800 people between 2002 and 2004 is thought to have started with bats and then spread to civet cats at a wild animal market in Foshan, China.

In April, after the investigation team in China concluded that the seafood market in Wuhan was the most likely way for COVID-19 to spread to humans, the WHO took unprecedented measures to urge countries to suspend the sale of wild caught wild animals in wet markets Mammals, because of an emergency measure.

For many years, animal welfare groups in Asia have been making the same request. They said Unsanitary and cruel conditions The place where wild animals and domestic animals are kept in the wet market is a perfect breeding ground for zoonotic diseases.

Several Asian countries have passed new laws to curb the sale of “bush meat” during the pandemic and restrict activities in the wet market.

However, due to the continued popularity of bushmeat among some people in Asia, the huge economic value of the industry, and the lack of law enforcement, almost all attempts to eliminate this trade have been blocked.

Li Shuo, Greenpeace’s global policy adviser in China, said that stopping trade “will be a challenging task.”

A live animal or “wet” market in Beriman, Sulawesi Province, Indonesia.Despite efforts to crack down on trade after the coronavirus pandemic, NGO investigators say that many parts of Asia continue to sell and eat wild animals [Courtesy of Four Paws]

One on and one off

In July last year, Vietnam issued a presidential decree to suspend all wild animal imports and impose tougher penalties on violators, including up to 15 years in prison.

However, a survey conducted by the non-governmental organization PanNature last month found that there have been no positive changes in the trade of wildlife products at the local level in Vietnam. Wet markets in the Mekong Delta and other parts of the country are still selling turtles, birds and endangered species of wild animals.

In Indonesia, this is the worst COVID-19 outbreak site in Asia, with more than 2.5 million cases and at least 67,000 deaths. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry has been trying to persuade local officials to close wildlife markets across the country.

Officials in Solo City, Central Java, also took note of this, and they ordered the culling of hundreds of bats in Depok, one of the country’s largest bird, dog and wildlife markets. But the victory proved to be short-lived.

“When COVID-19 first hit and stopped selling them, they brutally eliminated hundreds of bats,” said Lola Webb, the coalition coordinator of the Indonesian Dog Meat Free Coalition. “But from my sources, everything is business as usual.”

Marison Guciano, founder of Flight, an NGO that protects Indonesian birds, confirmed Weber’s statement. “I went there a week ago and they still openly sell bats as well as snakes, rabbits, turtles, ferrets, beavers, cats, dogs, hamsters, hedgehogs, parrots, owls, crows and eagles.”

Rats sold in a market in Langowan, Sulawesi Province, Indonesia in June [Courtesy of Four Paws]

The same situation is also happening in the wet market in Indonesia.

To commemorate World Zoonosis Day last week, the animal welfare organization “Four Claws” released photos taken in June, showing three different markets in North Sulawesi, 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) to the northeast. Sell ​​hundreds of solos of bats, mice, dogs, snakes, birds and other animals.

History always repeats itself

In April and May last year, a few months after the pandemic began, the global animal rights organization PETA began visiting wet markets in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and China, which are famous for selling wild animals.

Nirali Shah, PETA’s Asian spokesperson, said: “We hope that the new rules and regulations are in place, but we see that everything is business as usual. All the different species are locked in dirty cages, some are alive and some are dead. Sometimes in the same cage.” “These environments are very scary and stressful for animals, which weaken their immune systems and make them more susceptible to diseases that can cross species and then humans.

“In some markets, we have seen animals taken out of their cages killed on countertops stained with blood from other species. Workers do not wear gloves and are completely unhygienic. This combination of risk factors is like a time bomb. , Waiting for the new pandemic to start,” she said.

Where in China Total ban Shah said that with the surge of the coronavirus in Wuhan, a report on wildlife trade and consumption was released in February last year. The situation has improved, but only slightly.

“You will never see exotic wild animals openly sold in Chinese vegetable markets. But they still sell all kinds of birds under unhygienic conditions. In many such markets, we find that if you want a certain animal, it doesn’t matter. What it is, despite the ban, the supplier can buy it for you.”

After the emergence of a coronavirus in Wuhan that is believed to have originated from bats, China banned the trade and consumption of wild animals.NGOs say that if you know who to ask, it’s still possible to get banned animals [Alex Plavevski/EPA]

This is not the first time China has tried to end the bush meat trade.

In 2002, the wildlife market was closed due to SARS, but then reopened due to economic pressure. In 2016, the Chinese Academy of Engineering valued China’s wildlife industry at US$76 billion, of which the annual commercial activity of bushmeat was US$19 billion, and 6.3 million people were employed in China.

right direction

In Malaysia, before the pandemic, wild animals and bush meat were sometimes sold in wet markets. But it is more commonly obtained through direct sales and restaurants.

In August last year, the now retired police chief Abdul Hamid Bador gave the district police chief a month to ensure that there were no illegal restaurants selling bush meat in their area. The wildlife department was ordered to assist the police.

“Does it mean that there are 300 to 500 people in an area, and there are no restaurants and illegal places selling rare animals?” Abdul Hamid said at the time.

A series of eye-catching seizures of wild meat occurred in markets, restaurants and private houses.

Elizabeth John, a spokesperson for TRAFFIC, a non-governmental organization fighting illegal wildlife trade in Kuala Lumpur, said the raid was a signal of success and failure.

“The formation of this joint working group between police and wildlife officials is definitely a step in the right direction,” she said. “However, even during the pandemic, we have seen epileptic seizures continue. This fact shows that the warning has not changed consumer attitudes. Despite the risks, the desire to eat wild animals still exists.”


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