PETA Launches Petition to Shut Down Live Animal Markets That Breed Diseases Like COVID-19

PETA has launched a petition urging the World Health Organization (WHO) to shut down live animal markets around the globe to prevent future pandemics like the one caused by the novel coronavirus.

The petition, which has so far amassed more than 40,000 signatures, states that before the coronavirus pandemic, many people weren't familiar with the phrase "wet market" — a term for markets that sell live and dead animals.

The animal rights organization says wet markets like the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China, where the novel coronavirus is believe to have originated, are breeding grounds for deadly diseases.

But while that market has closed and China has banned the consumption and farming of "wild" animals, other such markets continue to operate throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, and in the U.S.

Outside the closed Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which has been linked to cases of coronavirus, on January 17, 2020 in Wuhan, China. Getty Images

According to PETA, more than 80 live animal markets and slaughterhouses operate on the streets of New York City alone. New York has become the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. with more than 44,000 confirmed cases and 535 deaths as of Saturday, according to a tally kept by The New York Times.

In a letter to WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said that wet markets where "stressed, injured and sickly animals" are crammed in cages allow "dangerous viruses and other pathogens to flourish."

The letter added that "while the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic remains unpredictable, one thing is certain: Live-animal meat markets will continue to put the planet's human population at enormous risk."

According to PETA, "deadly outbreaks" of mad cow disease, avian flu, swine flu, SARS, HIV, hoof-and-mouth disease have stemmed from capturing or farming animals for food.

"Live-animal markets are perfect breeding grounds for diseases, which can jump from various other species to humans, since stressed, injured, and sickly animals are commonly caged in public areas—sometimes even on sidewalks — where feces, blood, and offal can contaminate buyers and sellers and be tracked into restaurants or homes," the letter added.

"We urge the WHO to call for the closure of all live-animal meat markets worldwide to prevent the next outbreak," Newkirk's letter concluded.

"It's a matter of when — not if — the next pandemic will occur, as long as live-animal markets are permitted to continue endangering both humans and other animals," Newkirk added in a statement.

"PETA is urging the World Health Organization to take the commonsense step of calling for the closure of these dangerous operations."

A spokesperson for the WHO said it is working with the International Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) to study the issue.

This article has been updated with a comment from the WHO.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

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