Video Shows Live Animal Markets Still Operating Across Asia As PETA Condemns 'Petri Dishes for Pandemics'

PETA has captured grim footage from inside numerous wet markets still operating across Asia—amid a warning that the next deadly pandemic could begin before the current COVID-19 outbreak is over if they are not shut down.

The videos, provided to Newsweek and filmed by the organization's investigators in Asia throughout April, reveal animal markets in China, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines are selling wild animals including bats, monkeys and civet cats—even as the novel coronavirus continues to claim lives around the globe.

China ordered the closure of animal markets across the country after the virus, thought by many to have originated at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, emerged in December last year.

But PETA says China's live animal markets are open once again, despite the country's ongoing fight against the virus. Live, dead and cooked animals were filmed being sold near each other in Zhejiang province.

Meanwhile, the animal rights organization's footage from Indonesia, where more than 1,000 people have died of COVID-19, shows bats, monkeys and birds held in cages covered with rotting food and feces, stacked on top of each other.

Bats, which have been linked to the novel coronavirus, were seen on sale inside Jakarta's Jatinegara Bird Market in footage captured on April 12. An investigator found live civet cats—which have been found to carry SARS—for sale at a market in the Indonesian city of Medan.

Wildlife markets were also open in the tourist island of Bali, where a PETA Asia investigator captured a rabbit convulsing and dying inside a cage at the Pasar Hewan Satria market in Denpasar. A recent report by the South China Morning Post said these markets usually draw crowds of tourists and locals, but visitor numbers have plummeted amid the coronavirus outbreak.

At a wet market in the Philippines, workers were captured cutting up the carcasses of pigs and birds with their bare hands and walking across floors soaked with blood in flip-flops. At the Khlong Toei Food Market in Bangkok, ducks and chickens were seen tightly packed into cages.

In Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City, the cooked heads and body parts of dogs were filmed piled up on a counter near living animals. And at markets in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, animals including frogs and chickens were captured being butchered.

Bats, monkeys and other animals are seen on sale at the Jatinegara Bird Market in Jakarta, Indonesia. PETA

PETA is releasing the footage as part of its campaign urging the World Health Organization (WHO) to shut down wet markets globally.

The latest effort comes after WHO food safety and animal diseases expert Peter Ben Embarek said that although a live animal market likely played a role in the outbreak, they needed to be improved, not shut down.

During a press briefing last week, he said such markets provide food and jobs for millions of people around the world and that improving hygiene and food safety standards could reduce the risk of disease transmission, the Associated Press reported.

But Jason Baker, PETA senior vice president, told Newsweek that the WHO has "allowed politics to get in the way" of doing the right thing.

"While the WHO has the world's attention, they need to push for the shut down of wet markets. Instead, this announcement will only mean more suffering for both humans and animals. They have allowed politics to get in the way."

PETA President Ingrid Newkirk added in a statement to Newsweek: "The World Health Organization should not be in the business of weighing commerce against human sickness and death and choosing commerce." WHO has been contacted for additional comment.

Baker, who has been campaigning against wet markets for 20 years, insists the markets are not essential and only serve to promote the sale of endangered and illegal animals kept in "damp, dark and dirty" conditions.

Campaigners have long called for the closure of such markets, he said, warning that they are "breeding grounds for disease."

"We know that diseases come from them," he said. "It is animals who are stressed out and when they're stressed, they have lowered immune systems and then you put them in these filthy next to a whole bunch of other animals who are stressed out... it's a breeding ground for disease."

Baker added that the COVID-19 virus isn't the first deadly virus that has been linked to a wet market.

"COVID-19 is believed to have been passed to humans from pangolins and bats. This is not the first time deadly viruses have been traced back to animals who were killed for food, and it won't be the last," he said.

"Deadly outbreaks of mad cow disease, avian flu, swine flu, SARS, HIV, and more have all stemmed from the capturing of live animals or the farming of animals for food."

He added: "Alarm bells should be ringing about these markets after the release of PETA's new investigation. If we don't take wet markets seriously, we will be facing continued human and animal suffering. We may be looking at the next pandemic before this one has ended."

Newkirk agreed, describing the markets as "Petri dishes for pandemics."

She called for them to be banned "for the sake of every other species sold and slaughtered in them—and for the survival of the human species itself."

"The next deadly pandemic is inevitable as long as markets filled with sick and stressed animals are still open," she said.

This infographic, provided by Statista, shows the countries with the most COVID-19 cases as of May 14.

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A graph showing the countries with the most cases of COVID-19. Statista