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The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed our world. It has killed our loved ones; it has overwhelmed our health care systems; and it toppled the global economy. The Coalition to End the Trade is working to ensure that out of the tragedy of the pandemic, there are permanent changes that will help prevent another.
The Coalition to End the Trade is addressing the likely cause of the COVID-19 pandemic and others: the commercial trade and sale in markets of wild terrestrial animals (particularly mammals and birds), for consumption. The commercial trade of wild terrestrial animals gives pathogens that have evolved with animals the perfect opportunity to jump to new hosts—humans—and spread through a globalized population.
The SARS-Cov-2 virus is just one example of a succession of pathogens infecting people that have come from the commercial trade of terrestrial wild animals for consumption, or contact between wild animals and domestic animals. These interactions can result in the transmission of pathogens that cause diseases in humans, including AIDS, SARS, Ebola, bird flu, swine flu and more.
Each year zoonotic diseases are responsible for more than 2 billion cases of human illness and more than 2 million human deaths, according to a report from the Zoological Society of London and Hanoi School of Public Health. While many of these cases are associated with livestock and poultry, some are linked to contact with wildlife. Experts estimate that out of the 1.6 million potential viruses in mammals and birds, 700,000 could pose a future risk to human health.
A wide variety of wildlife species carry a multitude of potential zoonotic agents–bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites. More often than not, these infectious agents do not, or only mildly, affect the animals in which they reside, but represent an enormous hazard to humans (especially when commercially traded or sold in markets) who have no natural immunity to them.
The Coalition to End the Trade is mobilizing resources to support the declaration’s call to end the commercial trade of terrestrial wild animals for consumption. Its key strategies focus on reducing demand, closing supply chains and actively monitoring for pathogens. The coalition developed a Declaration to End the Trade for people around the world to sign and show their support.
The Declaration to End the Trade calls for national governments to:
Enact suitable legislation to permanently end commercial trade and sale in markets of terrestrial wild animals for consumption, particularly birds and mammals;
Empower relevant agencies to adequately enforce such legislation;
Develop ethical and equitable transition measures for those whose livelihoods are impacted across the trade chain.
These recommendations do not pertain to subsistence hunting by Indigenous peoples and local communities for household consumption and/or cultural identity. If people are eating wild animals because they have no alternatives, then national governments must commit to helping ensure that they have access to sustainably produced domestic foods, which can provide them with a reliable and sanitary source of high-quality food and reduce the risk of exposure to novel zoonotic pathogens.