WHO has taken a step to halt the sale of live wild animals in food markets

03/05/2021

WHO has taken a step in the right direction, but so much more is needed to end the multi-billion dollar global wildlife trade – that’s where we come in.

There is no time to lose – immediate action must be taken to ensure we don’t face another global crisis like COVID-19

Image thanks to Nicky Loh/Getty Images for World Animal Protection

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has taken a positive step forward by coming up with interim guidelines on halting the sale of live wild animals (mammal species) in food markets. It’s a small step closer to the decision we have been calling for right from the beginning of the pandemic, as part of our ongoing campaign to end the global wildlife trade.

The wildlife trade directly impacts human health, global and local economies and our planet, and this threat can no longer be ignored.

Capturing, breeding and keeping wild animals in cramped and squalid conditions in farms or crowded markets is not only incomprehensively cruel, it also creates dangerous environments that act as hotbeds for emerging infectious diseases.

Leading the way through collaboration

In early 2020 we led a coalition, which included Blood Lions and Born Free, and sent an open letter to WHO recommending the immediate and permanent closure of wildlife markets. The letter was signed by 339 fellow NGOs, a clear sign that organisations and experts across the world backed our call.

We firmly hope and believe this letter impacted this important decision taken by WHO, and this is a victory for our colleagues, supporters and of course wild animals. But this is just one step of the ladder and we still have a long way to climb.

In 2020, as the pandemic gripped the world, we gathered over one million signatures from concerned citizens across the globe, demanding the world’s key decision makers, readying themselves for the G20 summit in Saudi Arabia, addressed the real threat of the wildlife trade.

Sadly, these many voices remained largely ignored and this needs to change. This is why G20 Italy is now firmly in our sights. We’re doing it for the millions who signed our petition last year, for the billions of wild animals caught up in this inhumane trade, and to try and prevent us all suffering another devastating pandemic.

There is no time to lose – immediate action must be taken to ensure we don’t face another global crisis like COVID-19.

While the trade continues, so will our fight 

Wildlife trade continues to be a real and immediate global threat.

From cruel mink farming in Europe, to lion farms in South Africa, and the continued use of wildlife for other purposes such as exotic pets, traditional medicine and entertainment. Wild animals are being treated as commodities – not the sentient, living creatures that they are.

Our best hope is for definitive coordinated actions, by key decision makers like the G20, to endorse and implement a global wildlife trade ban to end this cruel trade, and to help prevent devastating future zoonotic pandemics like COVID-19 happening again.

Unfortunately, right now the G20 is missing the point by focussing on how to manage the next pandemic rather than how to prevent it.

This isn’t a drill

Another pandemic potentially even more devastating could be lurking around the corner, unless world leaders work hard and fast on making a formal commitment to ban the wildlife trade and take definitive coordinated steps to make this a reality.

As long as this trade continue, we will continue to expose the risks through our campaigning and lobbying work and continue to be the voice for animals, so one day they can be wild and free, as they should be.

By Gilbert Sape, Global head of campaign – wildlife