Reducing wildlife consumption to prevent pandemics

Live animals in cages at market


In live wildlife markets, animals brought from disparate places are often crammed together in stacks of cramped cages. The situation is rife with the risk of animal-borne diseases spilling over from species to species—and to the humans who buy and consume them. In fact, three out of every four new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals. And though the exact origin of COVID-19 remains elusive, it has been determined that the virus originated in animals before jumping to humans, perhaps in a wildlife market in China.

In March 2020, when COVID-19 was still largely restricted to Asia, WWF conducted a survey of 5,000 people across Japan, Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam, and Hong Kong SAR to gauge consumer awareness of the connection between disease and risky wildlife trade. Analysis of the survey found that people with greater awareness of COVID-19 and its impacts were 11%–24% less likely to buy wildlife products.

Based on this finding, WWF is now designing campaigns aimed at reducing the consumption of wild meat from risky species and raising the public’s awareness of the dangers wildlife markets pose, says Jan Vertefeuille, WWF senior advisor and coauthor of the study. WWF will also continue to team up with policy-makers to support strong enforcement of regulations on risky wildlife markets in countries like China and Viet Nam.

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World Wildlife magazine provides an inspiring, in-depth look at the connections between animals, people and our planet. Published quarterly by WWF, the magazine helps make you a part of our efforts to solve some of the most pressing issues facing the natural world.

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