Wildlife & Biodiversity

COVID-19: Animal advocates want illegal pet, meat marts shut

Five organisations write to Union health ministry, urging action in the wake of novel coronavirus pandemic

 
By Ishan Kukreti
Published: Thursday 26 March 2020
Ducks at a wet market. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Five animal welfare organisations wrote to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) on March 26, 2020, and urged it to close all “illegal meat markets, unlicensed wildlife and pet markets with immediate effect.” The letter, written in light of the spreading novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, also urged the ministry to “regulate the animal production industry.”

Live animal markets and facilities that confined animals in crowded conditions were fertile hotbeds of zoonotic pathogens, the letter alleged. Research over the past two decades had identified the origins of these disease outbreaks. However, there was no effort to regulate and address the cause, it added.

“The meat, fish and egg industry in India confines millions of animals in crowded facilities, transports them in similar conditions, and slaughters them in the most unhygienic manner,” it said.

Three out of four emerging pathogens affecting humans over the past decade have originated from animals or animal products, according to a 2007 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, the letter claimed. 

It was sent by People for Animals, Humane Society International / India, Mercy for Animals India Foundation, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations and Ahimsa Trust. 

The letter says that while regulations for transport and slaughter are unimplemented, no standards are notified for the trait selection, housing and rearing of poultry or swine rearing. 

The organisations urged the ministry to work with the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries to implement rules relating to egg laying hens and broiler chickens as mentioned in the Law Commission of India’s Report 269, dated July 2017.

They also asked the ministry to implement the Terrestrial Animal Health Code’s Chapter 7.13 that deals with pig production systems. The code has been formulated by the World Organisation for Animal Health, known by its official initials, OIE. The OIE is an intergovernmental body coordinating, supporting and promoting animal disease control.

“Wildlife markets, while selling exotic animals at the store front, do deal with trade of protected animals,” Alokparna Sengupta, managing director of Humane Society International / India, told Down to Earth

“We are asking for an immediate shutting down of these markets to prevent the further spread of coronavirus and the emergence of a new virus. We hope to work with the government to bring in strict regulation where there is none and to implement regulations where there are,” she added.

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