Wet markets, abuses of wildlife, organised crime and the origins of the coronavirus virus.

Wet Meat Markets - the real cause of the pandemic? - one that should have been addressed by the world years ago?

A few video reports centre attention on what many scientists considered to be the likely cause of the pandemic - the appalling and longstanding practice (in South Asian countries and China in particular) of having vast open air 'wet meat markets' where a variety of often smuggled and exotic wildlife is either sold or slaughtered 'on the spot' for sale to buyers who believe that (for example) stewed tiger pups can endow them with enhanced sexual potency. This is a baby African Serval Cat. Its mother was probably shot. Many websites exist to trade in exotic species. The USA is a major market for 'exotic' pets - one example centred upon lions and tigers is well known.

The term 'wet markets' derives in part from the melting ice used to cool items on sale but also often from all the blood and excreta from so many species running off the chopping boards and into the gutters. These areas have been described as a petri dish for pathogens - and ideal for spreading bacteria and viruses from one species to another. Much of the illicit wildlife trade in the world is centred not only on these markets (some of which span several square miles in area apparently) but on the criminal gangs who supply not only these markets but the world-wide 'pet' trade in endangered species, often servicing wealthy clients in 'developed' countries. Two references out of the dozens available. The pangolin is the world's most trafficked mammal - for its scales.

General discussion of wet meat markets, and the end of life for one small grouper, far removed from the fish counter at your local Waitrose! Groupers are a major food fish. Some types can grow to over 350kg.  Eating fish is probably a safe way of obtaining protein - certainly safer than 'bush meat'.

Some experts have argued against closing all outdoor 'wet' markets because they are so aligned with Chinese customs of wanting 'warm meat' - freshly killed as opposed to being slaughtered under more closely controlled conditions. The huge Chinese market in dog and cat meat is also under scrutiny and even within China. Most Chinese do not eat cat or dog: their only link to the markets is having their pets stolen by criminal gangs who supply the industry with many or most of their animals.

In early April 2020 The Washington Post published one of the first 'mainstream' articles highlighting the importance of the animal trade in possibly having caused Covid-19 - and at this time world-wide deaths were only 65,000. A more lethal new type of virus might easily have killed 650,000 within a couple of months - a point that needs to be much more widely appreciated because the coronavirus mortality rate is probably much less than 1%.

Adapted from Washington Post article, 5 April 2020:

Wild animals have always had viruses. But a global wildlife trade worth billions of dollars, agricultural intensification, deforestation and urbanisation are bringing people closer to animals, giving their viruses more chances to infect us. Most fail or succeed on small scales. Very few, like SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus, triumph, aided by a supremely interconnected human population that can transport a pathogen around the world.

Many disease researchers say the coronavirus pandemic must be taken as a deadly warning. That means thinking of animals as partners whose health and habitats should be protected to stave off the next global outbreak.

“Pandemics as a whole are increasing in frequency,” said Peter Daszak, a disease ecologist who is president of EcoHealth Alliance, a public health organisation that studies emerging diseases. “It’s caused by what we do to the environment.....”

Late last year, a horseshoe bat coronavirus is thought to have leaped in China, scientists say, where commerce in exotic animals is driven by luxury tastes in game and demand for parts used for medicinal purposes.

At a “wet market” in Wuhan linked to an early cluster of coronavirus cases, at least one store sold creatures including wolf cubs and masked palm civets for consumption. Such markets, experts say, feature stressed and ill animals stacked in cages, bodily fluids sprinkling down, as well as butchering — prime conditions for viral spillover.

The Wildlife Conservation Society and other groups have called on countries to prohibit the trade in wild animals for food and close wet markets. Anthony S. Fauci, the USA's top infectious-diseases expert said that the world community should pressure China and other nations that host such markets to shut them down.

“It just boggles my mind how, when we have so many diseases that emanate out of that unusual human-animal interface, that we don’t just shut it down.”

An interesting TEDx talk by global health expert Alanna Shaikh covered the  2019/2020 coronavirus outbreak and what this could teach the world about epidemics yet to come. 

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Undercover journalists visited a wet meat market in Thailand ("a torture chamber and a filthy laboratory all mixed into one") (the first two pictures are from their youtube video)

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Chinese dog meat market. (link includes videos from India also)

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Wildlife market in Libreville, Gabon

An excellent BBC article on the wildlife trade
by journalist Helen Briggs, April 2020.

The Chinese will eat anything that moves, except tables and chairs."

This report includes a photo of pigs about to be buried alive after outbreak of African Swine Fever in China - inhumane maybe but the USA reportedly buried thousands of Iraqi troops during the Gulf War.

The wet market in Wuhan was reopened in mid April 2020.

Some videos of dogs for sale as meat in videos linked to this article.

If there is one lesson to be learned from the economic damage that is and will be caused by the coronavirus pandemic, it is that vastly more enforcement is necessary of the illicit wildlife trade (much of it linked to organised crime). The associated encouragement of large scale wildlife farming that mixes up so many species from different parts of the world may also need to stop. The Chinese Government is primarily responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic. It was all predicted years ago by Professor Osterholm (see next section), and other experts and animal rights campaigners.

Secondly, people as a species need to travel and mix far less - and if this means reducing the tourism industry by 90% then it would be a good outcome for both the world and for many 'tourist' sites themselves. Many tourist sites and especially Venice saw a vast improvement in their local environment during 2020 - and the world benefited from much reduced carbon emissions. Many cities saw vast improvements in air quality.

Once the pandemic is under control, neither of these issues is likely to be addressed by governments keen to see a return to 'normality' and 'economic growth' irrespective (as usual) of the environmental consequences. Indeed, as early as April 2020 there were suggestions that consumption of material goods should be 'rebooted' by giving Chinese citizens vouchers (with a short expiry date) to encourage them to go out and buy manufactured products.

Nevertheless, there were some reports that China's alleged attempt to hide the true scale of its own death rate from Covid-19 might result in a backlash against its leaders.

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0. Index page.

1. Wet markets, abuses of wildlife, organised crime and the origins of the virus.

2. Folk dancing and the importance of other 'super-spreader' events - experience overseas.

3. Scientists, government scientists, and criticisms of government policy in the UK.

4. How many people will die - no-one can tell until the final reckoning.

5. Policing of lockdown in the UK - the need for police reform (starting at the top?).

6. Religious nutcases and despotic governments (often the same people!)

7. Economics vs. Health - the lockdown cure being worse than the disease?

8. Ventilators and cures.

9. Shaggy dog stories - and wash your hands.

10. Reserved.

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