The Australian government has informed G20 countries that action must be taken on wildlife wet markets that pose a “biosecurity and human health risk” in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Canberra has stopped short of demanding an outright ban, but Australian agriculture minister David Littleproud suggested that they may need to be “phased out” over time, following a meeting with other G20 agriculture ministers and advice issued by Australia’s chief veterinary officer.
Whereas most wet markets sell fresh meat and fish in a safe manner, there are others known for trading in wildlife, with Covid-19 believed to have emerged from such a market selling more exotic species in Wuhan, China.
Speaking to ABC this week, Littleproud said: “When you add wildlife, live wildlife, exotic wildlife [to these wet markets], that then opens up human risk and biosecurity risk to the extent we’ve seen. In fact, China themselves reported this to the World Organisation for Animal Health, that this was the cause of Covid-19”.
China has been proactive in issuing a temporary ban on wildlife trade, as it did during the outbreak of the SARS coronavirus in the early 2000s.
The Chinese government then issued a full ban in February on the illegal trading of wildlife and the consumption of wild animals on public health grounds.
Reports do suggest that wildlife is still being sold in Chinese markets and in other countries, and the World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has since spoken out, urging governments to enforce bans on selling and trading wildlife for food purposes.
He added: "When these markets are allowed to reopen, it should only be on the condition that they conform to stringent food safety and hygiene standards."