Live Animal Markets

Live Animal Markets: a Threat to Life on the Planet

Live Animal Markets: a Threat to Life on the Planet

Susan Russell, Wildlife Policy Director

Live or wet animal markets – water-rinsed, blood-soaked floors and dripping ice from display racks, panicked and screaming creatures cowering in cages – are a moral scourge that exists in too many regions of the world, and now in developed countries. They exist in New Jersey, in Newark and elsewhere ( provides guidance for opening live poultry markets). New York City has the most live animal markets in the United States. Eating sentient animals has led to global warming. The plagues that with increasing frequency emanate from live animal markets threaten the planet. They must be abolished internationally, not only by statute or promise, but in practice. Bans must be enforced. No exemptions for cultures or “tradition.” Old habits and appetites die hard. Wildlife experts know that enforcing bans won’t be easy.

Take Action

Bans must be enacted in the United States.  You can sign a petition asking the U.S. Surgeon General to do just that. Live markets must be prohibited in New Jersey.

Loopholes and Resistance

As noted by CNN:

Although it is unclear which animal transferred the virus to humans — bat, snake and pangolin have all been suggested — China has acknowledged it needs to bring its lucrative wildlife industry under control if it is to prevent another outbreak.Live Animal Markets: a Threat to Life on the Planet

In late February, it slapped a temporary ban on all farming and consumption of “terrestrial wildlife of important ecological, scientific and social value,” which is expected to be signed into law later this year.

But ending the trade will be hard. The cultural roots of China’s use of wild animals run deep, not just for food but also for traditional medicine, clothing, ornaments and even pets.

And what about wildlife that China deems of no “important ecological, scientific, or social value”? That’s a lot of animals, and that’s a loophole.

Zoonotic Disease

Zoonosis is an infectious disease caused by a pathogen (an infectious agent, including bacteria, viruses, parasites, prions, etc) that has jumped from non-human animals (usually vertebrates) to humans.

The Center for Biological Diversity is demanding that Congress address “the wildlife trade and habitat destruction, the root causes of emerging zoonotic diseases like COVID-19.” It points out that “60 percent of known infectious diseases in people can be transmitted from animals: 75% of emerging zoonotic infectious diseases originate in wildlife. These emergent diseases have quadrupled in the past 50 years” (emphasis added). Most originate in tropical climates.

The Center notes: “COVID-19 was first recognized to have infected humans in a live-animal market in Wuhan, China, where a single meat shop sold live peacocks, rats, foxes, crocodiles, wolf cubs, turtles, snakes, wild pigs and more.” Are rats of important ecological or scientific value? Rats and other animals can still be slaughtered under China’s proposed law.

United Nations Call for “International” Abolition of Live Animal Markets

The U.N. biodiversity chief has called for a universal ban on live animal markets, noting at the same time that some groups need or want economic alternatives. We hope that doesn’t mean domesticated animals.

When it comes to funding income alternatives, the world can muster billions to avoid another global pandemic.  

Jobs in U.S. Rust Belt states moved to developing countries for cheaper labor; the workers left behind received no global funding packages. Prohibition must be swift and effective; economic alternatives must replace bushmeat and other explosively dangerous practices.  If not, the trade and appetites will simply go underground and, assuredly, threaten life as we know it again.  For years, illegal trafficking in China undercut bans on the ivory trade. The Center for Biological Diversity’s call for Congress to appropriate significant moneys for enforcement is essential and must not be given short shrift. We suggest sanctions against countries that give lip service to abolition.

Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert

“It 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. I don’t know what else has to happen to get us to appreciate that.”

New York Times article, Meeting, Then Eating, the Goat By Anne Barnard,
May 24, 2009.

Banner Photo credit: Friends Of Animals United NJ/NY (FAUN) taken June 30, 2012 – at an “Abolish Live Markets” demo at Marzigliano’s Live Poultry in West NY, NJ.