Fresh calls for the sale of live wild animals to be banned permanently from China’s food markets

NEWS AND OPINION: The Times newspaper reports (March 27) that Edward Holmes of the University of Sydney has said that there are animal viruses in nature i.e. in wild animal species, which are well adapted to infect humans (zoonotic pathogens). Further, viruses similar to those that cause Covid-19 have been discovered in pangolins seized from smugglers in China. Scientists have warned that this species is already carrying pathogens that could give rise to another pandemic.

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Pangolin. Photos: Gerald Cubitt.

At present it cannot be proved that the virus that causes Covid-19 has jumped to humans from bats via pangolins. This, however, is suspected, as the newly discovered viruses taken from pangolins seized during anti-smuggling operations during 2017 in 2018 share genetic code responsible for the spikes found on the surface of Covid-19. The spikes are used to infiltrate and infect host cells.

Ban live animal markets

It is believed that pangolins which are trafficked illegally and in enormous numbers may have spread Covid-19 from bats to humans. Pangolins are one of the many wild species that you find in live animal markets in China. It is reported that the Chinese government has temporarily banned all 20,000 live animal markets. This call from scientists asks for a permanent ban which I’m sure is welcome by people in general not just animal advocates based the enormous damage the current pandemic is doing to the human world’s health and wealth.

Chinese medicine

Traditionally, Chinese people believe that the scales of the pangolins have medicinal value. They believe that eating them helps to improve blood circulation. We are told that pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world. Until recently the number illegally trafficked has been grossly underestimated. A new study by an international team led by the University of Sussex in the UK has concluded that the number killed could actually be up to 2.7 million annually but around 400,000 million might be the correct figure. The number of pangolins killed has increased by an enormous 150% over the last 45 years. The mammal is classified as endangered by the IUCN Red List with a decreasing population.

Protected? Study?

The pangolin is meant to be protected under international treaties but no one is enforcing the agreement. This is very typical. Something must be done to stop this sort of trade. No one has done a study to assess if pangolin scales do actually improve health and blood circulation. Let’s do one asap because it is bound to prove that the millions of pangolins killed did nothing for the health of the people who ate them.


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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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