Insider NJ

Booker, Graham, Quigley, McCaul Urge International Organizations to Shut Down Live Wildlife Markets, Ban International Wildlife Trade

April 8, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with Congressmen Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Michael McCaul (R-TX), today led more than 60 of their Senate and House colleagues in urging leading international health and wildlife organizations to take aggressive action toward a permanent global ban of live wildlife markets, also known as “wet” markets, as well as a ban on the international trade of live wildlife. “Wet” markets create a breeding ground for infectious diseases such as the 2003 SARS outbreak, and are suspected to be the source of COVID-19.

“Global action is needed to prevent future deadly pandemics,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to the Directors-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). “It is imperative that we take action as a global community to protect public health.”

According to scientists, “wet” markets are fertile breeding ground for zoonotic diseases – diseases that jump between animals and humans – because of the close proximity of shoppers, vendors, and both live and dead animals. This environment allows viruses from different species to come into contact, mutate, and spread from one species to another.

“The viruses can subsequently spread or ‘spill over’ into humans through handling and consumption of wildlife, potentially starting highly contagious outbreaks of new and deadly diseases for which we have no natural immunity — as we are currently seeing with COVID-19 and have seen with SARS, Ebola, monkeypox and Lassa fever in the recent past,” the lawmakers explained. “Wet markets in particular pose a threat to global public health because wildlife comes from many different locations without any standardized sanitary or health inspection processes.”

Scientists estimate that approximately 60 to 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, and such diseases have been responsible for at least five pandemics over the last 45 years, including Ebola and MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome).

Full text of the letter is available here.

In addition to Senators Booker and Graham, the following Senators signed on to the letter:
Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Kevin Cramer (R-ND)
Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
Thom Tillis (R-NC)
Chris Coons (D-DE)
Martha McSally (R-AZ)
Jeff Merkley (D-WA)
Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS)
Jeanne Shaheen (D – NH)
Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Gary C. Peters (D-MI)
Richard Burr (R- NC)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
David Perdue (R-GA)
Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Cory Gardner (R-CO)
Tom Udall (D-NM)
Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Brian Schatz (D-HI)