How do we prevent future pandemics?


We are calling for a global ban on wildlife markets to protect human and animal health, but what work are we doing to make this a reality?

The emergence of covid-19, and its association with the trade in wild animals and wildlife markets, has brought the devastating impacts of our dysfunctional and damaging relationship with the natural world into all of our lives, and to the attention of policymakers and the wider public like never before.

Human activities are destroying nature at an unprecedented rate. A million or more species are at risk of extinction, largely as a result of the way we use and abuse the land and the seas, and exploit the species that rely on those natural habitats. Covid-19 has provided a stark reminder that this isn’t just a problem for wildlife. Our well-being is intimately tied to that of the natural world, and the consequences of our destructive activities for our health and our economies are devastating. Scientists have been calling for transformative changes to address these issues, and the pandemic has served to amplify those calls.

Many people are calling for wildlife markets, seen as the likely original source of the virus, to be banned. However, banning the markets at which wild animals are traded and slaughtered, often in appalling conditions, is only part of the solution. No single initiative can ever be a guarantee against future emerging diseases.

At Born Free, we recognise that a wide range of changes are needed if we are to reverse the decline in nature and wildlife, protect the welfare of individual wild animals, and reduce the risks to human and animal health and well-being. That’s why we are promoting and supporting a number of initiatives, which include:

  • Calling for an end to wildlife markets, particularly those at which live animals are traded
  • Incorporating human and animal health criteria into international and national wildlife trade regulations, in order to curb the trade in wild animals that presents a risk to the health and well-being of both animals and people
  • Establishing an international agreement on tackling wildlife crime, to recognise the massive scale of wildlife crime and the involvement of organised criminal groups, and address the inadequate and inconsistent enforcement of existing rules
  • Persuading governments and the private sector to invest in nature, ensuring the resources that are desperately needed to protect and restore the natural world are sufficient and properly targeted, and ending public subsidies for industries and activities that damage biodiversity
  • Ensuring that wildlife conservation and animal welfare are front and centre of global biodiversity protection policy, through the development of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and the implementation of measures aimed at achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We are promoting the adoption of the One Health and One Welfare frameworks, which emphasise the interrelationship between the health and well-being of people, animals, and the wider environment. 

Born Free has been working tirelessly to protect wild animals since 1984. In pursuing our objectives, we believe our approach will also reduce future risks to human and animal health, and promote the well-being of all life on this planet, including our own.



Image © Aaron Gekoski