How to ban wildlife markets?


We are calling for a global ban on wildlife markets to protect human and animal health. But, there is no silver bullet solution to a ban.

Commercial wildlife markets play one of the biggest roles in emerging zoonotic diseases, like covid-19. This is because they involve capturing, handling and butchering a huge variety of wild animals in confined and stressful conditions, compromising their welfare and spreading diseases. 

Hunting wild animals for the commercial wildlife trade for food and other uses is a major driver of biodiversity loss. The cost of covid-19 to the global economy is estimated to be as much as £8trn ($10trn), many times the estimated £237bn-£316bn ($300bn-$400bn) that would be required to effectively fund nature protection.

But banning commercial wildlife markets is not a silver bullet solution.
  • Wildlife is traded for many different purposes – from cane rats for crop field management by local people, to the illegal international trade of endangered pangolins for their scales and meat. Some species are more high risk than others for disease transmission. Banning commercial markets may also force some parts of the trade underground
  • Banning commercial wildlife markets will have consequences – Millions of people across the world rely on wildlife for protein. Alternative sources, such as large-scale forest conversion to pasture, could have massive negative implications on natural habitats and biodiversity, further contributing to the devastating effects of climate change
  • Zoonotic pathogens can arise from other sources – These sources include domestic animals and livestock, such as Nipah virus from pigs. Spillover events happen because of encroachment into wild habitats. For example, the pigs that transmitted Nipah virus to people caught it from wild bats living in the forest cut down for farming.
As well as banning commercial wildlife markets, many other interventions are necessary.
  • Improved regulations and law enforcement are imperative to tackle the commercial wildlife trade and to curb any underground trade
  • It is crucial to protect wildlife in the wild. Community-level conservation benefits people, wildlife and the planet
  • Alternatives are required for the millions of urban-living people worldwide relying on wild meat for protein and income for subsistence
  • It is time for an overhaul of the global food production and supply industry, to reduce buying and importing products whose production involves the destruction of nature
  • Governments across the world need to be held accountable for ensuring that future investments protect wildlife and nature, reduce poverty, and increase sustainable livelihoods and food security. 

Born Free will continue to call for a ban of commercial wildlife markets, while recognising the obstacles and challenges ahead of us, as we strive to rebuild a better world for people and nature.

Join us in calling for the World Health Organisation to recommend a global ban on wildlife markets by sending a pre-written email to the Secretary General.