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Opinion Article: A Case for the Permanent Closure of the Chinese Wildlife Market Industry

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Pushing into the 3rd month of the COVID-19 outbreak into what can be termed as nothing other than a global pandemic of significant proportions, taking into account the magnitude that other similar coronaviruses have had on the world of the 21st century, the global public has every right to be concerned. Looking at the scale of the number of countries affected, in terms of both the numbers of those infected and that of the fatalities, it is a daunting sight to a global population that not too long ago considered such terrifying global outbreaks to simply be confined to the history books. Moreover, the world is not prepared to witness and traverse the silent and empty streets of former bustling metropolis cities now deserted by their self-isolated residents cowering in fear from the quickly encroaching blight that has been unleashed.

As the virus will most probably further spread, and, more significantly affect ordinary people’s daily lives under additional quarantines and various safety measures imposed by rattled governments trying to contain the aforementioned spread of COVID-19, it is absolutely natural, understandable and justified that the public is now more and more ready to seek out a culprit to blame for releasing this disease upon the world.

Public controversies have been widespread, mostly discriminately placing blame on the Chinese population and their wildlife food consumption as being common to the people of China. Certain governments also have participated in pointing fingers on who’s to blame for the outbreak, mostly trying to capitalize on the political benefit of the mass paranoia that is present because of the virus’s spread, such as the wild assumptions put out by the Iranian government’s claims that COVID-19 is, in fact, a “bioweapon produced by the United States” even though it is clear that the outbreak in Iran came from the country’s late response and gross mismanagement of its infected population. Then we have China, where it is obvious that the communist government is panicked by the effect the outbreak has had on its international as well as domestic image and reputation and is now trying to save its face with accusations that the virus probably originated in another country, emphasizing that the Chinese government is not the one to blame.

But all controversies aside, it is important to not muddle the reality of where and how the COVID-19 outbreak truly and most definitely originated – the Hunan Seafood Market in Wuhan Province, China. It may seem that I am repeating unnecessary information about the location of the outbreak as it has always been publicly known, however, what is imperative to know about this specific location is that the market is a place where merchants, part of the Chinese Wildlife Market Industry, sell their stock. How they do it is what is essential to how coronaviruses such as the one we’re witnessing now come to develop.

It is no coincidence that all of the highly infective coronavirus outbreaks during the 21st century have developed in China. First, it was the SARS virus, then MERS, now it is COVID-19 – the most widespread of all of the rest, while still similar in its origins. The reality is that for such deadly and highly infectable coronaviruses to spread, they would require to jump from one species of host to a different species of host and then finally somehow get in contact with a human (like it is expected now that the COVID-19 has jumped from a bat to a pangolin and subsequently that pangolin came in contact with a human), which would generally be highly unlikely. But this is the way that meat for consumption is sold in a wet-market, like the one in Wuhan, that have provided the right circumstances for the virus to develop, a kind of place where live animals are slaughtered on the spot and sold for consumption. This indicates that live wild animals of very different species are all brought in cages to the market, while those cages are then stacked on top of each other with the live animals still trapped in them and are stored as such until the animal is purchased and slaughtered on the spot. The period that these animals spend stacked in those cages on top of each other represents the perfect circumstances that I mentioned before, where the excrement and liquids from one species of animal can drip down and come into contact with other species of animal – these are the perfect unhygienic circumstances where such new, mutated versions of viruses can develop.

Thus, the Chinese government’s responses to accusations, of its responsibility in the issue, claiming that this was a “new virus”, and that they did not know how to proceed with it are redundant. The Chinese Wildlife Market industry is a practice that the Chinese government has financially and publicly endorsed and supported since the 1970s. Throughout all of the three coronavirus type outbreaks that have occurred in the past 20 years, this practice I have just explained above has been mentioned as the primary cause of the development of the new mutated versions of coronavirus. However, every time the Chinese government has responded with temporary bans on the wildlife markets in the country they were subsequently lifted after less than a year after the respective outbreak, with the usual business for the snake, porcupine, pangolin and bat breeders open once again.

As dreadful as the death tolls and the number of infected people with the COVID-19 outbreaks are, many are right to judge that the world will get through this hardship as it had many times before. Nonetheless, we must acknowledge the lasting and detrimental economic and political effects that a global crisis such as this one will have in the years to come. We have already seen significant financial set-offs on Wall Street, reminiscent of those during the 2008 global credit crisis, of which the global economy will suffer and we will all feel it profoundly, as multinational companies continue to lose confidence in their operations due to economic isolationism caused by the quarantines imposed to control the spread of the virus. It is highly possible that in the future, voters could be influenced in their voting because of the perceived mismanagement by their governments of the outbreak that their countries experienced. Through all of this, we should be well informed on what started all of this, and, I, for one, believe that if we concentrate our common outrage in this globalized world, we would have the means to pressure the Chinese government in instituting a permanent ban on the practices of the Chinese Wildlife Market Industry and put an end to a possibility of an outbreak such as this one to occur ever again in the future.

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The author of this article is Damjan Velkov.

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