Inside the horrific and inhumane animal markets behind pandemics like the coronavirus
You can usually smell the markets before you see them.
Especially if you are downwind.
It is a sickly, almost sweet and nauseating smell of death. Once inside, the foul stench – compounded by scorching temperatures and zero refrigeration – is overwhelming, and it’s places like this where the deadly coronavirus originates.
In stall after stall, a mix of living and dead animals, which range from the known (pig, beef, duck, chicken) to rare or unknown due to the condition of the carcass – staring at you. In the wet areas of the market – usually reserved for fish and sea creatures and where the ground is slippery with water and often blood – the stench is worse. Animals that have not yet been dispatched by the Butcher’s Knife make desperate attempts to escape by climbing on top of each other and falling or jumping out of their containers (to no avail). At least in humid areas, animals do not make noise. The cries of mammals and birds are unbearable and heartbreaking.
These unregulated and generally dirty markets can be found all over Asia and Africa.
In Laos, I came across a section of the local (i.e. non-touristy) market full of dead bats as well as living creatures like birds, turtles, fish, and other unfortunate creatures.
In northern Vietnam, on market days, hundreds of dogs (alive and dead) were sold for supper alongside other land and sea creatures.
In Myanmar and Cambodia, fish and animals that I didn’t even know existed were traded for living or dead. In a way, it was fascinating – there were reptiles, insects and fish that I had never seen before. Some looked so weird that it was hard to believe they weren’t aliens – and in amazing, weird colors.
In South Africa, Congo and Mali, monkeys and pieces of chimpanzees were sold for medicine as well as for meat.
I once ran into a hedgehog living in Bamako, Mali, and bought it just to give it freedom and make it live another day. A baby pangolin from the Sangha Pangolin project that I spoke about last week was similarly rescued.
The pangolin, an elusive mammal that looks like a cross between an anteater, armadillo and pine cone, is the most trafficked animal in the world, with more than 100,000 killed last year. They are hunted for their scales which the Chinese claim helps with blood circulation.
Presumably, none of these animals or their carcasses from these markets are tested for rabies, anthrax, salmonella or other animal diseases.
And China is also full of similar markets, where live animals await their further slaughter. The market at the center of the deadly coronavirus outbreak has sold live animals – including wolf cubs, foxes, rats and peacocks, as well as crocodiles, giant salamanders, snakes, porcupines and grass. camel meat.
The coronavirus is a series of viruses that include a range from the common cold to pneumonia that causes respiratory infections, which are often mild, but in rare cases are potentially fatal. Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.
It is in these markets that the deadliest epidemics can begin.
To see: President Xi calls serious situation as China scrambles to contain virus
Magda Bermejo – a Spanish primatologist and world authority on the western lowland gorilla who lives and works in Odzala Ngaga camp in the Republic of Congo – was in the area during the Ebola outbreak in 2003 and 2004.
“It is believed that the epidemic started because of the bats eating persimmons in the forests. Bats, gorillas and chimpanzees love fruit. That year when the trees matured, bats flocked to the trees and everything was covered in bat guano. During the day, gorillas and chimpanzees ate the [bat guano covered] fruits and developed Ebola. It spread pretty quickly after that.
From animals, Ebola was then transferred to humans.
“The hunters have found the [gorilla carcasses] and used them for bushmeat and then obtained the Ebola virus from [dead] animals, ”Bermejo said. During this epidemic, 25 people and hundreds of gorillas died.
This outbreak was contained as none of those infected made it to major transport hubs and no meat reached major markets.
In Wuhan, people weren’t so lucky.
The city of more than 11 million people has been stranded amid the coronavirus outbreak, which has been linked to a wet seafood market that sold exotic wildlife for human consumption.
Although no one knows which animal or stall caused the virus, China is responsible for trafficking in rare endangered animals like pangolin, rhino and tigers for traditional medicine as well as some used for meat.
A few years ago, a friend’s Chinese friend, Jon Hsia, accompanied me on a tour of real Chinatown in Queens and joked, “Listen, in China, anything that is four feet but a table. , and anything that has two feet not a person – we will eat it.
Historically, the end-to-end omnivorous diet stems from a lack of funds – you can’t afford not to eat the animal whole – you need to make the protein last as long as possible.
China, until very recently, did not have a middle class and the majority of its billions of people lived in poverty. Even now, according to the latest statistics from the Shanghai government, the average monthly salary in 2018, after deducting taxes and payroll taxes, was $ 1,047. It’s a little over $ 13,000 a year.
The second case of coronavirus in the United States was confirmed in Chicago on Friday – the first case of coronavirus in the United States was confirmed earlier this week in Washington state – as health officials continue to examine 63 patients in 22 states. So far, the virus has killed at least 26 people and infected more than 800 worldwide.
These unregulated markets must stop. Not only are they wiping out valuable wildlife, they are the source of most modern epidemics and epidemics. They literally threaten all life on the planet.
See also: Scientist who simulated the global impact of a coronavirus outbreak says “the cat is already out of the bag” and calls China’s efforts to contain the disease “unlikely to be effective”