Bipartisan lawmakers call for global 'wet markets' ban amid coronavirus crisis

Bipartisan lawmakers call for global 'wet markets' ban amid coronavirus crisis
© Greg Nash

A group of more than 60 bipartisan lawmakers on Wednesday called for an immediate global ban on live wildlife markets and the international trade of live wildlife over their supposed links to the novel coronavirus outbreak. 

In a letter spearheaded by Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony Booker Sunday shows preview: Leaders weigh in as country erupts in protest over George Floyd death Warren condemns 'horrific' Trump tweet on Minneapolis protests, other senators chime in Senate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers MORE (D-N.J.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSchumer to GOP: Cancel 'conspiracy hearings' on origins of Russia probe Graham announces hearing on police use of force after George Floyd killing In a new cold war with China, America may need to befriend Russia MORE (R-S.C.) as well as Reps. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulHouse passes bill that would sanction Chinese officials over Xinjiang camps The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga says supporting small business single most important thing we should do now; Teva's Brendan O'Grady says U.S. should stockpile strategic reserve in drugs like Strategic Oil Reserve House GOP to launch China probes beyond COVID-19 MORE (R-Texas) and Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyDemocrats call for probe into ouster of State Dept. watchdog Bipartisan lawmakers call for global 'wet markets' ban amid coronavirus crisis EPA defends suspension of pollution monitoring in letter to Congress MORE (D-Ill.), the lawmakers urged leaders of the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organization for Animal Health and the United Nations to make the move "to protect public health."

"It is clear that to protect human health, these close and sustained interactions with wildlife must stop," the lawmakers wrote, pointing to studies that have linked wet markets where humans interact with live and dead animals as "prime transmission locations" for deadly pathogens.


The 2003 SARS outbreak is also believed to be linked to a wet market.

The lawmakers argued that wet markets are particularly dangerous to public health because there are no "standardized sanitary or health inspection processes." And they can be the source of "highly contagious outbreaks of new and deadly diseases for which we have no natural immunity," they wrote. 

The prevalence of live wildlife markets in China and around the world has gained increased attention in recent months amid the outbreak of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. Experts believe the virus first appeared in a wet market in Wuhan, China, known for selling exotic game alongside more common animals. 

Bats are believed to be the initial host of COVID-19. The lawmakers wrote that five pandemics in just the last 45 years have been linked to the nocturnal mammal. 

The United Nations' acting head of biodiversity and the U.S. government's top infectious disease expert are among numerous other officials who have since called for the wildlife markets to shut down. 


China in late February announced a ban on wildlife trade and consumption and wildlife markets. But the lawmakers argue the ban is susceptible to loopholes and must be stricter.  

"While China has banned the trade and consumption of wild animals in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, there are significant loopholes relating to the current legal trade of wildlife for medicinal purposes," they wrote. "China took similar steps after the 2003 SARS outbreak, but ultimately lifted the restrictions after the outbreak came under control and perceived risk decreased."

Graham and McCaul been leading the calls in the U.S. Congress for action on wildlife markets. Earlier this month, Graham sent a letter to the Chinese ambassador to the U.S. "urging the immediate closure of these wet markets for the safety of the world at large." 

McCaul has also sent a letter to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urging the organization to speak out against the health risks wet markets pose.

--This report was updated at 12:46 p.m.