What is the Pandemic Prevention and Preparedness Act (Bill C-293), and why should we care?
The Pandemic Prevention and Preparedness Act will help to curb the commercial wildlife trade and factory farming in order to prevent future pandemics. It will also help prevent animal suffering and biodiversity loss.
On June 17, 2022, Member of Parliament (MP) Nathaniel Erskine-Smith tabled a private member’s bill called Bill C-293, also known as the Pandemic Prevention and Preparedness Act.
This bill includes a proposal to create an advisory committee to look at Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to require a detailed plan in order to reduce the risk of future pandemics. World Animal Protection provided input into this essential bill by highlighting the importance of addressing top pandemic drivers like the commercial wildlife trade and factory farming.
Why is Bill C-293 important?
It is widely acknowledged that the wildlife trade and wildlife markets played a significant role in COVID-19 and other outbreaks like SARS. In fact, 75% of new and emerging infectious diseases over the past three decades have come from animals, principally from wildlife.
Despite this, Canada currently plays a significant role in both the legal and illegal commercial wildlife trade, importing hundreds of thousands of wild animals and products made of them every year for a variety of purposes (from exotic pets and trophies to fashion) from countries around the world, including known emerging disease hotspots.
When a variety of different wild animals – who wouldn’t normally encounter each other in nature – are kept in crowded, unsanitary, and stressful conditions, it creates the ideal environment for the emergence and spread of infectious diseases that can then be transmitted to humans. These conditions exist throughout the wildlife trade.
The legal trade is underregulated and poses many risks.
It is inconsequential how the animals were sourced (whether illegally or legally from the wild or bred in captivity) or their purpose. Pathogens don’t discriminate. It is how animals are treated and their close proximity to each other and to humans that is at the root of this global health crisis.
Governments need to pay more attention to the growing legal wildlife trade which is not only underregulated, but it also facilitates the illegal trade and poses significant public health and ecological risks.
Recent global reports by UNEP and IPBES cite the commercial wildlife trade, intensive animal agriculture, and unsustainable consumption of animal protein as top drivers of pandemics.
It is our responsibility to stop these high-risk activities in order to reduce the chance of future pandemics.
Bill C-293 will help to address pandemic drivers and establish a pandemic prevention and preparedness plan. This plan will be required to adopt a One Health approach – a collaborative approach that focuses on the human, animal, plant, and ecosystem health and welfare interface in addressing pandemic risk factors.
Without addressing this, we are at great risk of future pandemics happening and with increasing frequency and severity.
“I support Bill C293 because it is critically important Canada do more to prepare for future pandemics and to prevent them by addressing the root causes. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how our relationship with animals and nature can lead to new diseases spreading rapidly and devastatingly.
We can reduce pandemic risk by restricting the importation of animal pathogens through curbing the global commercial wildlife trade and by improving animal health and welfare in our food system to prevent disease outbreaks. This will also help reduce the use of antimicrobials in farming and help limit the impact of the ‘silent pandemic’ of antimicrobial resistance.”
— Dr. Scott Weese, Director of the Centre for Public Health and Zoonoses and professor at the University of Guelph and member of the Quadripartite Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance.
Key elements of Bill C-293 – the Pandemic Prevention and Preparedness Act
- Recognizes that animal health and welfare is deeply interconnected with human and environmental health and a multidisciplinary One Health approach is needed.
- Requires the Minister of Health to establish a federal pandemic prevention and preparedness plan based on best available science and in consultation with relevant ministers and in cooperation with key international governments and organizations.
- Requires the Minister of Health to identify key pandemic drivers and how Canadian activities contribute to pandemic risk.
- The bill specifically mentions live animal (wildlife) markets, the commercial wildlife trade, industrial animal agriculture, habitat loss/deforestation, encroachment on habitats, and urbanization - which are among the top pandemic drivers.
- Requires the Minister of Health to provide measures to:
- mitigate the risks posed by anti-microbial resistance (AMR)
- regulate commercial activities that contribute to pandemic risk such as intensive farms promote activities that help reduce pandemic risk such as production of alternative proteins
- phase out activities that create a disproportionate amount of risk, including those that involve high-risk species such as markets with wild animals and birds.
"The costs of prevention and preparedness are insignificant in comparison with the significant human and economic costs of a pandemic. The purpose of this act is to prevent the risk of, and prepare for, future pandemics and to promote transparency and accountability toward that goal.
We need to do all that we can to prevent and prepare for future pandemics, and this bill would ensure that this obligation remains in focus for any future government in the years ahead."
— M.P. Nathaniel Erskine-Smith / Beaches-East York
We’ve been fighting to ban wildlife markets and curb the global commercial wildlife trade since 2020 and the introduction of this bill brings us one step closer to the government finally taking action on this issue.
In order to become law, a bill must go through an extensive review process and be approved by both Houses of Parliament.
View the current status of Bill C-293.
Stay tuned for ways you can support the passing of this monumental bill.