Why we need to end the wildlife trade
Close contact between captive wild animals and people is a dangerous cocktail. Zoonotic infections can emerge and be spread at every stage of the wildlife trade. This should be of critical concern, as almost 75% of emerging infectious diseases affecting human health originate in wildlife – SARS, Ebola, and now COVID-19.
Beyond the pain inflicted on animals, we must stop the trade now to help prevent future global health crises and protect our environment for generations to come.
Sign our petition calling on the Government of Canada to:
- Support the immediate and permanent closure of wildlife markets.
- End the import and domestic trade in wild animals and wild animal products that could contribute to the spread of zoonotic disease in Canada.
- Champion this issue globally and encourage other countries to end the international trade in wild animals and wild animal products.
Petition: End the wildlife trade
COVID-19 and the wildlife trade
Wildlife markets played a significant role in COVID-19 and other outbreaks like SARS. The crowded, unsanitary and stressful conditions in which the animals are kept provides the ideal environment for the emergence and spread of infectious diseases which can then be transmitted to humans.
These markets typically have a diverse array of animals, many of which would never encounter each other in the wild or come into close proximity to humans.
The current pandemic and previous major epidemics around the world are fundamentally linked to our poor treatment and exploitation of wild animals and our encroachment on their habitats.
Millions of wild animals are captured, bred and traded every year across the globe for food, luxury goods, traditional medicine and pets. Animal suffering occurs and zoonotic diseases can be spread at every stage of the trade.
Global problems require global solutions
During the 2008 financial crisis, the G20 showed leadership by agreeing to global solutions to stabilize the world’s economies. As the G20 meet again in 2021 in Italy, we are urging them to agree to a global ban on the wildlife trade.
Canada and other G20 countries have the power and influence to move the world into action. Shutting down wildlife markets and curbing the wildlife trade is the most effective way to prevent future pandemics and now is the time to act.
People like you, all over the world, are demanding that their country’s leaders support a global ban. While the impacts on the economy will be a top priority at the 2021 G20 summit in Italy, we know that the wildlife trade is part of the root cause of this crisis. We share this planet with animals, now is the time to work as a global community to change how we treat them.
Join us in seizing this moment to build a better world for all of us together, people and animals.
Calling on the Canadian government to take action
A coalition of Canadian and international animal protection organizations, academics, conservationists and zoonotic disease experts are calling on the Canadian government to bring this issue to the G20 and take action nationally.
- Urging other G20 countries to support the immediate and permanent closure of wild animal markets.
- Committing at the G20 to end the international trade in wild animals and wild animal products that could contribute to the spread of zoonotic diseases.
- Addressing the Canadian contribution to the issue by curbing the import and domestic trade in wild animals and products.
Canadian attitudes on the global and domestic wildlife trade
A new poll from Northstar Research Partners found Canadians are concerned about the impact of the global wildlife trade. Results include that 89% believe the wildlife trade threatens human health and can cause pandemics.
Calling on the WHO to endorse a ban on wildlife markets to save human lives
As the world continues to fight COVID-19, over 200 organizations, including World Animal Protection, Humane Society International and Born Free have issued a letter urging the World Health Organization (WHO) to endorse a permanent ban on live wildlife markets and the use of wildlife in traditional medicine.
The letter, sent on World Health Day (April 7, 2020), highlights that with the suspected COVID-19 link to a live wildlife market in China, the WHO must take action. The WHO’s mission is to serve public health at all times and should therefore recommend governments worldwide to permanently ban live wildlife markets and the use of wildlife in traditional medicine.
The letter states: "While a robust global response is critical in detecting, treating and reducing transmission [of COVID-19], it is equally necessary to take vital measures to prevent similar emerging infectious diseases developing into pandemics with the associated threats to human life and social and economic well-being."
Thousands of animals are forced into the multi-billion dollar global wildlife trade every day.
The wildlife trade is fuelled by the demand for exotic pets, traditional medicine and the entertainment industry. Millions of wild animals including lions, tigers, bears, parrots, snakes, lizards and even otters are captured each year for the wildlife trade. After being stolen from the wild, these animals are stuffed into bags, taken to cramped and unsuitable holding pens and crammed into crates and shipped all over the world with many animals dying en route.
Horrific conditions cause unimaginable suffering for wild animals in the exploitative wildlife trade, which is estimated to be worth US $7-23 billion a year. Factory-farmed bears have bile agonizingly drained from their gallbladder using a metal tube for traditional medicine. African grey parrots are caught with baited glue traps and have their flight feathers hacked off, to be shipped around the world in the exotic pet trade. Tigers are chained and drugged to pose with tourists. The exploitative trade and consumption of wild animals increases the risk of diseases passing to humans, leading to deadly outbreaks like SARS and now COVID-19.
COVID-19 has been a wakeup call for the world. It’s time to come together to end the cruel exploitation of wild animals by stopping the global wildlife trade, the cause of suffering to millions of animals that also endangers people across the world.
Demand an end to the global wildlife trade
Frequently asked questions
A wild animal is a species without a history of domestication, a long process of genetic alteration through selective breeding by people for particular ‘desired’ traits. Generally speaking, it involves changes in both appearance and behaviour.
Wild animals bred in captivity retain their complex social, physical and behavioural needs, which are adapted to its specific natural habitat.
Our call for a global wildlife trade ban refers to wild animals that are involved in non-essential global commercial trade (e.g. for use as luxury goods, exotic pets, traditional medicine and entertainment) that have been bred in captivity or captured from the wild. We do not include plants, fisheries that supply the food industry, wild animals hunted by communities for subsistence, or other wildlife trade that is deemed essential for human survival.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines zoonoses as diseases and infections that are naturally transmitted from vertebrate animals (include birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals) to humans. Over 60% of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic and up to 75% of these are thought to originate from wild animals.
The risk to global health from the threat of zoonotic diseases is part of every step of the wildlife trade, both legal and illegal, including capture, farming, transport, consumption and captivity.
Wildlife trade is a known threat to animal welfare, public health and economies, irrespective of how wild animals are sourced and sold. As well as the public health and conservation risk, wild animals are sentient beings who feel pleasure, distress, excitement, fear and pain and they suffer immensely in the billion-dollar wildlife trade.
Canada currently imports tens of thousands of protected live wild animals for commercial purposes, including primates, tortoises and Ball pythons, captured from the wild or farmed and legally imported into Canada each year. In addition, Canada imports hundreds of thousands of live wild animals each year that are not regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Together, these represent a significant volume of international trade in wild animals.
Canada also imports large volumes of wild animal products such as crocodile and snake leather, wild animal skins and hunting trophies.
In 2020, following the outbreak of COVID-19, we launched a global initiative to call on world leaders to instigate a global wildlife trade ban at the G20 Summit. We are petitioning all the G20 governments, and to support this in Canada we also formed a coalition of Canadian and international animal protection organizations, academics, conservationists and zoonotic disease experts, all calling on the Canadian government to bring this issue to the G20 and take action nationally.
With the help from our supporters around the world, we are raising awareness and putting pressure on world leaders to implement and uphold a ban to end the wildlife trade and help prevent future zoonotic disease outbreaks.
A global trade ban would be a significant step towards the prevention of any further breeding of wildlife in captivity, the poaching of wild animals and the animal suffering and human health risks associated with these nonessential commercial activities. It would reduce the number of wild animals traded. Reputable companies and institutions will not want their brand or reputation to be associated with any illegal wildlife trade. However, such policy action would be only one component of a broader holistic approach. For example, it would need to be accompanied by strict enforcement regulations and behavioural change programs to drive down consumer demand in order to prevent the wildlife trade being driven underground.