In collaboration with local activists, our investigative team returned to where scientists believe COVID-19 began: China’s wet markets.
Our team determined that it was important to monitor the situation within the country's wet markets to find out if anything had really changed, as many media outlets repeatedly announced. We had an obligation to the more than half a million people who had already signed our petition to end these markets—places where humans come into contact with wild and farmed animals, creating breeding grounds for emerging zoonotic diseases. We had to return to these live animal markets to report the truth.
This is not the first time our investigators have infiltrated these markets where living and dead, wild and domestic animals are sold for consumption. Between 2014 and 2019, we captured shocking images of wet markets in China, Vietnam, and India, which documented extreme neglect and cruelty in these places.
The footage we were able to capture when we returned to China in 2020 reveals that the threat to public health and safety is ongoing. Despite the pandemic that has changed our lives, these places (where COVID-19 is thought to have originated) are still open to the public, drawing massive crowds of people, and worse, continuing to trade and brutally kill animals of all kinds.
From the moment investigators arrived at the markets, they could see live and dead animals transported in vehicles that exposed them to dirt, smog, and contamination without any oversight or accountability.
Due to the terrible conditions in which they are handled and transported within the markets, animals, like these 12 ducks crammed into a single sack, experience high levels of stress that cause their immune systems to deteriorate. This makes them more susceptible to deadly viruses—viruses that can cause pandemics like COVID-19.
In these places, turtles, frogs, ducks, geese, pigeons, and fish are traded and killed, bringing together species that would never live together in the wild, creating the perfect breeding ground for animal-borne diseases. Due to humans' direct contact with these animals at wet markets, the risk that one of these deadly viruses will make the jump from animals to humans increases exponentially.
The animals are killed while fully conscious and their blood soaks the stalls' walls and floors, one of the reasons these places are called wet markets. Sanitary conditions in these places are poor, and despite the danger, animal welfare and health safety controls are non-existent.
In April, Animal Equality launched a worldwide campaign and petition calling for the immediate closure of wet markets across the globe. Wet markets get their name in part from the blood, guts, scales and water that soak the stalls’ floors, remnants from animals brutally killed for customers who desire to eat freshly killed meat.
In exclusive footage shot by Animal Equality at wet markets in China, Vietnam, and India, animals such as deer, raccoons, crocodiles, and dogs are shown living in filthy conditions, suffering from dehydration, starvation and disease.
These markets are also a threat to public health and have been the source of documented disease outbreaks in the past, including SARS. Researchers also believe COVID-19 most likely originated from a wet market in Wuhan, China, notorious for trading in wild animals.
It is because of the public health crises wet markets cause, as well as the intense suffering inflicted on farmed animals, that Animal Equality is urging the United Nations to ban all wet markets. Not only do these markets pose an immediate danger to humans, but they are also intensely cruel and abhorrently inhumane to animals.
In markets across the world, live animals are traded and brutally slaughtered for customers who desire to eat fresh meat.
These outdoor shops, called wet markets, get their name in part from the blood that soaks the stalls’ floors after live animals are killed once purchased.
Exotic and traditionally farmed animals are mixed together in cramped cages and unsanitary enclosures, creating the perfect breeding ground for zoonotic diseases like COVID-19.
It is because of the public health crises these markets cause, as well as the intense suffering inflicted on farmed animals, that these wet markets need to be banned.