Animal rights groups wrote to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday, demanding the immediate shutdown of illegal meat trade and pet markets in wake of the escalating coronavirus outbreak, PTI reported.
In a joint letter, organisations such as People for Animals, Humane Society International/India, Mercy for Animals India Foundation, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations and Ahimsa Trust urged the health minister to take immediate action to crack down on markets that do not follow food safety guidelines.
“Covid-19 is said to have emerged from a meat and wildlife market in Wuhan, China, in December 2019,” the letter said. “In just a few months, the virus has infected hundreds of thousands and killed over 14,000 people world over.”
Three out of four emerging pathogens affecting humans over the past decade have originated from animals or animal products, the animal rights organisation said, citing a report by the Food And Agriculture Organisation. The absence of regulations in livestock production results in intensive rearing, unnatural diets and antibiotic abuse. Such practices, the organisations claimed, have triggered a pandemic of this magnitude.
Another study carried out in Nepal has found that raw meat in less developed countries is easily contaminated by external sources, they added. This happens when the meat is touched by knives, hands or other tools during the time of processing, they said.
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Gauri Maulekhi, trustee of People for Animals, said that the increase in industrial slaughter and factory farming of animals, unchecked wildlife trade and crowding of various species of animals in close confinement, are an “invitation to deadly epidemics”.
“The connection is unmistakable,” she said. “Let’s learn from our mistakes. We are hopeful that the Ministry of Health undertakes the suggested measures to rectify this crisis and safeguard this country’s health.”
The toll in the coronavirus epidemic in India rose to 13 on Thursday, and the total number of infections increased to 649, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Of these, 593 patients are still undergoing treatment. Local health officials have announced two more deaths – one each in Maharashtra and Jammu and Kashmir – but the Centre has not yet confirmed them.
The pandemic has infected 4,70,973 people globally, and killed 21,276 people across 173 countries or territories, according to an estimate by Johns Hopkins University. As many as 1,14,012 people have recovered.