Media statement: Australia continues to lead the way on wildlife wet market reforms

16 March 2021

Australia has taken a leadership role in global reforms aimed at reducing the pandemic risks associated with wildlife wet markets and supply chains.

Australian Chief Veterinary Officer and President of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), Dr Mark Schipp, said a coordinated global effort to reduce the risks of pathogen transmission between wildlife and humans was essential. 

“Wildlife wet markets have long presented a serious threat to human and animal health. They facilitate direct contact between health-compromised wild animals, their infected bodily fluids, and other species—including humans,” Dr Schipp said.

“Combined with unsanitary environments and a lack of hygienic animal and food handling practices, they can create the ideal conditions for zoonoses and pathogens with pandemic potential to emerge.

“Preliminary insights from the World Health Organisation’s Convened Global Study of the Origins of SARS-CoV-2 continue to point to a natural zoonotic source for the COVID virus.

“The Australian Government has called for major global reforms to address risks along the wildlife supply chain, including in wildlife wet markets.

“In April 2020 the Australian Government wrote to the OIE urging global action to address emerging pandemic risks. 

“I also wrote to OIE member countries in April 2020 urging them to take global action to address risks at the individual country level to reduce high-risk human-wildlife interactions through wet markets and across the wildlife supply chain.

“The Australian Government provided seed funding to the OIE aimed at identifying and mitigating high-risk interactions along the wildlife supply chain—now an active, priority project.

“It has been pleasing to see some countries reviewing and changing their laws in relation to wildlife wet markets.

“For example, the Government of Vietnam’s decision to ban wildlife imports and close markets selling illegal wildlife, demonstrated a strong commitment to reducing the global risk of zoonotic pandemics. 

“The full report of the WHO-convened study into the origins of COVID-19 is anticipated to be released this week.”


FAST FACTS 

  • Wet markets are common, and a necessity, in many parts of the world, with concentrations across the Asia, south-east Asia and African regions. 
  • They often have cultural significance and play a critical role in providing food security for local populations. 
  • Australia continues to work closely with individual countries to identify high risk interactions and practises and apply risk mitigation measures that are appropriate in the local context. 
  • Not all wet markets carry wildlife or wildlife products.