Animal Activists are calling on President Joko Widodo to Close Live Animal Markets and Trades as First Cases of Coronavirus are Announced in Indonesia

As the coronavirus virus continues to cause global disruption, casualties and fatalities around the world, local and international animal protection organisations call on President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) to take action to close the wildlife and live animal markets that are still fully operational in many parts of the country.

National and International animal protection groups Change For Animals Foundation, FLIGHT, Jakarta Animal Aid Network and Animals Asia gathered outside the Presidential Palace to call on the government to take action to tackle the growing global health crisis, just days after Indonesia announced the country’s first cases of the deadly disease.

 

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to cause worldwide concern it has exposed the huge public health risks associated with live animal markets that are still rife in many parts of the region, including Indonesia.

 

Whilst the virus is now known to have originated from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China, where a huge variety of species of wildlife were being sold alongside dogs and other domesticated animals destined for human consumption, activists warn that the risks that these live animal markets pose is not restricted to China. 

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Across Indonesia, markets just like Wuhan exist where wild animals, many of which are endangered species, are sold and slaughtered daily in public. The unsanitary conditions in these markets, together with the contamination risks of having so many animal species caged and killed alongside one another, is the perfect breeding ground for new and deadly diseases; and the World Health Organization (WHO) states that 70 per cent of global disease-causing pathogens discovered in the past 50 years came from animals, and COVID-19 is no different.

 

Given the current state of emergency in China and around the world, on the 24th February, China approved a landmark proposal that “prohibits the illegal wildlife trade, abolishes the bad habit of overconsumption of wildlife, and effectively protects the lives and health of the people”. These new measures come following the temporary ban on wildlife trade that was announced in January, and were subsequently followed by China’s fifth largest city, Shenzen, proposing legislation with the additional measure of a city-wide ban on the consumption of dogs and cats. 

 

The groups are calling on the Indonesian government to take similar preventative and proactive measures to make sure Indonesia is not the next point of origin of a deadly virus.

“Finally, China’s government has realised that it cannot keep these cruel and unregulated trades and practices alive and also keep its citizens safe. We hope that Indonesia and other countries throughout the region will follow their example. We’ve visited many live animal markets in Indonesia, including North Sulawesi’s infamous “extreme markets” such as that in Tomohon City, known as the country’s “most macabre” market where wild animals are sold and slaughtered alongside domesticated animals – including dogs and cats. Not only are the wildlife and dog and cat meat markets hotbeds for disease, including the deadly rabies virus, they also encourage and facilitate illegal activities and the most horrific exploitation and abuse of animals.” – Lola Webber, Co-founder of Change For Animals Foundation. 

 

Authorities in Indonesia are starting to feel the pressure, and this is likely to increase significantly now that the virus has officially arrived on the archipelago. Last month, the Dog Meat Free Indonesia coalition submitted an open letter to President Jokowi warning of the risks of the country’s live animal markets; and growing concerns resulted in the Mayor of Tomohon city ordering an end to the sale of bats and snakes at the market and a request to vendors to also stop trading in other animals including dogs and cats. However, on-the-ground sources say it is “business as usual”. Meanwhile, “GrabFood” became the third national online retail giant to ban all sales of “exotic meats”, including dogs, cats, bats, pangolins, crocodiles and turtles, in response to pressure from animal protection groups.

 

Marison Guciano, Executive Director of FLIGHT, said: “Not only is Indonesia’s unregulated trade in wildlife posing grave risks to human and animal health, it is also decimating wild populations and operating in breach of national wildlife protection laws. We are optimistic that the government will take strong and urgent actions to ensure laws are adequately enforced and strengthened to safeguard the health and welfare of our country’s people, animals and ecosystems. We know that only a minority of Indonesians consume meat from wildlife and dog and cat meat, yet the trades threaten the health and safety of the entire nation and beyond, not to mention the immeasurable and unimaginable suffering it causes tomillions of animals every year.”

 

 

Dave Neale, Animal Welfare Director, Animals Asia said ‘We urge the government of Indonesia to protect the health of its citizens, lead the fight against wildlife crime and convey a message of compassion for animals by closing all live animal markets. Animals within such markets are experiencing the most extreme cruelty and suffering, the sheer numbers and different species crammed together in small spaces provides the perfect grounds for the development of harmful zoonotic diseases which can have further global implications. It is not acceptable to treat animals in this way and it is no longer acceptable to put the human population at further risk of the development of more deadly viruses.”

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