We are within the midst of what’s the largest public well being disaster of our occasions – and when it comes to the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, most consultants are unanimous. The illness, which has killed round 300,000 folks worldwide on the time of writing, is believed to have began in a Chinese market the place animals – alive and useless – are offered for human consumption.

So what precisely is a “wet market”? Many folks in Asia, particularly the older technology, desire freshly slaughtered meat, which is usually offered at markets the place water is poured over the meats to maintain them recent. Wildlife markets, however, typically commerce in unique animals – not like conventional moist markets. But the Wuhan market the place the virus originated offered useless and stay animals similar to snakes, badgers, foxes, porcupines and beavers, amongst others.

And that is the place the function of trend is available in. Markets that maintain captive wild animals in unhygienic, cramped situations are the right breeding floor for pandemics – however using these animals doesn’t finish at meals. Wild animals are sometimes bred, traded and killed in situations which can be extremely unsanitary to find yourself in a luxurious boutique, as Australian wildlife conservation organisation Nature Needs More discovered. The group found that equipment in python and crocodile skins offered in excessive-finish outlets in Milan have been related to the gross sales of untamed animal flesh at moist markets, similar to the one the place COVID-19 originated.

Animal fur from foxes, raccoon, wolf, beaver and mink hanging after processing. Photo: David Tadevosian.

Fur can be a giant pandemic threat, which was found most not too long ago within the Netherlands, the place COVID-19 was present in mink at 4 fur farms. It’s the primary time this virus has been linked to a big-scale animal operation, and it’s additionally the primary case of coronavirus in animals within the Netherlands. Following these findings, animal rights organisations have referred to as on Dutch Minister of Agriculture, Carola Schouten, to deliver ahead the fur-farming ban within the Netherlands, which is scheduled for 2024. After a phasing-out interval, the nation was already set to go fur-free, however activists are urging for the ban to come into place sooner to keep away from additional threat.

“Filthy fur farms packed with sick, stressed, and injured minks are breeding grounds for disease,” says PETA Director of International Programmes Mimi Bekhechi. “In the face of a global crisis stemming from the wildlife trade, the Netherlands shouldn’t wait another four years to shut down its last remaining fur farms – it must take action now.”

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And there may be cause to fear: the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that roughly 75% of not too long ago rising infectious illnesses affecting people originated in different animals. More particularly, this isn’t the primary time lethal infections present up in fur-bearing animals.


The 2003 SARS outbreak noticed 16 mammal species contaminated, together with foxes, mink, raccoon canines, and home canines and cats – all species continuously killed for his or her fur. Animals on fur farms are sometimes stored in filthy cages stacked on prime of each other, and the shut proximity and the alternate of bodily fluids will increase the chance of pathogens creating. When people deal with these wild animals – who may by no means have been in such shut contact with one another or with people had it not been for the industries that use them, be it for his or her pores and skin or their flesh – the chance of infections skyrockets.

Workforce publicity should even be considered, as staff are generally already in danger due to to lack of protecting gear and the impossibility of social distancing. And in truth, the mink within the Netherlands are suspected to have handed the virus on to people.

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Even earlier than the pandemic hit, each fur and unique skins have been on their approach out of trend. Brands which have banned each from their collections embrace Victoria Beckham, Diane Von Furstenberg, Chanel, Gucci, and most not too long ago Mulberry. Fast-fashion labels have additionally taken a stand towards fur and exotics, however it’s the posh trend homes, whose identify used to be synonymous with the extravagant ostentation linked to these supplies, which have actually made a press release with their fur bans.

The state of California has additionally banned the sale and import of fur in addition to crocodile and alligator skins, paving the way in which for extra territories to implement bans of their very own – a transfer that couldn’t come quickly sufficient, contemplating the contributions of those lethal trades to devastating crises.

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