The Party for the Animals wants a ban on the import of exotic animals and animal products to prevent the spread of viruses such as the corona virus to Europe. The question is how useful that is.
The whole world was shocked by the outbreak of the new corona virus. Nearly 25,000 people worldwide have now been infected, and around 500 patients have died from the effects of the disease. Every few years a potentially very dangerous new virus is emerging. SARS, MERS, ebola; they are all particularly contagious diseases that can end fatally. What all these viruses have in common with the current culprit is that they have passed from animals to humans. And there is a good chance that this will happen more often in the future.
‘We are increasingly finding ourselves in the habitat of wild animals’
« There is much more contact between humans and animals nowadays. That also increases the chance of transmitting animal viruses, » says Eric Snijder, professor of molecular virology in Leiden. « All animal species carry their own set of viruses. Until recently there was not much going on. But now that we are with more and more people, we are increasingly entering the habitat of wild animal species. We are moving en masse into the jungle to view them, we sometimes process them in medicines or serve them as a meal. That also increases the risk of infection to humans. «
In China, the government has now temporarily banned food markets where wild animals are traded. A growing number of Chinese citizens also want an end to the unsanitary markets. Good news, according to the Party for the Animals, not only for the well-being of humans but also for the well-being of many vulnerable animal species.
Cover for illegal trade
« Despite their protection status, many wild animals can still be traded as normal. We have been arguing for a total ban for years, » said MP Wassenberg of the PvdD. « It is not for nothing that the animals are protected and legal trade is the ideal cover for illegally trading the rarest and most vulnerable animals. This not only causes animals to die out, it is also a great risk to public health. »
Today, the House of Representatives is discussing the fight against infectious diseases. The Party for the Animals calls on the Dutch government to stop the import of exotic animals and animal products from abroad to prevent the spread of viruses such as the corona virus. The party also wants the Dutch government to ask China to convert the temporary ban on food markets into a permanent status.
Minimal chance of infection in the Netherlands
Molecular virologist Snijder has reservations about the Party for the Animals call. « I understand the intention, certainly because it is also about animal welfare. But the chance of infection in the Netherlands by imported animals or animal products is really minimal. »
He said: « The situation is different for the local situation in China. Limiting contact with wild animals can be the key to limit the chance of this type of outbreaks. »
Upon request, the World Health Organization (WHO) states that it sees a task for itself and other international organizations with regard to better prevention of infectious diseases.
« We are currently investigating the exact source of the new corona virus outbreak. As soon as this is clear, we will – together with other organizations – advise China on how to prevent an outbreak in the future. » The WHO wants to collaborate more intensively with national Food and Consumer Product Authorities.
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