April 10, 2020


The Case Against Wet Markets. (MARTHA CHENG, 4/10/20, The Atlantic)

First, though, a distinction that too many journalists and politicians miss, and which is important to get right as people debate the possible closure of these markets. Wet market is a Singapore and Hong Kong English term that is now being applied to a wide variety of food markets around the developing world, even though many of the markets look like the fresh produce and meat markets in Italy and France. In fact, wet markets tend to fall into three categories: those that carry wildlife, dead or alive; those that carry more common live animals, such as poultry and/or seafood; and those that carry no live animals at all. So calling for a ban on all wet markets based on the Wuhan wet market, which purportedly sold live wildlife, is like banning all pet ownership based on what goes down in Tiger King.

Wet markets overall should not be banned any more than farmers' markets in America. They are more than fresh produce and meat: They are ways for consumers and producers to connect; they are forms of decentralization against governments and large corporations that people grow ever more wary of, whether in China or America. Live wildlife, however, is too risky to remain at wet markets. "The lowest-hanging fruit to lessen the likelihood of future pandemics is to close those markets where we have large congregations of wild species for commercial purposes," Steven Osofsky, a professor of wildlife health and health policy at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, said in an interview for the podcast Excelsior. "When we harvest wild animals from all over the world and bring them into markets, let them all mix together, what we're doing is creating the perfect storm. If you're a virus whose goal is to spread, you couldn't really design a better system to aid and abet a pandemic than these wildlife markets, particularly in urban centers in Asia. You have species that never under natural conditions would run into each other, all packed together, bodily fluids mixing, and then people come into the equation. Pathogens are meeting species that they've never met before. That's when we have these opportunities for viral jumps, including the ones that lead to humans and create the situation we're in now."

Posted by at April 10, 2020 10:23 AM