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Wet Markets: Closer to home than you would think

By Lorelei Goodall

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the United States has pushed for the shut down of hundreds of wet markets across Asia. But is the problem of selling and slaughtering live animals in unsanitary conditions that far from home? In New York City alone, there are over 80 operating wet markets that have over 10 species of animals, including chickens, cows, sheep, goats, ducks, and others. These animals are crammed into cages and pens, barely able to move while they await their death.

Peopel holding signs with masks on

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According to CBS News, New York state has stopped inspecting these wet markets during the Covid-19 pandemic in order to stop the spread of this disease. Meaning, that these markets have gone unregulated and now pose an even more serious threat to public health. Activists such as Jill Carnegie of Slaughter Free NYC have caught footage of what actually goes on in these markets. The videos show cramped cages bursting with chickens, some with deceased or diseased individuals. Some of these chickens resort to cannibalism, eating dead chickens residing into the same cage. Similar videos show blood, urine, and feces coating the floor, and automated machines killing goats and sheep.

Beyond these few domestic animals, wet markets across New York have also been found to sell illegally imported monkey, python, and civet meat. The United States is the number one importer of illegal and legal wildlife products across the world. Showing how Americans are a more centralized part of the problem when it comes to illegal importation and selling of products with a public health risk. According to the CDC, 6 of every 10 known infectious diseases can be spread by animals and 3 out of 4 current and emerging diseases in humans are originally from animals.

One family-run wet market has operated in the heart of Queens for over 63 years. The owner claims “we sanitize multiple times a day. It’s a part of our routine before COVID”. He argues that wet markets are an important part of the surrounding community and are necessary for Halal and Kosher clientele. In May of 2020, Linda Rosenthal of the New York Assembly has introduced a bill that will temporarily shut down all wet markets in New York while the public health risk is assessed.

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