COVID-19, the pandemic that is still ravaging the planet, originated from wet markets in Wuhan. With this knowledge, Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal (D-Hell’s Kitchen, Upper West Side) and State Senator Luis Sepúlveda (D-Bronx) have introduced legislation to shutter New York’s live animal markets.
The bill, A. 10399, would indefinitely ban the operation of markets that sell freshly slaughtered animals. However, it would also convene a task force to determine whether it would be possible to safely operate slaughterhouses with enough regulation. The Governor, State Assembly and State Senate would appoint members of the task force.
“In a matter of weeks, COVID-19 has ravaged New York and changed life for millions of New Yorkers,” said Assemblymember Rosenthal. “As policymakers, we have a responsibility to respond to this crisis by doing everything in our power to prevent the next pandemic. Closing New York’s live animal markets, which operate in residential neighborhoods and do not adhere to even the most basic sanitary standards, until we determine whether they can be made safe, is a vital first step.”
As of now, there are at least 80 live markets in New York. What’s more, the majority of them operate near schools, playgrounds and even homes, despite an existing State law banning them from operating within 1,500 feet of a residential area.
The markets also see little regulation and oversight. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets employs only three inspectors to oversee the 80+ live markets in the state.
“These markets are poorly regulated and pose serious health risks to workers, nearby residents, and all New Yorkers as potential sites for a new virus outbreak,” said Sepúlveda. “Although some communities use these markets for specific types of meat purchasing, safer alternatives already exist and must be expanded. It is long overdue for this glaring issue to be addressed, and with NYC being an epicenter of this global public health crisis, it is vital that we close all of NYC’s live animal markets.”
Furthermore, COVID-19 is just one of numerous diseases that are traceable back to animals. SARS, avian flu, and H1N1 – some of the worst pandemics in recent memory – all originated from animals.
“Although COVID-19 originated in China, it could have come from anywhere,” said Judie Mancuso, founder and president of Social Compassion in Legislation. “Our focus should be addressing the root of the problem. It is not the ‘where,’ but is the ‘what’. This virus could have originated in any country that exploits and commodifies animals including right here in the USA. Humanity as a whole owns this virus as we continually exploit animals and allow the threat to continue.”