WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced legislation to end the sale of high-risk wildlife species in live animal markets for human consumption, a practice that has been tied to previous outbreaks of novel human diseases. The Global Wildlife Health and Pandemic Prevention Act requires the U.S. government to identify and shut down live wildlife markets around the world that pose risks to public health and to increase global capacity for zoonotic disease prevention, surveillance, and response.
In accordance with the ‘One Health’ approach – which emphasizes the interconnection of human, animal, and environmental health – the legislation directs the U.S. Department of State, USAID, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to identify which species and practices in live wildlife markets are most likely to ignite a zoonotic disease outbreak and to leverage international diplomacy to close such markets. The President is also given authority to sanction nations that continue to harbor high-risk wildlife markets. Lastly, the bill directs agencies to coordinate their approach to zoonotic disease preparedness, minimize the human-wildlife interface by protecting ecosystems, and reduce demand among food insecure communities that currently depend on wildlife.
“The close and unnatural contact between humans and wildlife poses a serious risk for outbreak of new diseases like the one we are dealing with today,” said Senator Coons. “Our priority right now is to recover from the current crisis, but we also need to take the right steps to ensure that we stop the next pandemic before it starts. I’m proud to work with Senator Graham to introduce this legislation that will give the United States the tools to better combat outbreaks of zoonotic diseases in the future.”
“For the past several weeks, our national conversation has focused appropriately on how we can best recover from Covid-19,” said Senator Graham. “There is another question though, equally urgent, that demands our attention: how can we prevent this from happening again? Governments in Asia and elsewhere should immediately shut down markets that sell high-risk wildlife for human consumption and fully enforce laws already on the books to end the global illegal trade in wildlife.”
“Like most emerging diseases, COVID-19 originated in wildlife, revealing the profound connections between nature and human health,” said Carter Roberts, President and CEO, World Wildlife Fund. “To prevent the next pandemic, we need to close markets that sell high-risk wildlife and reduce human consumption of these species. We also need to halt the degradation or destruction of our remaining wild places while ensuring food security for vulnerable communities. This legislation provides the U.S. government with important tools, direction, and resources to accomplish those goals. We thank Senators Coons and Graham for their leadership in this important moment.”
“The COVID-19 outbreak highlights, once again, the close connection between wildlife management and conservation, public health, and the global economy,” said Johan Bergenas, Senior Director, Vulcan. “The Global Wildlife Health and Pandemic Prevention Act takes a whole-of-government approach to reduce the risk that wildlife trafficking and consumption will result in future outbreaks and pandemics.”
“Saving nature is really about saving ourselves, which is why the Global Wildlife Health and Pandemic Prevention Act is critically important for our future,” said Dr. M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International. “Pandemics can be stopped by attacking the root cause of Zoonotic diseases which is driven by ecosystem and biodiversity loss and large-scale wildlife trafficking. This legislation is a strong step towards addressing these issues and we will work with Senators Coons and Graham to protect our health.”
“The Nature Conservancy is deeply concerned about the pandemic's broad implications for public health, livelihoods and the environment,” said Jennifer Morris, Chief Executive Officer, The Nature Conservancy. “We applaud Senator Coons and Senator Graham for their swift bipartisan legislation to address wildlife disease transmission and enhance the well-being of people and nature. We are all intrinsically connected to the animals and plants in our shared environment. By recognizing this connection, the Global Wildlife Health and Pandemic Prevention Act will help create a safer world for both people and nature.”