New Griffith University-led research suggests thatexisting systems forfood safety,rather thanbroad, untargetedbans onwildlifetradearekeyto preventingthe next pandemic.
Published inLancet Planetary Health, with co-authors from the International Union for Conservation of Nature WildlifeHealth Specialist Group andTRAFFIC, an NGO focused on wildlife trade. The research, led byDr Duan Biggsfrom theCentre for Planetary Health and Food Securityargues that a solution to the disease risk in wildlife trade is through extending existing food health safety systems.
“The wildlife trade is suspected to have played a role in the appearance and spread of new potentially dangerous diseases including COVID-19,” Dr Biggs said.
“In response, many organisations have called for a global ban of the trade and consumption of wild animals by humans.”
Dr Biggs points out that history shows blanket bans are impractical and unsustainable with serious livelihood consequences for those dependent on wildlife trade and alternatives need to be sought.
“Bans in wildlife trade in response to previous disease outbreaks like Ebola have been short-lived and unsustainable, and in many ways increase disease risk as trade is forced underground,”Dr Biggssaid.
“Targeted bans have their place and value, but alternatives also need to be sought.”
Currentfood health safety systemshave beendevelopedandused fordecadesto be able to sell food in supermarkets, andrestaurants,but withvery limited application in wildlife trade.
Co-author Dr Richard Kock, of the Royal Veterinary College London and Chair of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Wildlife Health Specialist Group, suggests that a Critical Control Points approach, widely used in food systems for livestock, could be expanded to the wildlife trade.
“The Critical Control Points system identify points in food supply chains where there are high risks, and specify actions, checks, and processes to manage the risk.”
“These systems are already being used for trade inother species, whether wild or domesticated animals, including for kangaroo supply chains,”said co-authorJames Comptonfrom TRAFFIC.
“Itmakes sense to see how the Critical Control Points system, which has been adopted by Food and Agriculture Organisation, World Health Organisation and the International Organisation for Animal Health, can be adapted to the wildlife trade more broadly,” Dr Biggs said.
“There is no need to reinvent the wheel— or think bans are the only option.”