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Media Release 1 May 2020

  • Australia initiated an approach with the OIE to unite countries on reforms to the sale and slaughter of wildlife.

The Australian Chief Veterinary Officer (ACVO) as President of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), is seeking a united approach from OIE member countries to deliver global reforms on wildlife markets.

Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, David Littleproud, said

wildlife markets, defined as markets selling or slaughtering live terrestrial wildlife for human consumption or other purposes, are found globally, and can have significant cultural and food security importance, particularly in developing nations.

“They can also present a grave threat to human and animal health across the entire world, given the potential for zoonotic and pandemic pathogens to emerge,” Minister Littleproud said.

“They pose significant threats to animal welfare, food safety, and wildlife biodiversity and conservation. How we manage them is going to be a big challenge for the world in the future.

“The COVID-19 virus is thought to have originated in one of these markets. SARS is also believed to have crossed from animals to humans in a similar way.

“Global policy reforms need to take measured but decisive action to support food security outcomes while also reducing the clear risks posed to the world from trade and consumption of wildlife.

“Australia is committed to pursuing a global approach with strong collaboration across sectors and individual countries to achieve reform in this area.

“As President of the OIE, the Australian Chief Veterinary Officer has recently written an open letter to all OIE member countries, urging them as soon as is practicable to engage in policy discussions on how they can help reduce the zoonotic risks of wildlife markets within their country. 

“Australia also greatly values the expertise, inclusiveness and collaborative power of multilateral institutions, such as the OIE, and we will continue to support them in their dedicated and ambitious work program to help countries address the risks associated with wildlife markets.

“I have written recently to the OIE in this regard, reaffirming Australia’s strong support for global policy reforms on this issue.

“With the spread of COVID-19 to over 190 countries and a tragic number of human infections and deaths, COVID-19 has had inconceivable worldwide socioeconomic impacts.

“Now is the time for our concerted and collaborative action to support global health through minimising risks associated with wildlife markets, or phase out these markets where practical.”