The following statement is from John F. Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President for Public Affairs of the Wildlife Conservation Society in support of reintroduction of a bipartisan bill in the U.S. Congress, which includes measures to prevent future zoonotic pandemics.
U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), along with Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Thom Tillis (R-NC), reintroduced the Preventing Future Pandemics Act this week. When the bill was introduced in 2020, WCS launched a campaign, Protect Wildlife. Protect Us SM., which is designed to rally support for the legislation and engage supporters behind efforts to prevent the next zoonotic pandemic. Learn more about the campaign HERE.
“The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) supports the Preventing Future Pandemics Act of 2021. We applaud the re-introduction of this legislation by U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) along with Tom Carper (D-DE) and Thom Tillis (R-NC). Many are feeling COVID-19 fatigue but we need to be hyper-focused on preventing the next COVID. This legislation will ensure the United States is doing its part from all angles to prevent the next pandemic.
“WCS has been tracking emerging zoonotic diseases – those diseases shared by wildlife and humans – for more than two decades. Our findings are sobering. The continuing ecological destruction of wild places and plundering of wildlife is directly linked to diseases that spillover from animals to people.
“WCS’s own policy on preventing future zoonotic pandemics dovetails well with this legislation introduced by Sens. Cornyn and Booker along with Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Thom Tillis (R-NC). Each underscores that wildlife markets trading in live and fresh terrestrial wildlife for human consumption are ticking time bombs of viruses and pathogens ready to explode and do untold harm.
“Ending the commercial international trade in live and fresh terrestrial wildlife and commercial wildlife markets for human consumption is not only good for conservation—it is critical for the health, safety, and economic future of our planet. Prohibiting the import, export, and sale of certain live wild animals for human consumption is extremely important. If we protect wildlife, we protect ourselves.
“Over the past several months, we have all seen firsthand the devastating impact of COVID-19. This zoonotic disease has sickened millions and killed hundreds of thousands; it has laid waste to the global economy and impacted every facet of our lives.
“Our experts working on the frontlines fear that the next zoonotic disease could be far worse – with impacts that could shake society to its very core. The time for this legislation is right here, right now. We look forward to its swift passage for the sake of our planet.”
Highlights: The Preventing Future Pandemics Act
- Prohibits the import, export, and sale of certain live wild animals for human consumption (i.e., food or medicine), except where consumption is incidental to lawful hunting activity. The provision applies to live mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians, but excludes ruminants.
- Directs the Secretary of HHS to enlist the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine to conduct a study to evaluate the impact of physical proximity and consumption of wildlife (as food or medicine) on the emergence and transmission of viral and other microbial pathogens. The study would also evaluate the conditions at live wildlife markets that lead to transmission of zoonotic diseases.
- Galvanizes the international community to address the health dangers posed by live wildlife markets and associated wildlife trafficking by issuing a Sense of Congress regarding the role of international organizations in addressing emerging disease threats. It also sets U.S. policy to facilitate international cooperation to disrupt and ultimately end the commercial wildlife trade associated with live wildlife markets; builds international coalitions to support policy goals; authorizes sanctions on entities that license or engage in live wildlife markets and associated wildlife trafficking; and authorizes $300 million for USAID to carry out international programs in this regard annually until 2030.