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Wet Markets

Wet Markets

Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Live Animal Markets are markets where animals are killed on site. They are often called “wet markets”, although wet markets are technically marketplaces that sell any perishable foods, including meat, fish, fruit and vegetables. Not all wet markets sell live animals. The live animal markets are often referred to as “wet” because of the wet floors from melting ice, spilled water from tubs of live fish, and the blood and bodily fluids of animals killed on the premises. These markets exist all over the world, but are extremely popular in Asia, Africa and Latin America. They provide fresh meat for many people in poor rural isolated areas, but are also popular in cities and more populated regions, because many sell exotic, rare and wild species which are considered delicacies, or species that are believed to have medicinal properties. These markets are unsanitary and usually completely unregulated, and are breeding grounds for disease. The SARS outbreak of 2002-2004 and Covid-19 are both widely believed to have originated from live animal wet markets.

The animals sold at these marketplaces are kept in tightly cramped cages or stalls, with no regard for their treatment and welfare. Farm animals are shipped from factory farms on trucks and packed into tiny vending stalls. Wild animals sold in markets are sometimes captive born, but are usually captured from the wild. Species of all different kinds are kept in small overcrowded cages next to other species, and sometimes mixed together, all in close proximity to humans. The markets are filthy, often fly infested, and the distressed animals are often sitting or standing in their own feces and urine, often without access to food or water. The animals are butchered right on the premises in these inhumane open markets, often without any gloves, and with knives that have been used on other species. All types of animals are sold at these markets, including many endangered species that are illegally sold. Wild animals commonly sold for slaughter at the markets include birds, fish, rats, pangolins, bats, turtles, snakes, deer, porcupines, hedgehogs, crocodiles, marmots, civets, monkeys, badgers, lizards, wolf pups, peacocks and scorpions. Domestic animals include chicken, ducks, cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, dogs, cats, turkeys and rabbits. The markets are full of bacteria and parasites, and are a threat to public health.

Many people believe that these markets only exist in Asia, but don’t realize that these markets exist throughout the world. In fact over 80 live animal wet markets are operating in New York City alone, despite the New York State on Pause Executive Order. The majority of the markets in New York sell chicken and poultry, but many also sell live goats, sheep, cattle and rabbits for slaughter. They are located in busy residential neighborhoods, and pose a significant health and safety risk, as they are unsanitary and poorly regulated.

In fact over 80 live animal wet markets are operating in New York City alone

The conditions in these markets are ideal for the spread of zoonotic diseases, which are diseases originating from an animal that can infect humans. In fact 75% of new infectious diseases affecting humans originated in animals. In addition to SARS and Covid-19, HIV, Ebola, avian flu, swine flu and many others are all known to have originated from animals. The risk for these diseases is particularly dangerous as animals of mixed species are cramped together in unsanitary conditions in close proximity to humans. Many people mistakenly believe that the majority of diseases come from wild animals when in fact avian flu, swine flu, anthrax and mad cow disease, as well as many other zoonotic diseases, have come from domesticated farm animals.

It is clear that all wildlife and live slaughter markets need to be banned to avoid another pandemic, but it is a complicated issue. Many low income people throughout the world rely on these markets for income. It is also their source for fresh meat, which cannot reach many people in poor remote areas otherwise. Alternatives need to be created for these communities.

There is currently a huge push to get these markets closed worldwide. China recently put a temporary ban on the trade and consumption of wild animals for food, but wild animals used for traditional medicine are exempt. After the SARS outbreak, wildlife markets were temporarily restricted but resumed after the threat subsided. In July Vietnam shut down markets where illegal wildlife was being sold, and put a temporary ban on the import of wild animals. In the United States The Global Wildlife Health and Pandemic Prevention Act was introduced by Senators Chris Coons, D-Delaware, and Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, to end the sale of high-risk wildlife species in live animal markets for human consumption. The Act, if passed, would require the U.S. government to identify and shut down live wildlife markets around the world that pose risks to public health, leveraging international diplomacy to close these high risk markets. But the country has a lot of work to do before looking overseas, as the U.S. is the world’s largest importer of wildlife. In New York Bill # A.10399/S.8291 has been introduced by Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal and Senator Luis Sepúlveda to shut down the live animal slaughter markets and prevent new operational licenses from being issued. In addition to new legislation being passed throughout the world, the United Nations and the World Health Organization need to step in as it is clear that wild animal markets, wildlife trade and live animal slaughter markets need to be banned as they are an immediate threat to public health and safety worldwide.

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What is a factory farm?

What is a factory farm?

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Factory farms are massive industrial farms that are designed to maximize production at minimal cost, with little or no attention given to the welfare of animals. Approximately 99% of farmed animals in the United States come from factory farms. The animals are kept indoors in overcrowded conditions, where they are bred to grow unnaturally large and fast. They are pumped with antibiotics to keep them healthy in unsanitary, packed indoor spaces. In the United States, more than 70% of all antibiotics produced by the pharmaceutical industry are fed to farm animals to inhibit the spread of disease. They are also given hormones to make them grow faster and unnaturally large. The animal’s bodies cannot support this unnatural growth which often results in painful conditions and deformities. Factory farms are often places of profound animal abuse, as the animals are treated like objects to maximize profits at the expense of the animals, the environment, rural communities and human health. Most animals are never exposed to sunlight or the outdoors until they are taken into trucks to be transported to slaughter.

In the United States, more than 70% of all antibiotics produced by the pharmaceutical industry are fed to farm animals to inhibit the spread of disease

Unfortunately, most people do not know about the conditions on factory farms. Corporate agribusiness companies keep the reality of factory farms far from the public eye by marketing their animal food products with misleading packaging that shows happy animals lounging under the sun on lush green farm pastures. They produce television commercials showing talking animals promoting bacon, steak, and dairy products. For these wealthy agribusiness corporations, keeping what really happens behind the closed gates of the factory farms is of the utmost importance because it allows them to make billions of dollars every year. Luckily though, extensive undercover footage has gone viral on social media which has put a light on many of these farms and the rampant abuse. The footage has repeatedly shown a culture of horrific abuse to the animals, with unimaginable cruelty. It has been so damaging, that it has become a catalyst in many people’s switch to vegetarianism or veganism. As a result there has been a huge push by massive agribusiness corporations to push ag-gag laws in states, which prohibits pictures and videos on factory farms, so the abuse stays away from the public eye. Fortunately many of these laws have been struck down as unconstitutional, but they have passed in five states. Furthermore they are terrible for the environment and are a huge contributor to climate change. Factory farms produce staggering quantities of waste and greenhouse gases which pollute our land, air, and water, and destroy entire ecosystems. Also, the demand for livestock pasture is a major cause of deforestation. Factory farms in short are terrible for animals, humans and the planet.

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Swim with the Dolphins

Swim with the Dolphins

Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Swim with the Dolphins programs, also known as SWTD, are attractions where you can swim and interact with dolphins in captivity. Visitors at these venues can often hang onto a dolphin’s dorsal fin and be towed through the water, be pushed around the water by a dolphin’s beak, or be photographed kissing a dolphin. Some facilities even allow the visitors to be dolphin “trainers” for the day. These attractions are extremely popular in the Caribbean, particularly the Bahamas, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Grand Cayman, and Cancun, Mexico, with a huge number of visitors coming from Caribbean cruise ships. They are also popular in the United States and the Middle East, and becoming increasingly more popular in Asia. The programs seem harmless, as the dolphins are playful by nature and have a permanent smile, but they are actually very cruel and inhumane.

Some dolphins at SWTD facilities are captive born, but the majority are captured in the wild. The capture methods are all violent and very traumatic for the dolphins. Most involve high speed boats that chase dolphins into nets after separating them from their pods. In “drive hunts”, pods are herded towards the shore and shallow water, by banging pipes underwater to confuse and disorient them. After they are rounded up and trapped, the youngest and most attractive are taken, and the rest are typically stabbed and slaughtered. The capture is traumatic as the dolphins live in close knit social groups, and many die due to injuries or stress. Many die during transit before they ever make it to these facilities.

Some dolphins at SWTD facilities are captive born, but the majority are captured in the wild

The dolphins that survive the capture and are brought into captivity, often die within several months. They are distressed and disoriented, and taken to sea pens or concrete pools, where they are put in chemically treated and chlorinated water. Dolphins use echolocation in the wild which is like a sonar that allows dolphins to “see” with sound, as they create sound waves that reflect and bounce off objects in the water. Because they are in small enclosed spaces opposed to the open ocean, the sound waves are literally bouncing off the walls, which causes confusion, discomfort and stress. Training methods are also cruel, and usually involve food deprivation, and the dolphins are kept hungry so they will interact and perform. Most of these facilities are poorly regulated, and are known to provide little or no veterinary care. Dolphins in captivity often die at a much younger age than they would in the wild.

Many SWTD programs falsely label themselves as educational or beneficial for dolphin conservation, but dolphins are not meant to be kept in captivity. In the wild they are known to travel up to 80 miles per day and do not belong in small sea pens or concrete pools. They belong with their pods in the open ocean. Please do not support Swim with the Dolphins programs.

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Live Export

Live Export

Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Each year, millions of live animals are transported thousands of miles for the purpose of slaughter or breeding. The animals endure long arduous journeys that often take days, weeks or even longer on trucks and/or ships. The journeys are brutal, and often involve long truck rides to ports where they are loaded onto massive ships. Some of the ships can hold up to 75,000 sheep or 20,000 cattle. The animals are live exported to countries that lack a large enough population of a particular farm animal, or to meet the demand for fresh meat. Many animals travel for a month, only to end up having their throats cut by a halal butcher while fully conscious. They are often shipped to countries that have little or no animal welfare regulations.

Aboard the overcrowded ships the animals often don’t have enough space to move or lie down. The ships can be so crowded that the animals cannot make it to the food or water troughs. Many do not eat, drink or sleep regardless, as they are not used to being on moving ships on the rough open ocean, and are extremely confused and disoriented. The temperature ranges the animals must endure on these voyages can be extreme. They are forced to stand in their own urine and feces. As a result they are exposed to high concentrations of ammonia gas, which irritates their eyes, nasal cavities and respiratory tracts. Thousands of animals typically die on these trips, and many are seriously injured. These ships can easily spread disease, as they are transporting animals in unsanitary conditions across the globe.

Aboard the overcrowded ships the animals often don’t have enough space to move or lie down. The ships can be so crowded that the animals cannot make it to the food or water troughs.

Legal protections for these animals are very limited, and many are subjected to horrific abuse both during transport and at the time of slaughter. The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) is the agency that is responsible for setting standards and rules for import and export, but there is virtually no enforcement and violators are rarely held accountable. Upon arriving at their destination there is a continued lack of oversight. Inhumane slaughter is a huge issue as many countries use indescribably horrific methods, often while the animals are fully conscious.

There have also been many accidents with tragic results. In August 1996 a ship on route from Australia to Jordan caught fire and was abandoned before disappearing into the Indian Ocean. The fire killed 67,488 sheep, who either burned or drowned. In November of 2019, the Queen Hind capsized in the Romanian port of Midia, shortly after sailing out on route to Saudi Arabia. The half sunken boat trapped and killed over 14,000 sheep. Only 180 survived the disaster. In September of 2020, the massive cargo ship, Gulf Livestock 1, overturned off the coast of Japan during powerful typhoon and has still not been recovered. All 5,800 cattle on board died, as well as approximately 40 crew members.

Despite all of this the live export industry is exploding. It has quadrupled in size in the last 50 years, with millions of pigs, sheep, cattle, goats, poultry, alpacas, horses and camels being shipped around the world each year. The animals in the live export trade usually originate from factory farms in North and South America, Australia and Europe and then shipped to countries in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. The import market in the Middle East is booming, due in part to increased demand, and water shortages that limit local production. Denmark, the Netherlands, Canada and Germany are the biggest exporters of live pigs. Australia, France, Mexico and Canada are the largest exporters of live cattle. Sudan, Romania, Somalia and Australia are the biggest exporters of live sheep. Interestingly the United States is the single largest importer of animals in the world, with the vast majority made up of pigs from Canada or cattle from Mexico.

Live export is dangerous, inhumane and cruel. It must be banned.

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Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals