Researchers from NYU’s Center for Environmental and Animal Protection and Harvard Law’s Brooks McCormick Jr. Animal Law & Policy Program have produced a report on the zoonotic risk caused by 36 major American animal industries, from factory farming to the trade in exotic companion animals. Zoonosis are diseases that can be passed from non-human animals to humans, and the other way around.
Across 15 countries, the researchers explored the international landscape of live animal markets, clarified the terms and definitions related to live animal markets, looked at the context and role of live animal markets, assessed the status quo of regulations, and investigated the absence of global regulatory action. They defined “live animal markets” as almost any place where the consumption and use of animals brings them into contact with humans in such a way that zoonotic disease can spread, including slaughterhouses, fur farms, petting zoos, pet stores, circuses, big game hunting, and upland bird farming.
The authors of the study concluded the following: “We’re surprised by what we’ve found, as much by the sheer scale and diversity of animal use in the U.S. as by the disconnected patchwork of federal, state, and municipal laws governing animal industries. Some are underregulated and others are totally unregulated. Across many animal industries in the U.S., economic incentives cause disease risk to be overlooked in favour of revenue. And where self-interest and public interest point in opposite directions, regulation and enforcement are needed to ensure that producers follow best practices. The fact is, we are selling and consuming animals and their body parts and products in the absence of such regulation and enforcement. In this environment, misaligned incentives tend to enhance risks to public health — risks that occur across the supply chain, from the places where animals are born to the homes where they are consumed as food or kept as companions.”