There have been widespread calls for a global ban on the sale and consumption of wild meat. Following the spread of COVID in early 2020 (which is thought to have originated in bats), over 200 conservation organisations signed an open letter to the World Health Organization, urging a permanent ban on all live wildlife markets and the use of wild animal products in traditional medicine.
The risk of disease spillover has been used by conservationists to legitimise arguments about the perceived need to separate humans from “wild” nature. Since the pandemic began, bans on wild animal consumption and trade have been introduced in several countries. Before COVID, bird flu and Ebola virus outbreaks also triggered bans on wildlife trade and consumption in northern Vietnam and west Africa, respectively.
By restricting contact between humans and wild animals, such bans should in theory minimise the risk of future disease outbreaks. Yet these restrictions neglect their potential impact on rural and Indigenous groups, who often depend on wild produce, particularly meat, fish and insects, as sources of dietary protein, fat and micronutrients.