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Evening Standard comment: Now is the right time to Stop the Wildlife Trade | Life after the lockdown | Brexit vote: four years on

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 23/06/2020 EVENING STANDARD COMMENT
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Today the Evening Standard launches a vital new campaign — it is time to Stop the Wildlife Trade.

We’re calling for an end to markets which sell live animals as part of an industry which, even where it remains legal, is catastrophic for the environment and one of the biggest threats to human health we face. The question is not whether the trade should continue but why, given promises of action, it still takes place at all.

Lax rules and corruption are part of the answer, but they are not an excuse for tolerating the trade now. The coronavirus disaster proves that this is the moment to stop it for good.

As Gregg Tully, executive director of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance, tells us today: “If we can learn anything from Covid-19, it’s that our well-being is connected to wildlife.”

Wild animals and birds are not a commodity to be exploited, but part of the balance of nature. When we disrupt that, we also threaten the system that supports human health and well-being.

The Sars epidemic in 2002 is believed to have begun in bats and then spread through caged wild civet cats sold in markets. The exact source of coronavirus is still unknown, but the best evidence we have suggests it started in so-called wet markets selling live animals in Wuhan, China. The next pandemic to threaten the world may come from a similar source if we do not take action to stop this trade.

If that is not reason enough, the impact of trade on animal welfare and the environment should be.

The trade in ivory has seen elephant populations collapse; the illegal trade in rhino horn has driven this precious species to the brink of extinction.

Live markets selling creatures such as the pangolin, a rare mammal that resembles a reptile, now threaten to wipe it out. Much of this trade is driven by the selfish and false belief that these animals have medicinal properties.

As coronavirus shows, the terrible reality is actually the other way around. That’s why our Stop the Wildlife Trade campaign is joining forces with the Space For Giants charity to protect wildlife and crack down on those who break the law.

The answer lies in education, international co-operation, and drawing on the strong support of the public for change around the world. People in China, just like here, want it stopped. Governments promise action. The trade must end.

Life after the lockdown

Each step of the way out of lockdown will be complex. There may be reverses. The rules will not be easy to understand.

But today’s announcement that much of the entertainment and hospitality industry can return to some sort of operation from early next month is a massive — and very welcome — step forward. It’s not just that the human and economic cost of keeping them shut is huge, but that society needs to find a way to open up while controlling the threat of the virus.

Other countries around the world have shown that it can be done, provided people stay aware of the risks and healthcare systems respond quickly to any sudden outbreaks.

We can do it in Britain, too. It is safe to visit our great museums and galleries, and safe, if rules are followed, to eat out and drink in pubs.

How they cope with the costs of social distancing is another matter. But London is returning to life after lockdown — and the Government is right to be leading the way.

Brexit vote: four years on

Four years ago today the people of Britain voted, narrowly, to leave the European Union.

Since then the country has had two prime ministers, three chancellors and much division, and has still not reached a settled relationship with its European neighbours.

Who knows where Brexit will lead us next?

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