A New Campaign Sheds Light on the Threats of Wild Meat Consumption

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An innovative new campaign launched by WWF puts the spotlight on two serious threats – risks to public health and risks to nature – as the organization works to reduce the consumption of wild meat in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.  

The three countries have observed high levels of wild meat consumption, which often brings wild mammals and birds into the marketplace and into restaurants. The majority of all emerging infectious diseases originated from animals and were transferred to humans.

Wildlife trafficking contributes to the catastrophe, posing a grave danger not only to the environment and our wildlife heritage, but to human health and security.

“Our campaign aims to help urban and provincial consumers make changes in their wild meat consumption,” said Anita Bousa, Endangered Species Manager, WWF-Laos office.

“The campaign is based on our research into local diners’ motivations for eating wild meat – often because they think it’s a delicacy, or that it connects them to tradition, or for perceived health benefits. By taking a very targeted approach with these consumers, we hope they decide it’s not worth the risk to bring wild animals into their lives, which puts us all at risk of disease,” she added.

Serious outbreaks, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), swine flu (H1N1), avian flu (H5N1), COVID-19, and Monkeypox are all zoonotic diseases, meaning they were transmitted from animals to humans.

Animals are not to blame for these outbreaks – in fact, most of the pathogens they carry pose very little threat to people if animals are left in the wild. The cause is instead high-risk human activities that encroach into wild places and lead to close interactions between different wildlife species and humans. Particularly risky behaviors are poaching, transporting, trading, processing, and eating wild animals.

In collaboration with Salavanh and Sekong Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office, our campaign messaging will be rolled out both online and offline in creative ways designed to reach wild meat eaters and undermine their motivations for consuming, with a focus in Sekong and Salavanh provinces, where animals like civets, monkeys, and pangolins are commonly consumed for their meat.

Mr. Keophayline Ngonephetsy, Sekong provincial coordinator, Xesap National Protected Area added, “Xesap National Protected Area with the guidance from Department of Agriculture and Forestry of Sekong and Salavanh provinces, along with related authorities in both provinces, are keen to tackle wild meat consumption, both to reduce the risk posed by zoonotic diseases to our people and to conserve our local wildlife and natural environment.”

Consumption of wild meat in Laos heavily threatens the survival of wildlife populations, fuels transboundary and domestic wildlife crime, and significantly increases the risk of zoonotic spillover from animals to people. Most consumers are unaware of the potential risk they are exposing themselves, their loved ones, and society to when they purchase wild meat.

Outbreaks, epidemics, or even pandemics are emerging with increasing frequency nowadays given the closer and more frequent contact between humans and wildlife, with an estimated 75% of new human diseases having come from animals in the last 30 years.

Jan Vertefeuille, senior advisor for advocacy at WWF-US informed, “While we may not be able to pinpoint the exact spot where the next outbreak is going to happen, we are able to identify behaviors, like eating wild meat, that increase the risk of zoonotic spillover.”

“We hope consumers will join us to change their behavior and make wild meat consumption socially unacceptable. Reducing risky activities like this is the best way to try to prevent another pandemic,” he added.