As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads around the world, China has outlawed the hunting and consumption of all terrestrial wild animals. The ban is based on the theory that the virus spread from an animal species – most likely a pangolin or bat – to people in a market in Wuhan. If a wildlife hunting ban were adopted worldwide, millions of people, often Indigenous or rural, who depend on wild meat for their dietary protein, fat and micronutrients, would face the risk of malnutrition. Wet markets in cities, wildlife trafficking and trade should be stopped, but instead of demonizing bats, primates, pangolins and other mammals, it is important to consider that dietary options in urban settings are generally much more diverse than for subsistence hunters living in forested areas. Where no alternative source of protein exists, people should be allowed to continue consuming wild meat, but it should be banned in locations where alternative sources of protein exist. CIFOR works with partners to understand the implications of the interactions between wild animals, humans and forested landscapes. Such diseases as COVID-19 and Ebola, which are transmitted from animals to humans and then from person to person, are exacerbated by deforestation and forest degradation.
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