WRITTEN BY: Jared Kukura
There is a clear divide in the conservation world. Despite most organisations agreeing wildlife trade caused the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no consensus on the path forward.
An open letter released by the Lion Coalition called on the World Health Organisation (WHO) to “release a formal position statement containing clear advice to governments to institute comprehensive and rigorously enforced bans on live wildlife markets and to close down the commercial wildlife trade which poses a risk to public health.”
However, a rebuttal in the form of another open letter addressed to the WHO and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) cautioned against banning wildlife trade. This letter, published by Resource Africa, stated “It is vital that any actions taken are appropriate and lead to socially just outcomes which contribute to – not detract from – the development of economically resilient livelihoods for those hundreds of millions of the world’s most vulnerable who depend on wild resources for their survival.”
On the surface, it sounds like the position taken by Resource Africa’s letter is an appropriate middle ground. They warn not to imperil those impacted most by the current pandemic with a solution that makes their lives even worse. However, the stance taken by the Resource Africa letter fails to grasp a problem inherent in today’s world, economic growth.
Economic growth is not compatible with the conservation of biodiversity. Additionally, people living in rural communities are most at risk of adverse impacts from biodiversity loss and it is clear economic growth is not the answer for improving rural livelihoods.
Promoting wildlife trade as an economic benefit does a disservice to those hundreds of millions of vulnerable people the Resource Africa letter claims to want to help. The Lion Coalition letter has the correct position, we must ban wildlife trade to protect biodiversity and those living in rural communities all around the globe.