The Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council submitted a petition for rule-making to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and submitted a similar petition to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ban trade in wild mammals and birds to and from the U.S.
The petitions request prohibitions on the importation (and possibly exportation) of wildlife under a precautionary principle, to prevent the outbreak of another zoonotic disease that could result in a pandemic. Despite the lack of evidence of an intermediary animal species that spread SARS-CoV-2 from bats to people, the petitions base their requests for prohibitions based, in part, on the spread of COVID-19. The spread of COVID-19 has been largely based on spread from and between people, so reliance on this pathogen is misplaced. In fact, except for spread on mink farms, believed to have started as a reverse zoonosis (spread from people to animals), AVMA and international and federal animal health officials have advised that animals are not a known source of the spread of SARS-CoV-2 to people.
The following quote from the petitions, citing to other sources, is devoid of evidence
‘1.7 million currently undiscovered viruses are thought to exist in mammal and avian hosts’ of which ‘631,000-827,000 could have the ability to infect humans.’
CDC Petition, at page 6 (citing IPBES (2020) Workshop Report on Biodiversity and Pandemics of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) (emphasis added).
If undiscovered, how can the number of these viruses be quantified or qualified?
The reliance on “One Health” and prohibitions on animal importation, ownership and use based on concerns about zoonotic diseases is not limited to these petitions. Many animal rights organizations are relying on similar theories to advance their agendas.
Of course, there are a number of zoonotic diseases in wildlife residing in the United States. The best method of housing to protect livestock from exposure to such potentially-infected wildlife, is to employ indoor housing with rigorous biosecurity controls. Many animal rights organizations are opposed to those biosecure housing facilities, and instead, some have advanced proposals to prohibit the use of caging to house livestock, at least in the European Union.
Instead of overarching prohibitions, I propose that federal and state laws continue to permit importation and exportation of all animals, where such conduct is based on the identification of species and location-based risks and after implementations of reasonable and science-based testing where appropriate.