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Animal Markets and Wildlife Trafficking: Anthropological Perspectives



The Covid-19 pandemic has raised suspicions overChinese « wet markets » as the potential origin of SARS-Cov2, largely because of the zoonotic risks of putting wild animals such as bats or pangolins in contact with domesticated or semi-domesticated species like racoon dogs, in a human environment. The China WildlifeProtection Association showed that in 21 Chinese cities, 50% of restaurants sell wild animal products and 46% of inhabitants have eaten game. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that 25% of bush meat consumed in Beijing between 2012 and 2016 are bought online. If wildlife farming and selling are crucial problems in China due to the use of animal body parts in traditional markets, they reveal global dimensions of wildlife trafficking, and at the same time, they contrast with Western understandings of the division between wildlife and livestock, or between markets where animals are sold as meat and zoological parks where they can be seen alive. Anthropological comparisons are thus necessary to understand what an animal market is and who the actors in charge of managing and regulating the traffic from rural areas to farms and markets are. Global controversies on zoonotic risks and animal welfare should be placed within local discussions around which animals are considered as protected wildlife, living commodities used as meat, pharmaceutical products, handicrafts or ornaments. The conference will gather anthropologists who work in different fields across the world and cast social issues around animal markets in such a way that the dialogue with wildlife associations becomes fruitful.


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