ONLINE WORKSHOP

Animal Markets and Wildlife Trafficking: Anthropological Perspectives

ORGANISERS: FRÉDÉRICKECK, ARNAUD MORVAN AND FELIPE F. VANDER VELDEN

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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Ethnographic Survey

“Social representations of animal diseases: anthropological approaches to pathogens crossing species barriers”, in the journal Parasite, special issue on OneHealth

Authors/Researchers: Frédéric Keck, Nicolas Lainé, Arnaud Morvan and Sandrine Ruhlmann

Debates about emerging infectious diseases often oppose natural conceptions of zoonotic reservoirs with cultural practices bringing humans into contact with animals. This article compares the representations of cross-species pathogens at ontological levels below the opposition between nature and culture. It describes the perceptions of distinctions between interiority and physicality, between wild and domestic, and between sick and dead in three different contexts where human societies manage animal diseases: Australia, Laos and Mongolia. Our article also argues that zoonotic pathogens are one of the entities mobilized by local knowledge to attenuate troubles in ordinary relations with animals, and shows that the conservation of cultural heritage is a tool of mitigation for infectious diseases emerging in animal reservoirs.

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Ethnographic Survey

Ethnographic survey of animal markets and bushmeat in Phnom Penh

Authors/Researchers: arnaud Morvan

As part of the program “Regulating Wetmarkets: Ethnographic Study of the Perception of Zoonotic Risks after the Covid-19 Crisis” (RegWet), this survey will study Asian wetmarkets as places of interspecies interactions, where new viruses possibly emerge. Dr. Morvans’ aim is to understand how SARS-Cov 2 has changed the perception of zoonotic risks in urban areas where consumers can buy wild animals. Cambodia is a place of particular interest because of the presence of a close relative to SARS-Cov 2, recently identified by the Pasteur Institute, circulating among different types of local horseshoe bats (genus Rhinolophus). The ethnographic enquiry will be focusing on the city of Phnom Penh, home of the most important market in Cambodia and where regional food supplies enter an urban setting. The markets’ spatial organisation will be studied in terms of relations between different species, how the animals are put in contact, and how consumers, merchants, and farmers, are interacting with the various species (dead or alive), during the duration of the market. A study of animal and disease perception will be undertaken, considering both medicinal uses and representations as well as biosecurity risks. The movement of animal species between farms or their natural environments, and city markets, will also be explored, with an emphasis on bats. Traditional medicinal practices and local knowledge on animals will be central elements of the research.The research will be undertaken in collaboration with The ZooCov program led by Véronique Chevalier (Cirad) in collaboration with Institut Pasteur Cambodge (IPC). It aims to provide new knowledge on wild meat trade chains in Cambodia, document the diversity of beta-CoVs circulating through these chains, and develop a flexible and integrated early-detection system of viral spill-over events. The program implements sociological, epidemiological and virological surveys in two provinces of Cambodia through direct observations and dedicated questionnaires. The ZooCov and RegWet programs are both founded through ANR flash covid-19 and share the common objective of understanding the link between animal consumption and the emergence of zoonosis.

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Ethnographic Survey

Freshness as a social construct in Chinese markets (Chengdu)

Authors/Researchers: Nan Nan and Tang Yun

As the Covid-19 pandemic leads the Chinese authorities to forbid the sale of wildlife and live poultry in wetmarkets, the construction of the cold chain in China meets ordinary standards of food safety and freshness among Chinese citizens in their daily acts of consumption. “Wetmarkets” – markets where animals are sold alive and which must be cleaned with water regularly, a term invented in Singapore in the 1970’s – are popular in China because they guarantees “freshness”, which is mentioned in recent surveys as the main motivation of customers before low price, proximity and conviviality. It has been estimated that in China’s main cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou), between 30 and 50% of the food is bought in wetmarkets, and this proportion has hardly been reduced in Chinese territories such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore where supermarkets propose “fresh” products. The Chinese term for “fresh” (xinxian) doesn’t mean cold but rather new and savory. To avoid refrigeration in their home, customers in Hong Kong go shopping in these markets 2 to 3 times a week. To avoid long-term transportation of food products, urban planners in Hainan estimate that a wetmarket should serve a population of 20 000 to 30 000 persons in a 2-km radius. Paradoxically, wetmarkets are considered as “fresh” precisely because they lack the cold chain of supermarkets: the production of freshness is delegated to human actors rather than to a standardized machine. In May-June 2021, Nan Nan and Tang Yun are describing the social construction of freshness in daily interactions between customers, retailers, supervisors and urban planners in contemporary Chinese cities, where the pressure to introduce standardized cold chains is increasing. 

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Book publication

Publication of the book Chauves-souris : Rencontres aux frontières entre les espèces, CNRS Editions

Authors/Researchers: Frédéric Keck and Arnaud Morvan

If the Sars-Cov2 virus has placed bats in the spotlight as its animal reservoir, this order of mammals, the most diverse and the most widespread after that of rodents, occupies in the different human cultures a unique position. Bats indeed seem to transgress the symbolic boundaries between diurnal and nocturnal, wild and domestic, high and low. Their unique physiology of flying mammals makes them objects of curiosity for research from mathematics to microbiology, ecology and anthropology.  As bats get closer to human habitats due to environmental changes, the relationships humans build with them play a major role in the preservation and disruption of ecosystem balances. This book, gathering ecologists, virologists and anthropologists, proposes to map the different modes of encounter and attachment between humans and bats, in a context of species extinction and health risks. 

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Ethnographic Survey

Ethnographic surveys of  South Korean markets

Authors/Researchers: Miwon Seo

The mixed presence of live and dead animals is becoming increasingly rare in markets in South Korea. The investigation focused on three markets around Seoul that have experienced since 2010 either a complete closure of their activity (slaughter and sale of meat) or a ban on slaughter in the market. The results of our ethnographic survey in these markets show that the dog meat trade resists biosecurity measures because of its traditional valorization. These measures are imposed by regulatory authorities for reasons of food hygiene criteria, but also cleanliness of the urban space and acceptability of the killing of animals. Invisible slaughter in the city has caused some traders to feel a sense of persecution reinforced by the Covid-19 pandemic, as the government deploys strategies to reduce the number of positive cases both for its national legitimacy and for the model which it claims to defend internationally. Citizen engagement in regulating animal markets then extends their accountability through health measures. Miwon Seo has led this investigation in November-December 2020. 

Book publication

Publication of the book Signaux d’alerte, Desclée de Brouwer Editions

Authors/Researchers: Frédéric Keck

Warning signals are multiplying on ecological disasters. The value of these signals is not governed by the criterion of true or false alarm, nor by the principle of good or bad government, but by the attractiveness of the signal, that is to say its capacity to arouse the attention and interest of those who receive it. Based on a study of the sentinels of pandemics in Asian societies, Frédéric Keck shows that the territories which emit warning signals, such as Hong Kong, Taiwan or Singapore, have relations of competition and collaboration similar to those of birds that compete to warn of the presence of a predator. In this emulation, where countries exchange information to take the fastest measures, a new form of global solidarity and social justice is displayed. To describe this phenomenon, Keck offers a reading of some thinkers of warning signals (Claude Lévi-Strauss, Amotz Zahavi, Anna Tsing); then a history of major health crises for twenty years; finally, an approach to artworks (novels, films, exhibitions), which prepare us for the next crises by making our imaginations work.

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Book publication

Publication of the book The Anthropology of Epidemics

Authors/Researchers: Ann H. Kelly, Frédéric Keck and Christos Lynteris

Over the past decades, infectious disease epidemics have come to increasingly pose major global health challenges to humanity. The Anthropology of Epidemics approaches epidemics as total social phenomena: processes and events which encompass and exercise a transformational impact on social life whilst at the same time functioning as catalysts of shifts and ruptures as regards human/non-human relations. Bearing a particular mark on subject areas and questions which have recently come to shape developments in anthropological thinking, the volume brings epidemics to the forefront of anthropological debate, as an exemplary arena for social scientific study and analysis.

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Book publication

Publication of the book Avian Reservoirs at Duke University Press

Authors/Researchers: Frédéric Keck

After experiencing the SARS outbreak in 2003, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan all invested in various techniques to mitigate future pandemics involving myriad cross-species interactions between humans and birds. In some locations microbiologists allied with veterinarians and birdwatchers to follow the mutations of flu viruses in birds and humans and create preparedness strategies, while in others, public health officials worked toward preventing pandemics by killing thousands of birds. In Avian Reservoirs Frédéric Keck offers a comparative analysis of these responses, tracing how the anticipation of bird flu pandemics has changed relations between birds and humans in China. Drawing on anthropological theory and ethnographic fieldwork, Keck demonstrates that varied strategies dealing with the threat of pandemics—stockpiling vaccines and samples in Taiwan, simulating pandemics in Singapore, and monitoring viruses and disease vectors in Hong Kong—reflect local geopolitical relations to mainland China. In outlining how interactions among pathogens, birds, and humans shape the way people imagine future pandemics, Keck illuminates how interspecies relations are crucial for protecting against such threats.

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Research Project

From knowledge on animals to animals knowledge / DIM 1Health Project

Authors/Researchers: Nicolas Lainé

This project aims to open up the prevention and management of sanitary crises to other forms of knowledge.  In Southeast Asia, and particularly in rural areas, livestock production remains a major activity, faced with many risks. Driven by the demographic pressure and sustained economic growth, the livestock sector has experienced an exponential demand in recent years, which raises many concerns related to the use of veterinary drugs (antibiotic resistance, environmental pollution, presence of residues in food products), but also related to the consequences of deforestation caused by the increase in livestock farming. Faced with these risks, the understanding and control of livestock practices has become a crucial issue in the region.Conducted within small-scale buffalo and pig farms -two species with high economic, social and religious values-, my ethnographies target the local knowledge in the study of the relations between farmers and animals, but also in their relations with the different health actors. The project aims at contributing to the establishment of animal surveillance campaigns that include local knowledge, at reconstructing local veterinary pharmacopoeias and at describing the knowledge possessed by animals that are capable of self-medication.. At the same time, it opens anthropological reflections on the agency of different knowledge regimes (profane/expert) and the power issues they encompass in the co-production of shared human-animal knowledge.

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Research Project

Special issue of Medicine Anthropology Theory, “ Zoonosis: Prospects and challenges for medical anthropology”

Authors/Researchers: Frédéric Keck and Christos Lynteris

This special issue of Medicine Anthropology Theory covers for the first time a range of ethnographic and historical studies on the management of zoonoses in different locations, from plague in India to rabies in Canada passing by MERS-Cov in the Saudi Peninsula or avian influenza in China. Positioned and enriched by concurrent developments in biosecurity studies, critical animal studies, and debates around the notion of the Anthropocene, these studies focus on discourses and practices relating to human-animal relations as sites of medical, epidemiological and public health problematisation, intervention, and contestation.  The introduction of the volume draws a genealogy of the notions of zoonosis, animal reservoir and spillover, and reflects on the ontological and epistemological challenges of working on biopolitical interventions in human/animal relations. 

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Research Project

Social Representations of Pathogens in Laos with elephants / AXA project

Authors/Researchers: Nicolas Lainé

Since the end of the last century, several cases of tuberculosis have been reported in elephants in different institutions worldwide. While the fact is not new, the resurgence and disparity of cases -whether in Western zoos or among captive individuals in Asia- has triggered a global alert. The re-emergence of tuberculosis in pachyderms raises both health concerns and conservation issues. In many Asian elephant range-countries the disease is still not eradicated. Thus, in addition to presenting risk of contamination between humans, the tuberculosis agent can spread to wildlife and produce a new transmission reservoir. In addition to health and environmental issues, there are also economic issues, as in Asia most elephants living in captivity work in park for tourist centers, to where there is a risk of transmitting the bacillus.In Laos, the surveillance campaign conducted by the health and veterinary agencies relied heavily on the prevalence of the disease among mahouts or elephant drivers. However, mahouts were reluctant to play the role of mediators, not only because they did not perceive the risks of transmission between humans and animals, but also because this biosecurity device exacerbated already existing tensions between different forms of knowledge on elephants. Working daily with these animals, they are attentive to their symptoms (weight, vigor) and rely on ethno-veterinary knowledge sometimes constructed with the elephants themselves, notably in the use of medicinal plants. 

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Research Project

Australian Indigenous knowledge, perception of bats and biosecurity in north-east Australia. AXA project and DIM One Health

Authors/Researchers: Arnaud Morvan

This research project, initiated through the AXA research fund and continued with DIM One-Health, investigates the perception of interspecies frontiers, analysing the relations between humans and bats in the context of the Hendra zoonotic disease in north-eastern Australia. The Hendra virus (HeV) is responsible for a highly lethal zoonosis, moving between fruit bats, horses and humans, redefining the relations between these three species. In this configuration bats are designated as reservoirs for emerging infectious diseases, however they are also a keystone protected species that plays a central role in the ecological balance of Australian forests. Based on the anthropology of zoonoses and interspecies studies, this research staged in far north Queensland describes the perceptions of indigenous and non-indigenous groups in close contact with flying-foxes. The perception of distances between humans and animals has an impact on potential contamination. The human-animal proximity in local indigenous medicine, hunting practices and totemic references, reveals a complex entanglement that challenges several key concepts within the biosecurity paradigm.The totemic conception of human / animal relations reverses the view of flying foxes from a potentially pathogenic, to a potentially therapeutic species. For indigenous Australians, pathogens seem to be linked to ancestral beings, their dreaming sites and associated totemic species. Diseases originate from specific locations and move between animals and humans. Considering diseases as a “place” leads to reconsidering pathogens not as fully independent agents but rather as a web of interspecies and ecological relations within a place.The longstanding medicinal use of the host species of HeV tends to change the perception of flying foxes as the origin of the zoonosis. In a larger analysis of interspecies relations, the causality pattern of the disease does not necessarily follow the viral transmission. The causal chain doesn’t stress the initial role of bats in the zoonosis but rather brings to light the environmental disturbance triggered by an introduced animal (horse) to Australian soil, bringing into close proximity domesticated and wild species.   

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Research Project

The politics of animal diseases amongst nomadic herders in Mongolia/ AXA project

Authors/Researchers: Sandrine Rhulmann

Since the fall of the communist regime in 1990, the Mongolian government has set up a centralized system of animal disease surveillance, inherited from the communist period but diminished by the lack of infrastructures, qualified professionals and financial means. On a vast territory (2.5 times the size of France), this system has been supplemented since the beginning of the 2000s by a localized surveillance system, in the forefront of which are the nomadic herders, who take over from the private veterinarians, henceforth too few and too expensive. For the management of contagious animal diseases, such as brucellosis (a bacterial and zoonotic disease, endemic), anthrax (a zoonotic bacterial disease, localized in non-desert provinces, and whose cutaneous form is widespread throughout the country) and foot-and-mouth disease (a non-zoonotic viral disease, chronic and paralyzing the country’s economy), the Mongolians combine different knowledge and techniques,  without opposing them, prioritizing them, or ranking them.In the daily contacts with their domestic animals, the herders detect as soon as possible the first “visible” symptoms on and/or in the body of the contaminated animals. Herders and their herds live in contact with microbes, entities invisible to the naked eye. Some microbes are considered “bad” and they are sometimes sent by angry spiritual entities, such as the master spirits of nature or the wandering souls of the dead. To deal with them, the herders mobilize different systems of care, including local treatments inherited from generation to generation, and simultaneously call upon different specialists: shaman, Buddhist monk, bonesetter, private veterinarian trained in Russia, in Europe, and more recently also in Mongolia. However, some of them hesitate to notify the veterinary authorities of the appearance of symptoms because, for these three highly contagious diseases, the measures put in place are radical and economically heavy. The massive or partial slaughter of the herd and the total or partial vaccination of the animals can lead to the loss or abandonment of the nomadic way of life and subsistence. The Mongolian government has deployed military troops to control human and non-human populations, keep humans in quarantine, and cull domestic and wild animal herds. These measures lead herders to distrust the government and private veterinarians and to value local knowledge and treatment.

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