The authors analyzed 36 animal markets in the United States, including dog breeding, hunting and trapping, livestock auctions, backyard chicken farming, and petting zoos. To assess the level of risk posed by each industry, they conducted interviews with experts and reviewed scientific papers, publicly available data, government regulations, and more. For each industry, they considered 10 factors, including the number of animals involved, the pathogens they are known to carry and the interactions they have with humans, as well as any biosecurity practices and regulations. relevant.
“We just discovered so many things that surprised us,” said Dr. Jamieson, starting with the staggering number of animals used commercially in the United States. The country produces more than 10 billion land animals each year, including more pigs and poultry, which can harbor and transmit influenza, than almost any other country, Linder said. It is also the world’s largest importer of livestock and wildlife, the report said. (Over 220 million live wild animals are imported each year.)
The regulatory landscape, however, is “incoherent and full of holes”, Ms Linder said. Inspections of wildlife imports are erratic and, even when they do take place, they focus on enforcement of conservation regulations rather than disease, she said. No federal agency claims jurisdiction over mink farms, which have become Covid-19 hotspots, and before the pandemic, some states did not know how many of these farms were located within their borders, note the authors.
The findings highlight the need for increased regulation and better public education, Dr Kuchipudi said. Many Americans may not even realize that some of these industries and practices exist, he noted, but “then the risk can affect us all.”
The report is just a starting point, the authors said, and key information – including basic data on the size and location of certain animal industries – remains unknown. (People working in some of these industries did not respond to the authors’ questions, Linder said.) The next step, they said, is to fill in some of these data gaps and conduct more assessments. details of the most risky practices.
“These threats are there,” Ms. Linder said, “whether we turn on the lights and face them or just continue to comfort each other in the dark.”