The WHO Is Right To Reject Calls To Ban So-Called 'Wet Markets'

Wet markets should be made safer, not driven underground.


Last week the World Health Organization, which is housed within the United Nations, recommended that governments around the world not shut down markets that sell live animals alongside meat, produce, and other foodstuffs.

These so-called "wet markets," named because they're markets and wet, appear today to be an easy target. After all, evidence suggests the COVID-19 pandemic may have emerged at a wet market in Wuhan, China, that sold live animals alongside meat, vegetables, and other foods.

But these markets are vitally important to people throughout much of the world. And your perception of them and their merits just might be a misperception.

As Quartz notes, these markets, which often operate outdoors, are just common "places where one usually buys groceries," and may differ little or at all from a typical farmers market. "If you have ever been to a shopping area where butchers and grocers sell fresh [meat and] produce straight from the farm, then you have been to something that would, in some parts of the world, be called a wet market," a pair of CNN writers explained last month. I've been to such places—in countries such as Bolivia, Mexico, Tahiti, Curacao, Russia, Spain, and Portugal, and in American cities such as Cleveland, Philadelphia, Seattle, Des Moines, San Francisco, and New York.

Instead of banning wet markets, key WHO leaders are calling instead for better regulation to make them safer for consumers.

"WHO food safety and animal diseases expert Peter Ben Embarek said live animal markets are critical to providing food and livelihoods for millions of people globally and that authorities should focus on improving them rather than outlawing them—even though they can sometimes spark epidemics in humans," the AP reports. 

"WHO's position is that when these markets are allowed to reopen it should only be on the condition that they conform to stringent food safety and hygiene standards," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last week, after urging countries in April to close the markets temporarily. 

Embarek also suggested several improvements be made to the markets—such as separating live animals from meat and improving waste management practices—which are a key cog in the food chain for many in the developing world.

"They provide fresh and affordable food for millions," Embarek said. "They can be made safe."

Others outside the WHO agree with Embarek and Ghebreyesus.

David Fickling, writing at Bloomberg Quint last month, called on critics to "put the outrage [over wet markets] on pause," noting their importance to many consumers in the developing world. "[F]ar from being cesspits of disease, wet markets do a good job of providing households with clean, fresh produce."

"[B]lanket bans are unlikely to benefit people or wildlife, and are unfeasible because they overlook the complexity of the wildlife trade," four Oxford scholars wrote in a piece that appeared last month in The Conversation. "A more appropriate response would be to improve wildlife trade regulation with a direct focus on human health… especially those involving live animals."

But many others disagree, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, who as head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is helping to coordinate the Trump administration's reaction to the pandemic. "I think we should shut down those things right away," Fauci said last month during a conversation about wet markets.

Interesting bedfellows—including PETA, National Review, Bryan Adams, and celebrity gossip site TMZ—have also agreed with Fauci, as do some of Ghebreyesus's and Embarek's own U.N. colleagues. Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, of the U.N.'s Convention on Biological Diversity, said last month that countries should consider banning wet markets.

"It would be good to ban the live animal markets as China has done," she said. But Mrema also sounds a note of caution. "But we should also remember you have communities, particularly from low-income rural areas, particularly in Africa, which are dependent on wild animals to sustain the livelihoods of millions of people."

Is it possible, as the WHO's Embarek claims, both to keep wet markets open for the buyers and sellers who rely on them and ensure the markets don't become the source of the next pandemic? Probably, yes.

I join with the WHO and others in calling for wet markets to remain open (or, as the case may be, to reopen). I also join them in calling for improved market regulation; more widespread hygiene and food-safety training; separating live animals from meat; greater species domestication; banning the sale of diseased or endangered animals (along with some wild and exotic animals); and wider monitoring of both market practices and outcomes.

And to those calling for wet markets to be banned, I ask sincerely that you look around yourself. If placing living animals next to dead ones should be banned, then consider that slaughterhouses—which turn live animals into the meat Americans eat—are home to living and dead animals. Most seafood markets sell live shellfish alongside dead fish. Pet stores sell both living animals and the food they eat. Most farms double as homes, and feature both live animals and their meat. Walmart sold a full array of groceries and live pet fish until discontinuing the latter only last year. You can buy live chickens at some U.S. farmers markets. I could go on. 

Placing live animals in close proximity to meat, produce, and other foods is common. It can be dangerous, though it need not be. Wet markets can be both regulated and safe. Banning them would only drive them underground, which would make them unregulated and unsafe and—good intentions be damned—just make the next pandemic much more likely.

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  1. Wet markets should be combined with pet stores! AND with a diner as well!

    Cat’s in the Kettle at the Peking Moon

    1. Great scene in Micheal Moore’s (I know) film, Roger and Me, with the road-side rabbit vendor’s advertising slogan: “Pets or Meat”.

      1. Cats were eaten in Europe during WW II when people were starving. To kinda hide what we’re eating, we call it “pork” not “pig meat”, “beef” not “cow meat”, “venison” not “Bambi”, and so on.

        Cats were known as “roof rabbits” for this same reason! Humorous story here… (Also sad for cat-lovers like me!)
        ‘Good Buddy’ Goes For Good Purpose
        World War II – Prisoners of War – Stalag Luft I
        A collection of stories, photos, art and information on Stalag Luft I

        1. A dog is a fine meal.

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          2. SQRSLY prefers dog shit. He said so.

        2. To kinda hide what we’re eating

          Pig/swine, cow/ox, sheep were what the Anglo-Saxon peasant farmer called his livestock and his dinner. The Norman aristocracy ruling England called their dinner after the Old French words for the same animals, porc=pork, buef=beef, mouton=mutton.

          So we use the peasant’s names when their in the barnyard, and the aristocrat’s when they’re on the plate, but nobody’s hiding anything.

          1. And why do we call human-meat “long pig”, then?

            1. So you’re admitting you eat shit AND people? You’re more insane than I thought!

            2. “We” don’t, or at least most normal people don’t unless they’re being snarky. You I’m not sure about.

              Certain Melanesian tribes called human flesh “long pork”. They used that euphemism because even though it was part of their vendettas, they knew cannibalism was wrong… unlike CNN journalists.

            Why Does A Cow Become Beef?

            From there…

            Distinguishing between animal and meat provides some psychologically reassuring distance between the eater and the once-living thing that’s been slaughtered. And, even though chicken meat is chicken, words like tenders and nuggets help soften the reality of eating the dead.


            …researchers (centuries later) confirmed that there’s a human drive to do so. In 2016, Oslo University’s Institute of Psychology showed that words like beef and pork “created emotional distance between consumers and the animals they were preparing to eat.” Cow and pig, on the other hand, brought participants closer to the reality of the “face on the plate.”

            Do you want to eat Bessie? Or beef?

            1. The part you quote is just the writers speculation.
              Most languages don’t make a distinction, and it’s only present in English because of Norman cultural suppression. Not delicacy.

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  2. Dollars to doughnuts the WHO made the call solely because the CCP told them to, and not from any analysis of the situation or commitment to principles of any sort.

    1. Anything WHO or Communists do or say is suspect; combine the two, and it’s time to start throwing salt.

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    2. How long until WHO also rejects whole-sale shelter in place edicts because of negative impacts on jobs?

  3. Wet markets can be both regulated and safe.

    Go home, Linnekin, you’re drunk. Or did you take a severe blow to the head and forget everything you’ve ever written here about how stupid and costly and counter-productive and just plain wrong government regulation tends to be with regards to people’s food choices? Wet markets are being regulated – they’re being banned. Whining that that’s not what you meant by “regulation”, well, welcome to Planet Earth. We could have told you that asking the foxes to guard the hen house is a really bad idea if you’re a chicken.

    1. My worry is that China will go “okay we’ll have the markets adopt stricter safety standards” and they will crack down on places that don’t adopt these standards for maybe 6-12 months. Then once people have stopped paying attention things will quietly go back to the way they were.

      And in the meantime the media will gas light us by telling us how China stepped up and took responsibility for their role in all this.

    2. I have yet to get a disease by french kissing wild bats I find outdoors.

  4. I think people want them banned because China has had years to make them safer and they really haven’t done that. I don’t think this is the first time we’ve seen a disease come from these kinds of markets.

    I would think most who want them banned would also be fine with them reopening under stricter safety standards. What shouldn’t happen is that they are allowed to open while they transition to better safety standards.

    1. Come on, one more generation of Burger King and Disney Productions will make wet market foods a rare phenomenon in China. Right now, they are in the transition from back woods hillbillies (with sudden pocket money) to industrialized consumers.

      1. Funny you should mention that (I think you are on to something). I have always wondered about fiction where a primitive society is suddenly modernized by contact with a more modern society. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is a fine example. Aside from the technological problems (you can’t build enough state-of-the-art factories to build enough state-of-the-art products to modernize an entire society in just a few years), educational problems (you can’t teach modern STEM to all kids all at once, let alone all adults), and specialization problems (primitive societies can’t support the population density needed for all those specialist jobs), people need time to adjust to technological changes, even if they don’t have cronies and elites gaming the system in their favor to maintain the status quo.

        1. Right but you eat your own shit and post here constantly with dozens of sockpuppets because I’ve outed you and you have no life.

  5. From the way it is used in the media, I had the impression that the term “wet market” meant specifically places that sell live animals, not produce or other things. (With “wet” perhaps referring to blood, as in that euphemism one sometimes sees in spy novels, “wet operations”.) Perhaps specifically places selling wild animals. Live (domesticated) animals are certainly sold in the U.S., at places like the “Vivero” shown in the picture. Wild animals, not so much, I think, except for the shellfish that were mentioned. (People select live lobsters to be killed and cooked in some of the most expensive restaurants.) But it’s funny how the same combination of words can mean different things in different cultures. “Dry goods” in America are not “dry goods” in China.

    1. That’s the way I understand it: the problem with wet markets is not selling live animals for immediate butchery, it is butchering on the spot instead of relatively isolated rooms meant for butchering which can contain the liquids, guts, and other indesiridata, to avoid contaminating public streets.

      I have very little real idea of how they operate. This is just vague ideas from vague descriptions.

      1. Right but you eat your own shit and post here constantly with dozens of sockpuppets because I’ve outed you and you have no life

    2. It’s amazing how ignorant this author is. Yes indeed they are called wet markets BECAUSE THE FLOOR IS KEPT WET TO WASH AWAY BLOOD AND ENTRAILS FROM LIVE BUTCHERING.

      which is why this statement…
      “…and in American cities such as Cleveland, Philadelphia, Seattle, Des Moines, San Francisco, and New York.”

      Is a complete fucking lie. Live butchering is not legal at farmers markets in America. Everything sold in American farmers markets must be butchered off site. I’ve been to both the west side market in Cleveland, where all butchering happens in the basement in designated rooms, or in most cases at a larger off-site facility the vendor owns. And to the shaker heights farmers market where everything is required to be pre packaged or frozen before it is sold on site.

      The issue in wet markets is cross contamination from live animals, or recently butchered ones, onto other products and surfaces. That vector does not exist at American farmers markets because there is no live butchering on site. It’s completely retarded to suggest otherwise.

      1. Really? What do you call it when they fillet the live bass you buy?

        At least they don’t sell aquarium disinfectants like chloroquine over the fish counter:

        1. Where do they do the fileting? Oh, on a designated surface in a designated area that is regulated by the FDA AND local health authorities, and also separate from their vending area. And where do they discard the waste? Oh, in a designated receptacle, not the floor…

          Even the open air pikes place seafood market in Seattle has a designated preparation area that is regulated by multiple health authorities and follows the same laws as a restaurant, and no waste is discarded onto the floor.

          So what was your point again retard? Oh you didn’t have one you’re just a dumbass…

  6. Wet markets should be regulated by a trustworthy entity, like the Chinese government. Got it.

    I favor free trade when opposing governments aren’t using it as a weapon. Hell, WWII was bad economics; we ‘wasted’ incredible amounts of wealth by converting it into munitions and killing Japanese and Germans. We weren’t given much of a choice in the matter.

    1. I would be surprised if cannibalism isn’t accidentally common in China. Between the wet markets and the industrial accidents, China is real life version of “Final Destination”.

      1. “accidentally common”

        How about purposefully common?
        They eat ground up human babies and fetuses and were caught exporting them to Korea.

        They’ve blown right by regular cannibalism and went straight to super.

        1. Holy fucking shit.

          Amazing I’ve not heard this mentioned before now, on an eight year old report. I’m surprised it got published in the first place.

  7. One of the reasons the drug war didn’t work was because Americans wouldn’t tolerate the expense or the cost of the kinds of measures that were necessary. There were also moral considerations. It wasn’t enough to incarcerate more people in the United States than the rest of the world combined. We needed to go further–and no way Americans were willing to go further than that, not when the alternative of legalization was so much better.

    I’m not sure that kind of thinking applies to governments like China’s, which is willing to go so far as to reeducate and destroy the Uyghur culture through forced confinement, brain washing, and massive surveillance. I doubt the Chinese government can continue forever the way it’s presently constituted, and if hundreds of millions of newly middle class Chinese workers stay unemployed for long because of the ongoing worldwide recession, don’t be surprised if the streets of Beijing start looking like the recent protest movement in Hong Kong.

    That being said, don’t assume that it’s impossible for the Chinese government to shut down wet markets. The sociopaths that run that authoritarian government are capable of doing all sorts of things. Authoritarian governments have managed to accomplish similar undesirable and overly expensive goals throughout history. Can you implement a one-child policy? Yes, you can! You can ban religions and practically exterminate them. We may see Islam virtually disappear in Xinjiang over a couple of generations.

    Wet markets may be a breeze by way of comparison. Of course they can get rid of wet markets. The question is whether they should violate people’s rights.

  8. This is a delicate matter.
    One factor is that the UN, in particular the WHO, is always wrong.
    The other is that we cannot actually make the Communist Chinese do anything at all.

  9. A couple of observations. The fact that the WHO is suggesting no banning but regulation is an immediate trigger for some to oppose the idea rather than consider it on merit. Second in living in a culture with easy access to protein makes it difficult to understand people living without that access. So want to get rid of wet markets, increase access to protein, until then regulate them carefully.

    1. They have vast access to protein fuckwit. Maybe you should read something before you stupid everywhere.

    2. They have access to protein. The Chinese are just too fucking retarded to develop sustainable farming practices so their supply always falls short of demand. And theyve ruined much of their groundwater so their feed, and thus animals, are full of contaminants and heavy metals. Not to mention all of chinas retarded bans on imported meat not allowing them to purchase the difference.

      It isn’t anyones fault starving Chinese people resort to bush meat except the Chinese government.

      1. You will note the article said China was banning wet markets, the concern is other less well developed nations. There are some places where protein is hard to come by and people will eat any number of wild species to get it. As a kid I laughed at the “Beverly Hillybillies” where possum was always a main course. But this can be a reality for people who can not go to a supermarket and get a package of hamburger.

        1. The issue isnt eating wild species. Allow your citizens to own firearms and hunt for themselves like we have for our entire human history.

          The issue is bringing multiple wild species into close contact with each other AND high concentrations of humans. And then compounding it by releasing fluids and bodily waste of those multiple species into a confined space with almost no sanitation.

    3. You might be my favorite poster to laugh at. You have very little idea what’s going on.

  10. Fuck China.

    China is commie. The quicker we can understand this the quicker we can treat them as such.

    Today the Chinese ambassador to Canada was playing ‘China is a victim of disinformation’ card.

    They’re not going to take responsibility for the damage they inflicted on the world. This is a backward CCP that cheats, steals and lies, with an atrocious human and animal rights record and a despicable social credit system. So don’t waste time wondering how they should be regulated because if you think they’ll do shit for the benefit of the world you’re a useful idiot.

    Time to ween off that commie tit.

    Fuck. China.

  11. Holy mother of all beta-male bullshit.

    100k US citizens were just murdered by a virus that had one of two possible origins. Wet markets being one of those two.

    Fine here is your answer. “Okay, you can keep your 4th world 18th century wet markets. And none of your disease carrying subjects are ever allowed to leave mainland China.”

    F’ing hell. What will it take for a Reason staffer to grow some balls and advocate for protecting the society they come from, instead of favoring a third world dictatorship?

    1. That China forbade Wuhan residents from travelling WITHIN China but didn’t stop them going overseas speaks volumes.

      1. I haven’t found good evidence of this yet. Could you provide source?

  12. This is so tedious.

    Whatever the term for “wet market” is in Chinese, its only entering the English vocabulary to refer to something we need a word for. If we’re talking about markets that only sell fresh meat and vegetables, and perhaps some live animals, there are already English words for this.

    Today, we’d just say “farmer’s market.” Historically, even though we have the term “dry goods”, “dry grocer”, and “dry market”, the alternative to this was “green goods”, “green grocer” and “green market” — and yes, green grocers were known for selling fresh meats as well as produce. The reason the term “green grocer” was chosen was because “wet grocer” sounds gross.

    At any rate, if all China ever had was markets that meet Western standards, we’d use a standard word in the English language.

    Well they don’t, and that’s why a new English term is entering our vocabulary. Whether or not this is technically correct is kind of a moot issue, and journals that obsess over this sound like pedants.

    1. (Btw “wet grocer” was actually used for a period to refer to liquor sellers)

    2. “Wet market” is just an English word for what Americans typically call a “farmer’s market”. It was introduced by Hong Kong English. That’s why we have two terms now for the same thing. This isn’t the first or last time this will happen in the English language.

      1. Sure, it might be used in Hong Kong English, I don’t know. From what I gather, its a translation of the Chinese term.

        But the point was that if the markets in China met Western standards, we’d just be using the traditional English terms and the term “wet market” would have never been picked up. The reason its been picked up is because we needed a new term.



  13. LOL @ anyone advocating for the ban of “wet markets”. Really? You want to ban your local farmer’s markets? Just because some wet markets are dirty does not mean all of them are.

    1. You wouldn’t happen to have a list of all the 21st century global pandemics that originated in U.S. farmer’s markets would you?

    2. See my above post fucktard. A farmers market in America is not a wet market. Live butchering does not happen at point of sale in America. If there is live butchering, its done in a separate designated prep area that is regulated by the FDA AND several local health and agricultural authorities.

      As ive noted, butchering at west side market in Cleveland happens in designated prep areas in the basement, and at the pikes place market in Seattle it happens in a designated prep counter that is equipped with sinks and all the sanitation of a commercial kitchen. And all are regulated by multiple health authorities. You will literally never find a wet market in America and you will never walk through puddles of animal blood and hose water in any American farmers market.

  14. Why does WHO still have a spot in this debate? Anything they say should be ignored.

    1. It’s official, we are now pussies.
      Just like straw bans, we are using kids for “scientific “ inspiration.

  15. the author agrees with the boiling, alive, barbecuing alive, cutting off the legs off alive, hanging and beating alive of millions of dogs and cats. this has nothing to do with food shortage , identity, culture.
    this is done by dehumanized people.
    they also cage bears their whole live for the bile. The animals are cut open without anesthesia to milk the bile.They slaughter millions millions of donkeys they buy all overthrew world because the populations in China are almost extinct. those primitive basterds still believe, in the 21st century that bile and ejiao have healing powers. Eating dogs protects against covid-19. powers. The corrupt top of the WHO, living in fancy villa’s in Genève
    allows this because you don’t bite the hands that feeds you. Linnikin wrote a book with this title. He has never visit a wet market otherwise he didn’t defend this cruelty.

    1. Assumes facts not in evidence.

      1. Not sure how much of it is true, but I’ve seen video of a dog getting cooked alive in a giant pot. Might have been posted here? Could’ve been faked.

        But it’s some sort of evidence.

  16. Stupid poor people! Why don’t they just buy their groceries at a store? LMAO. The world government should just like, build everyone a Whole Foods. That’s, like, totes #HumanRights.

    1. Or, let them own weapons and hunt for themselves.

      Also, not allowing dumping if textile and industrial waste into water supplies would allow more fishing too.

      But that’s not happening considering the yellow river is so poluted and poorly irritated it doesn’t even have enough flow to reach the ocean on over 160 days of the year…

    2. It would be so much easier if nobody were farmers and everyone just got their food from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s like decent, civilized, city dwellers. What?

  17. The malaproply named ‘reason’ is calling for more government regulation? Guess it just goes to show that it depends on whose bat gets eaten.

  18. Wet markets could *in theory* be regulated to sufficiently high safety standards.

    There’s just no way that’s going to occur in practice. Even the NYC wet markets just selling chickens/ducks are repulsive cesspits of blood, guts, urine, and feces everywhere with animals crammed in so tight they can barely move.

    And you’re really going to make the argument China and 3rd world shitholes where they’re also selling a wide variety of exotic animals can regulate these markets to standards good enough to prevent disease? That’s naive at best, deliberately false propaganda at worst.

    That fantasy world doesn’t exist.

    1. But there’s a very important distinction here. There are no public wet markets in nyc. What you are referring to are private businesses and butcher shops that the media has recently decided to brand “wet markets”. They are all regulated by the FDA and various state and local health authorities. And they all use designated prep areas to do their butchering which a regulated like restaurant kitchens. As any reading on them will show, several in nyc have been cited for improper practices and handling. Making my point that they are regulated. If these poor conditions exist in businesses in new York its not because its legal, but because nyc has code enforcement issues.

      1. I heard there’s no public strip clubs in NYC either, just private businesses where people take off their clothes for money.

        But anyway that’s why I was making the practice vs. theory distinction.

        If the extreme nanny government in NYC can’t enforce even the code that’s on the books, what chance does the rest of the world have?

  19. I’m normally not one for banning things, but wet markets are an exception. They are nauseating disease factories.

  20. We should really just embargo any country that eats cats, dogs, or has slaves. Not because we don’t want to get sick or because it is good for our economy. But because eating cats and dogs is wrong, and so is slavery. There are people still upset about slavery in the U.S. from 200 years ago, yet we have a substantial amount of our goods that come from a country that still practices slavery. And, in that country, cruelty toward our animal friends, cats and dogs, is protected. It is outrageous.

  21. Stupid people! Why don’t they just buy their groceries at a store? Thats it . Instead of arguing, Learn and enhance a new skill in Lockdown days which wil add some value to your presence on this earth. I am learning about web development now days,here is my first website –


  22. Until the method of transfer is determined there is no regulation that can be applied. But that never stoped regulators before. How do you regulate an unkno

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