COVID-19 Prompts Call to Shut Down Live-Animal Markets at Home and Abroad

PETA Launches Initiative to Push WHO to Cut Off Deadly Animal-Borne Diseases at the Source—in Philadelphia and Worldwide

For Immediate Release:
April 2, 2020

Brooke Rossi 202-483-7382


As COVID-19—which originated in a “wet market” (where live and dead animals are sold for human consumption) in Wuhan, China—continues to spread, PETA sent a letter today urging Philadelphia Mayor James Kenney to waste no time in shutting down all live-animal markets in the city and to keep all currently closed markets shuttered for good.

PETA notes that city inspections of local poultry markets have found bloodstains in prep areas, animal waste on the floors, and cages covered with animal waste. Virologists concur that markets where sick and stressed animals are caged in their own waste are breeding grounds for deadly influenza viruses and other diseases that cross the species barrier—and there’s reason to believe that only luck has prevented previous pandemics. PETA has also launched an international petition urging the World Health Organization to call for the permanent closure of live-animal markets worldwide.

“As long as live-animal markets are allowed—whether in Philadelphia; Panjin, China; or Phnom Penh, Cambodia—the next pandemic is almost inevitable,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk, the former chief of Zoonotic Disease Control for the D.C. Commission on Public Health in Washington. “PETA is calling on Mayor Kenney to set an example and protect everyone in the city by shutting down these dangerous disease incubators.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, visit

PETA’s letter to Philadelphia Mayor James Kenney follows.

April 2, 2020

The Honorable James Kenney
Mayor of Philadelphia

Dear Mayor Kenney,

As the country shuts down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s shocking that city officials in Philadelphia are allowing live-animal markets to remain open. Public-health experts believe that COVID-19 originated in a wet market in China, yet it has been business as usual for similar operations in densely populated Philadelphia. On behalf of PETA and our more than 6.5 million members and supporters worldwide, including nearly 23,000 in Philadelphia, we urge you to shut down these dangerous live-animal markets with all due haste and to keep them closed.

Deadly outbreaks—including of avian flu, swine flu, SARS, HIV, Ebola, mad cow disease, and hoof-and-mouth disease—have originated because of the use of animals for food. Live-animal markets are perfect breeding grounds for diseases that can jump from various other species to humans, since stressed, injured, and sickly animals are confined in areas where feces, blood, and offal can lead to contamination. At such markets in Philadelphia, public-health officials have reported cages covered with animal feces and urine, bloodstains in prep areas, unsanitary shelters, and birds who lacked access to water or food.

As long as live-animal markets operate, the human population will be at risk. Yes, social distancing can help stop the spread of COVID-19, but stopping deadly diseases at their source is a lifesaving necessity that we all understand now.

Please, help spare animals’ lives and protect the health and safety of Philadelphians as well as that of visitors from around the world by shutting down live-animal markets immediately.


Ingrid Newkirk


People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

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