A group of animal rights bodies has urged the central government to stop dog and cat meat trade saying it is the "perfect breeding ground" for another public health disaster after the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In a joint letter to Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, four organizations - the Humane Society International/India, People for Animals, JBF (India) Trust and Pawsome also requested him to permanently shut down unhygienic cat and dog meat markets amid growing global concern about zoonotic diseases and public health danger zones.
Zoonotic diseases are those that can be transmitted from animals to people. Rabies, trichinosis, typhus and anthrax are such diseases.
In parts of India, in spite of it being illegal, it is not unusual to see dogs being slaughtered alongside other species such as chickens and ducks and wildlife animals, the Humane Society International/India said in a release on Sunday.
"The civil society has united in a collective response to the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, including calls to
close wildlife markets that can act as a petri dish for zoonotic diseases.
"Within that context, it is only responsible for governments across Asia, including India, to also tackle the dog and cat meat trades," the release quoted Humane Society's managing director Alokparna Sengupta as saying.
While dog meat trade may not be directly connected to COVID-19, it undoubtedly poses human health risks such as the spread of trichinosis, cholera and rabies that kill tens of thousands of people every year, Sengupta said.
Dogs and cats are often traded and slaughtered along with wild animals who are the focus of the coronavirus concern, the release said.
New pathogens could enter humans in various ways a dog trader wounded during the slaughter, a consumer eating cross-contaminated dog meat bought at a nearby stall, or a tourist breathing in microscopic blood droplets as they sight-see in the market, Sengupta said.
"We have witnessed hundreds of dogs at a time crammed onto trucks, buses and driven for hours and even days across states and even international borders to unhygienic slaughterhouses and markets. This trade is not only brutal but also the perfect breeding ground for the next serious public health disaster," he said.
Dog and cat meats are consumed in China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Philippines, besides India, according to the release.