The COVID-19 coronavirus, which is widely believed to have originated in Wuhan in the Hubei province of China, has brought into focus the global health dangers posed by “wet markets” where wildlife are sold along with other foods for human consumption. Non-governmental organizations such as the World Wide Fund and Humane Society as well as the UN’s Biological Diversity Executive Secretary and the Director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have all called for a global ban on wildlife markets to prevent future pandemics.
To reduce disease risks posed by both legal and illegal wildlife trade, actions have to be taken at different levels. Writing about the role of social marketing in influencing behaviors, Andreasen (2006) affirms that for broad social change to take place, “there must be important changes in the public agenda, partnerships must be formed, significant resources need to be brought to bear, and programs need to be institutionalized and made lasting.”[i] Organizations advocating for wildlife to be removed from markets have to direct their efforts towards influencing upstream actors including governments, communities, and the media as well as midstream influencers such as religious leaders and healthcare providers. [ii] Campaigns will have to be developed to help the public gain new knowledge and beliefs regarding wildlife trade and disease, and to adopt new behavior that serves society’s best interests.
The wicked wildlife trade problem
According to a GlobeScan survey commissioned by the World Wide Fund about illegal and unregulated markets selling wildlife within the context of the COVID-19 global pandemic, 79% of the respondents in countries including Hong Kong, Japan, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam felt that closing these markets would be effective at preventing similar pandemics from occurring in the future. Across all these five countries with active wildlife markets, 93% said that they would support efforts by their governments to close markets selling wild animals.
Because of the outbreak, the link between zoonotic diseases — those transmitted from animals to humans — and wildlife markets has started to draw public attention. Yankelovich (1991) suggests that public’s thinking on social issues progresses through seven…