Post Mortem

Wet market and pandemic: Re-examining our markets

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 5/22/2020 1:22:32 PM IST

 (From previous issue)

3. H1N1 (Swine flu). We are no stranger to swine flu which has now become a seasonal flu. It was first detected in the United States in 2009. This influenza virus is believed to have resulted from crossover of gene segments between human and avian influenza viruses.

4. Nipah virus. El Nino related draught and anthropogenic forest fires in Indonesia during 1997-1998 resulted in fruiting failure of forest trees forcing forest fruit bats to migrate towards cultivated farm and pig farms. 

This has caused contamination and infection of the farm animals by the virus which is then transmitted to humans through contact. Millions of pigs were euthanized following the outbreak of Nipah virus in Malaysia in 1999.

The list can go on but the point is made on the danger of contracting infectious disease from animals to humans. Though food habit and consumption pattern has changed with the change of socio-economic condition in our society, our love of consuming the meat of wild animals and the practice of procuring and handling such food item has hardly changed. No meaningful economic contribution is made by indulging in such habit but it only fuels the indiscriminate hunting of already disappearing wildlife population out of existence.

While hunting and selling wild animals may provide a means of seasonal income to some but that is not a justification for such practice to continue. 

It remains a source of seasonal income because there is demand for it. Hunting and consuming wild animals is considered as a recreational activity where people from towns and cities go to villages seeking that excitement. We need to let go of such behaviour that exist just for the sake of fun and excitement. There are ways to socialize with our peer group in the village without killing wild animals and we are certainly not living in an era where we have to gift wild animals to show our affection. Similarly, our babies will grow up just fine without having the flying squirrel soup.With the acute lack of healthcare infrastructure in our state any outbreak of infectious disease would be deadly. Time has changed and hunting and consuming wild animals is no longer a necessity but a cruel luxury, a luxury we can afford to do without.

There is a need to re-examine our culinary habit from both conservation and public health stand point. Conservation efforts and bringing hygienic condition to our markets can be effectively realized only when the public become intolerant towards such unhygienic practice. In a single butcher shop there are probably more flies than the entire human population of Nagaland! How deep should the puddle be and how strong should the stench be until we call it unhygienic?Speaking of bringing change I am reminded of our state government. How long should our government keep its head buried under the sand? Is our government incapable of bringing any proactive change?


Imti Ozukum, 

New Delhi


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