Street stalls in Indonesia are crammed with slaughtered animals, more than a year after markets in China were identified as a likely source of Covid.
Experts say that the filthy conditions, contaminated with blood and faeces, where animals are sold as exotic pets or butchered for food, are a “ticking time bomb” for new pandemics.
Chinese authorities shut down similar markets after it is understood coronavirus jumped from animals to humans at a “wet” market in Wuhan.
A pangolin infected by bats is widely believed to be the source.
Killer diseases SARS and bird flu were traced to similar sites and China has banned the consumption and sale of wildlife to “safeguard health and ecological security”.
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Yet multiple species are still being slaughtered and sold in filthy conditions at markets in Indonesia.
Investigators on the island of Sulawesi – one of the country’s largest – discovered bats and rats still being sold, alongside pigs, dogs, snakes, frogs, chickens and ducks.
Dogs were crammed into cages, and blowtorched bats were found in Langowan, Karombasan and Beriman markets.
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Chicks dyed bright colours to be kept as pets but unlikely to survive were on sale.
Experts say that live animal markets are breeding grounds for zoonotic diseases, those that can jump from animals to humans.
A spokesman for animal welfare organisation Four Paws said: “Covid-19, as a zoonotic pandemic, should make us pay more attention to how we treat animals.
“Keeping various stressed species in close proximity in cruel and unsanitary conditions, the brutal slaughtering and resulting waste, make for the perfect breeding ground for zoonotic diseases.
“We need to have urgent conversations on how to prevent or mitigate the risks of new pandemics emerging.
“That means talking about banning live animal markets, including wildlife and dog and cat meat trade as well as any other form of animal cruelty, be it fur farms or factory farms.”
In March, the Mirror revealed how Beriman, known as the Extreme Market, in Tomohon, was selling fruit bats, commonly made into a curried stew, as a “cure” for respiratory diseases.
Stallholders are notorious for the cruelty they inflict on monkeys, cats and dogs that are killed in front of buyers.
Skewered rats grilled on barbecues are still available, alongside snakes and lizards.
Prof Andrew Cunningham, of the Zoological Society of London, said ending wet markets is “the highest priority for the protection of human health”.
He explained how species never mix in the wild so are vulnerable to viruses carried by each other, and the stress of being held in captivity increases “virus shedding”.
Sources told Four Paws the markets have continued to function unaffected by the pandemic, despite the World Health Organisation calling for live animal street sales to be ended.
In March, we also revealed the fur farms packed with sick, distressed animals which are another potential breeding grounds for pandemics.
The grim scenes were filmed at 13 farms in China, the world’s largest fur producer, in November and December.
Campaigners say distressing sights of mentally ill animals being kept in tiny wire cages are systemic to the fur industry and can also be seen in farms across Europe and North America.
Lola Webber, of Humane Society International in Bali, said: “It is shocking to see these markets continue to operate business as usual.
“Since 2017 we have been warning of these risks, and exposing the inherent and unimaginable animal cruelty.
“The trade in dogs and cats and wildlife for meat also encourages illegal activities, and markets serve as hotbeds for disease transmission.
“Animals of many different species are crammed in close contact in urban epicentres, at markets frequented by thousands every day.
“We urge the Indonesian government to take urgent measures to make sure Indonesia is not the next point of origin of a deadly virus.”