John Vidal’s story (‘Ban on bushmeat’ after Covid-19 but what if alternative is factory farming?, 26 May) suggests that calls by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and other conservation organisations to halt the risky commercial trade of wildlife for human consumption somehow prefer a transition to intensive livestock production. That is wrong. Our concern is preventing the next wildlife disease spillover and subsequent human-to-human pandemic spread across the planet. Such spillover is much more likely to occur in urban markets that sell live or fresh wildlife sourced hundreds or thousands of miles away from where indigenous peoples and local communities need to feed their families.
For two decades, WCS has helped over 200 indigenous groups exercise their rights to manage their natural resources and protect their food sovereignty. Concern for the health of indigenous peoples and local communities and their families motivated us to establish wildlife disease surveillance and public health awareness systems to detect disease outbreaks and enable governments to respond. In many rural towns, wildlife remains important to people’s diets. Other alternatives to intensive livestock production are available. For example, promoting backyard poultry production by women can provide much-needed high-quality meat and eggs. This approach makes far more sense than centralised, industrial-scale animal farming, which wreaks ecological havoc and does not contribute to rural household income, and is not something that I would ever promote.
Vice president, international policy, Wildlife Conservation Society, Bronx, NY