SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — An investigation by a nonprofit animal conservation organization has cast a spotlight on small markets in San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose that sell live animals.
Animal Outlook said the investigation revealed extreme cruelty and abuse of animals before they are slaughtered and sold on the market.
“The desire to protect animals from cruelty is inherent in our humanity. Survey after survey finds almost unanimous opposition to animal cruelty. There are laws against it, but it is allowed to continue under the veil of living markets,” wrote Animal Outlook.
The nonprofit said it has visited 18 live markets in the Bay Area and documented several cases of “shocking” animal cruelty violations. Eleven of the markets were found in San Francisco.
Photo and video footage captured by AO’s researchers in February and March shows market workers piling live fish, turtles, frogs and chickens into shallow bins, overflowing tanks and packed cages to display to customers.
“Fish are clubbed to death before being cut into pieces. Turtles are beheaded. Frogs and other amphibians and reptiles spend their days in plastic bins, sometimes stacked on top of each other,” AO wrote.
AO Executive Director Cheryl Leahy said: “We want the public to be aware that this kind of animal cruelty is happening, both on huge factory farms… and in our own neighborhoods. We are shining a light on San Francisco to illustrate the national crisis. ”
Animal Outlook showed its video footage to Bay Area residents, and many were stunned to see animal cruelty happening in their own neighborhoods. “It looks incredibly inhumane and almost medieval. It’s like hitting a cat or dog. We are better than that,” says one resident.
Fish, frogs and turtles have pain receptors, and they respond to pain just like mammals, biologist Lynne Sneddon told National Geographic. Sneddon watched Animal Outlook videos and concluded that the markets’ activities were inhumane.
“Fish are kept in the air where they suffocate. This would be like keeping a land mammal underwater until it drowned,” she said.
Animal Outlook calls for stricter enforcement of existing animal protection laws to hold small neighborhood markets accountable.
In addition to concerns about cruelty, the nonprofit pointed out that unsanitary conditions in live animal markets can create public health hazards and lead to global transmission of zoonotic diseases.
The suspected origin of COVID-19 was traced to a live animal market in Wuhan, China, according to multiple studies led by the World Health Organization.
Researchers have traced the earliest human COVID cases to vendors who sold live animals and customers who shopped at the market. The virus circulated between animals before spreading to humans. The first animal-to-human transmission likely occurred around Nov. 18, 2019, researchers concluded.
The Chinese government warned the World Health Organization on December 31, 2019, of an outbreak of “severe pneumonia” in Wuhan. It was later confirmed that more than 40 patients hospitalized with suspected pneumonia were infected with the new coronavirus.