American pressure to close the depraved China wet markets

The wet markets are an ethical abomination and a global public health hazard, which moral countries must pressure China to shutter.

A vendor works at a wet market in China (photo credit: REUTERS)
A vendor works at a wet market in China
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Recently I wrote about the biblical injunctions against eating certain types of animals, such as bats – which is repeated not once but twice in the Bible – and why these prescriptions should apply to the wet markets in China. I was criticized by some for being culturally insensitive. If the Chinese want to eat bats, it’s their business.
Now, however, liberal icon Bill Maher also denounced the idea of eating bats. As he put it, “Eating bats is bats*** crazy.” His comments were highlighted by another liberal icon, Maureen Dowd, in The New York Times, and has been echoed by many other public figures.
Now, we have learned that China has a law that allows animals to be used in Chinese medicine and the government is recommending treating COVID-19 with injections of bear bile. According to National Geographic, “At bear bile farms in China and across Southeast Asia, the animals may be kept for decades in small cages. Bile is routinely extracted by inserting a catheter, syringe or pipe into the gallbladder.” The magazine quotes Animals Asia, which said the processes “cause severe suffering, pain, and infection.”
It is bad enough that China allows the consumption of dead animals like bats, but this abuse of live animals is a violation of the Noahide Law: “Do not eat a live animal.” This is a law that is universally applicable and its shocking that China would extract bile from living bears.
Forget religion and opinion about the abhorrence of the practice of eating animals like bats and buying exotic animals in wet markets. Listen to the US’s most respected scientist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who said, “It boggles my mind how when we have so many diseases that emanate out of that unusual human-animal interface, that we don’t just shut it down. I don’t know what else has to happen to get us to appreciate that.”
We have to address scientific fact. China has become a source of some of the worst diseases, all the more painful because they may be preventable, especially by closing the wet markets. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SARS infected more than 8,000 people and killed 774 in 17 countries. The Asian influenza (H7N9) has affected more than 1,500 people since 2013 and about 40% died. Now we have COVID-19, which has killed, as of this writing, nearly 300,000 people worldwide and more than 80,000 in the US alone.
“It’s not a big mystery why this is happening… lots of concentrated population, with intimate contact with lots of species of animals that are potential reservoirs, and they don’t have great hygiene required. It’s a recipe for spitting out these kinds of viruses,” according to Dr. Steven Novella.
The situation is made worse by China’s lack of transparency and history of misinformation, secrecy and censorship. The government’s efforts to hide the seriousness of COVID-19 had deadly consequences for the rest of the world.
I agree with Fauci when he said, “I would like to see the rest of the world really lean with a lot of pressure on those countries that have that [wet markets], because what we’re going through right now is a direct result of that.” Fauci was clearly referring to China.
Contrary to the intimations of the PC police, we are not talking about depriving large numbers of Chinese the opportunity to choose what they would like to eat. According to Peter Li, an expert quoted by Vox, “The majority of the people in China do not eat wildlife animals. Those people who consume these wildlife animals are the rich and the powerful – a small minority.”
So, how can we follow Fauci’s advice to pressure China?
Well, we cannot do it if we are dependent on China for so many goods. How can we pressure them on wet markets and human rights abuses when we rely on them for everything from iPhones to surgical masks? We need to start manufacturing more of the products we get from China in the United States.
Yes, it may cost more, but it is worth if it gives us leverage over China. Not because, as some argue, China has become our greatest global economic competitor and an increasingly dangerous security threat. But rather because the wet markets are an ethical abomination and a global public health hazard, which moral countries must pressure China to shutter.
Manufacturing more in the United States should begin with our own government, right now. A recent press report said that our government turned down an offer from a Texas company to produce millions of masks. In the meantime, the US has imported millions of masks from China, many of which did not meet medical standards for protection and prompted the FDA to bar 65 of the 80 authorized manufacturers from providing them in the future.
Now – with more than 20 million Americans out of work – is the time to focus on building up our domestic manufacturing capability. This is not a political plug for President Donald Trump, who talked throughout his campaign about reviving American industry and makes this goal a centerpiece of his case for reelection. The Buy American Act was first passed in 1933 requiring federal agencies to procure domestic materials and products. It apparently has a lot of loopholes, which is why the Trump administration was considering an executive order to buy domestically produced pharmaceuticals and supplies. But if the US remains dependent on China for every product it needs, we will never be able to pressure them successfully to be more democratic, respect human rights, remove press censorship and close the wet markets.
It is perhaps too much to expect that China can be induced to seriously democratize and to cease its human rights abuses, such as sending Muslims to concentration camps. Closing wet markets, however, is a minimal step that would hurt few Chinese and potentially save hundreds of thousands of lives in the future from diseases that would otherwise originate from the sale of infected animals.
The bottom line is that we will continue to have little or no leverage to pressure the Chinese if we continue to see the label Made in China on infinitely more goods than are Made in America.
The writer’s Holocaust memoir Holocaust Holiday: One Family’s Descent into Genocide Memory Hell will be published later this year. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @RabbiShmuley.