Coronavirus impact: Ban on live animal markets in California passes big hurdle

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KGO) -- Tuesday in Sacramento, a ban on live animal markets passed a big hurdle. Three weeks ago, the ABC7 I-Team took you inside the Bay Area's markets, and showed how the coronavirus is believed to have come from a live animal market in China.

This was a clear example of the old saying, laws are like sausages. It's better not to see them being made. In this case, two issues were mixed together, causing some confusion.

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Democratic State Senator Henry Stern from Calabasas sponsored SB-1175 that would ban live animal markets, such as those the I-Team visited in Oakland and San Francisco three weeks ago: stores selling live poultry to go or killed on the spot, seafood stores with huge fish in tanks, many types of crustaceans, and live bullfrogs imported from China. Turtles go for $20; they have to be killed before a customer takes them home.

Dan Noyes asked a worker, "And you kill it here?"

He answered, "Yeah, yeah."

Stern said at the hearing, "The trade in wildlife both import as well as sales really poses a threat to our ecosystems, our public health, and the biodiversity in this state."

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The leading theory is COVID-19 passed from a bat to another animal and then a human, at a market in Wuhan, China. Stern and others are concerned about the transmission of disease at the Bay Area's markets.
"Globally, a quarter of human deaths are infectious disease," according to Nickolaus Sackett of Social Compassion in Legislation. "About 60% of these diseases are considered zoonotic, meaning they jump from other animals to people and more than 70% of zoonotic diseases originate with wildlife."

No one at today's hearing disagreed on that point, but the bill would also ban the importation of trophies from "Iconic African Species" such as African elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos. California's hunting and gun rights groups lined up by phone in opposition.

"When Californian are participating in this activity, they're doing it legally," said St. Sen. Brian Jones, R-Santee. "They're doing it morally, they're doing honorable, with the mindset that they want to perpetuate the species."

St. Sen. Stern answered, "Engage in that hunting activity, take a picture and come home, why do you need a trophy to come back to California with to show what you've done."

Stern argued his bill would not ban hunting, just the exportation of those big trophies, and it would close the live animal markets. It passed 5-1, and next heads to Senate Appropriations.

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