Boris Johnson is being urged to back a global wildlife ban by campaigners who say the move could help prevent a future pandemic.
The current coronavirus outbreak - which is widely believed to have originated from a wet market in China's Wuhan - is just one of many diseases which is understood to have transmitted from animals to humans - others include SARS and MERS among others.
Now Campaign to End Wildlife Trade - which is supported by 16 leading advocacy groups including World Animal Protection - is asking the prime minister to call for a global wildlife trade ban at the G20 meeting of global leaders in November via a campaign and petition supported by T.V. star Alesha Dixon.
According to Campaign to End Wildlife Trade, wildlife globally has been 'packaged up and sold on an industrial scale so that animals are taken from their natural environments or commercially farmed, exposing them to stress and cruelty and creating a hotbed for disease'.
It says the trade is 'fuelled by the demand for exotic pets, traditional medicine and the entertainment industry. Millions of wild animals including snakes, parrots, iguanas, lizards, tortoises, and even otters are captured each year for the exotic pet trade'.
And the problem is global: the UK currently imports thousands of protected wild animals, including tortoises, pythons and monitor lizards, captured from the wild and legally imported into the UK each year, according to the group.
'A wakeup call for the world'
"COVID-19 is a wakeup call for the world – and the case for a global wildlife trade ban has never been more urgent," Sonul Badiani-Hamment from World Animal Protection, said in a statement sent to Plant Based News.
"SARS, Ebola and now COVID-19 are all believed to have passed from wildlife to humans.
"Boris Johnson and the UK government must provide global leadership in this public health and wildlife crisis and call for a wildlife trade ban at the G20 meeting of global leaders in November to help prevent future pandemics."
'Safeguard our future and the planet'
Alesha Dixon, singer, TV personality and animal welfare ambassador, added: "Bringing an end to the multi-billion-dollar wildlife trade has overwhelming public support and is something global leaders can do to help safeguard our future and the planet.
"This is an opportunity for the world to re-evaluate our relationship with wild animals. We need to stop seeing wildlife as a product and start treating wild animals with respect and compassion for a healthier, more positive and sustainable future for all."
Campaign to End Wildlife Trade has launched a petition. You can find out more here