In an open letter sent on behalf of the World Animal Protection and the Campaign to End Wildlife Trade (CEWT), actors Dame Judi Dench and Ricky Gervais and presenters Simon Reeve and Michaela Strachan were among a number of high-profile individuals calling for the UK government to back a wildlife trade ban at the G20 to help prevent a future zoonotic pandemic and end animal cruelty.


CEWT warns that wild animals are being taken from the wild or farmed in cruel conditions to meet the consumer demand for exotic pets, traditional Chinese medicine and tourism, which it believes has led to the emergence and spread of diseases, including COVID-19, SARS and Ebola.

Rescued pangolin in cage, Shutterstock
A seized pangolin at the Natural Resources Conservation Center Riau, Pekanbaru, Indonesia, in 2017. © Arief Budi Kusuma/Shutterstock

Published in the Sunday Times yesterday (28th June), the letter is also signed by 24 NGOS, including World Animal Protection, Compassion in World Farming, Four Paws UK and Cruelty Free International.

In the letter, it states that “the demand for wild animals and wild animal products is a primary cause of the emergence and spread of zoonotic diseases and a severe risk to world health. Covid-19, like other zoonotic infectious diseases including SARS, Ebola and MERS, is believed to have passed from wildlife to humans.

“With your global leadership, we must ensure a zoonotic pandemic like this never occurs again. Therefore, we are calling on you to lead the G20 to end the international trade in wild animals and wild animal products, asking global institutions and bodies to put in place mechanisms to develop, facilitate and implement this ban.”

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Dame Judi Dench, Getty
Actor Dame Judi Dench is among high-profile individuals who have signed an open-letter to the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson calling for the a ban in the wildlife trade. © Getty

Also signing the letter was television presenter and author Simon Reeve, who said, "This global pandemic has had a devastating impact on all our lives and tackling the source of the problem must be a priority. Ending the exploitation of wildlife for use in the exotic pet, traditional medicine and entertainment industries will take us one huge step closer to safeguarding our health and the future of the natural world."

The next G20 meeting of global leaders is due to take place in November, which the letter states will be a ‘key moment’ with COVID-19 at the top of the agenda.

The letter calls for all leaders “to champion a global wildlife trade ban, not only to end the senseless cruelty inflicted on billions of animals caught up in this cruel system but, to protect fragile ecosystems, the health of your citizens and the global environment we live in.”

Sonul Badiani-Hamment from World Animal Protection, added: “To build back stronger we need to tackle the causes of the virus, avoid the inaction following previous epidemics and work together with countries around the world to end the wildlife trade and help prevent future zoonotic outbreaks. COVID-19 will be at the top of the agenda at the G20 meeting of global leaders in November and we urge the PM to back a global wildlife trade ban to protect billions of animals, our health and the global environment.”


Read the letter in full on The Times (subscription access to The Times required)

Main image: Live animals, including local wildlife, are on sale at the Satria Bird Market in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia, May 29, 2020. © Getty


Carys MatthewsGroup Digital Editor

Carys is the Group Digital Editor of and Carys can often be found trail running, bike-packing, wild swimming or hiking in the British countryside.