Ricky Gervais among stars urging Boris Johnson to help end exotic pet trade

Ricky Gervais is among several stars to have signed an open letter urging Boris Johnson to help end the exotic pet trade . The open letter, which was sent on behalf of World Animal Protection and the Campaign to End Wildlife Trade (CEWT), was signed by 24 NGOs including World Animal Protection, Compassion in World Farming, Four Paws UK and Cruelty Free International. Its celebrity signatories included Gervais, who is frequently outspoken about animal welfare; actor Dame Judi Dench ; comedian Sue Perkins ; Harry Potter star Evanna Lynch , singer Leona Lewis and presenter Paul O’Grady.

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In the letter, it stated 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”.

It explained that diseases such as Covid-19, in addition to other conditions including SARS, Ebola and Mers, are “believed to have passed from wildlife to humans”.

“With your global leadership we must ensure a zoonotic pandemic like this never occurs again,” the letter said.

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“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.”

According to the CEWT, the UK currently imports thousands of protected wild animals into the country, which are captured in the wild and then legally imported.

These include animals such as tortoises, pythons and monitor lizards, the organisation stated.

Author and television presenter Simon Reeve, who signed the letter, said that “tackling the source” of the Covid-19 outbreak, which has had a “devastating impact on all our lives”, “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,” he said.

Sonul Badiani-Hamment, UK external affairs adviser at World Animal Protection, said that a global effort is needed to end the exotic pet trade. “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,” Badiani-Hamment said.

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“Covid-19 will be at the top fo 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.”