Animals Kept in Poor Condition in Some New York City Wet Markets, Critics Say

Experts suspect the coronavirus pandemic may have started at a wet market in Wuhan, China.

Experts suspect the coronavirus pandemic may have started at a wet market in Wuhan, China, most likely in bats before jumping to humans. The World Health Organization says the markets are an important source of affordable food all over the world, but in some places they are poorly maintained. 

While most of the attention on wet markets is focused on China, you may be surprised that wet markets are in the United States as well, where live animals, including chickens, goats, sheep and ducks are slaughtered and sold on the spot.

Anyone can come in to buy an animal and have it butchered on the premises. Unlike the controversial wet markets in Wuhan, most American wet markets don't carry exotic animals like bats or snakes. Some critics fear they can still be a source of disease that can spread to humans, similar to what happened with COVID-19

Jill Carnegie of Slaughter Free NYC, an animal rights advocacy group, said there are about 80 wet markets in the city.

"New York City is the epicenter of the current pandemic," Carnegie said. "The absolute irony is that New York City has more of these markets than any other city in the United States."

She discreetly shoots video on her cell phone showing what she calls unhealthy and unsanitary conditions — crammed cages, animals that appear sick and filthy excrement on the floors. She said sometimes the owners don't like her presence and that she was assaulted and pressed charges against one owner, who was later arrested. The case is still pending.

Inside Edition went to the market this week and found it in full operation, selling animals for slaughter on the spot, something Carnegie wishes would change.

“We need to shut down wet markets and start right here in NYC," she said.

The New York State Department of Health has said wet markets pose no risk to the public as long as they are clean.