Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst is awarding her April “Squeal Award” given to those facilitate the waste of taxpayer dollars, to the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) for purchasing animals in China’s wet markets.
“Last year, we exposed how for years federal employees flew to China, purchased cats and puppies from wet markets, had them slaughtered, and brought their body parts back to the United States – in carry-on luggage – to feed to kittens in bizarre and wasteful multi-million-dollar experiments that have since been shut down by the Trump Administration,” said Justin Goodman, the vice president of the White Coat Waste Project.
Now, Ernst is teaming up with a group of bipartisan senators to propose legislation that would ban U.S. funding for China’s unregulated wet markets, which are speculated to have played a role in spreading the Wuhan coronavirus.
Republican Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Mike Braun of Indiana have joined Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jeff Merkley of Oregon to end taxpayer dollars from making their way into China’s unsanitary marketplaces where the sales of exotic wildlife for food give rise to new viruses infecting humans. Even after the first SARS pandemic in 2002, where the disease is believed to have originated from a Chinese wet market, U.S. tax dollars still flowed into the unregulated exchanges.
“We need to do all we can to ensure something like this never happens again,” Ernst said in a statement announcing the bipartisan legislation. “While previous administrations should have been working to shut down these dangerous, disease-prone markets, they were subsidizing them with taxpayer money.”
Citing public health concerns with the wet markets, the World Health Organization (WHO) is working with the United Nations to develop guidelines to operate them, while some wildlife conservation groups call for outright bans on the commercial trade of wildlife for human consumption.
Jan Vertefeuille of the World Wildlife Fund, one of many organizations to support a ban, explained to NPR how wet markets present ripe conditions for outbreaks of new diseases.
“You might have bats sitting on top of pigs, sitting on top of pangolins, sitting on top of civet cats, and all their bodily fluids are kind of flowing into each other,” Vertefeuille told NPR. “It’s the perfect recipe for an epidemic, something like COVID-19 to emerge from a market like that.”
Sen. Braun extended his criticism to the Chinese Communist Party, which has used its propaganda machine to spin misinformation about the new coronavirus as nations remain on lockdown to combat the virus. As of this writing, more than 2.5 million cases of the new coronavirus from China have been confirmed around the globe with nearly 180,000 deaths, according to data compiled by John Hopkins University. The number of cases from China however, is certainly far higher than the government has publicly reported, as the communist party has manipulated its figures to further downplay the virus’ severity.
“As a businessman who created hundreds of American jobs, I specifically limited my business with China because you can’t trust the Communist Party of China,” Braun said. “That’s why I believe that we should not be using American taxpayer dollars to fund Chinese wet markets, the Wuhan biolab or anything that helps the Communist Party of China.”
The idea that the new coronavirus might have emerged from a Wuhan lab morphed from a conservative conspiracy theory to a plausible outcome this month with Fox News reporting that multiple government sources believe the virus came from a lab not as a bioweapon but as part of China’s efforts to compete with the United States to identify and combat viruses. Last week, Fox News reported that U.S. officials are now conducting a “full-scale investigation” into whether the novel coronavirus indeed escaped from a Wuhan lab in the Hubei Province.