To emphasize and warn of the dangers of wildlife consumption to public health, WildAid and CHANGE launched The Host campaign, an innovative effort featuring MC/Journalist Trac Thuy Mieu and MC Phan Anh, among others.

The four campaign videos urge the public to stop consuming wildlife in order to help prevent similar pandemics in the future. They highlight the public health hazards associated with the wildlife trade that supplies consumers and specialty restaurants, as many species can carry pathogens which pose a danger to humans when transmission occurs.

In a recent study by the Wildlife Conservation Society, coronavirus prevalence rates and risk of infection in field rats sold into the wildlife trade in Vietnam increased from 20% to 55% as the rats became increasingly stressed as they moved through the supply chain from initial seller to market to restaurant.

The Host campaign was launched by CHANGE, WildAid and the Pangolin Crisis Fund in response to the Prime Minister’s recent directive outlining a number of urgent actions to wildlife management that will support global efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19, which is suspected to have originated from wildlife. The Host refers to organisms that are infected by viruses and bacteria. Many infectious disease outbreaks originated from wildlife. Studies have shown that these viruses often do not affect the host animals, but rather they pose a great danger to other species that do not have any natural immunity, like humans.

Using the concept of “The Host”, CHANGE, WildAid and the Pangolin Crisis Fund urge the public to stop consuming wildlife products and to spread this message to friends and family so we can all avoid becoming hosts for COVID-19 and other emerging zoonotic diseases similar to COVID-19.

“To me, a person’s success has never been measured by the rare food that they eat or the exotic furs and leathers they wear. I, like many people who are not scientific researchers or investigators, may not know exactly where the last COVID-19 pandemic came from. However, if we look at the way people have experienced plagues in history, we can surmise the origin of COVID-19, which has plagued the world for the last six months. Although it could have played just a small part in causing the pandemic, I want to urge everyone to immediately stop the habit and the culture of wildlife consumption,” stated campaign ambassador, MC/journalist Trac Thuy Mieu.

A series of three videos highlights the grim implications of wildlife consumption through tongue-in-cheek portrayals of how the pandemic has altered everyday life. From having to work from home to unemployment to wedding cancellations/postponements, the videos depict the multitude of economic and social interruptions caused by COVID-19, and demonstrate the potential serious consequences of individual behavior on our communities.

The animated video “Undo a Disaster” shows viewers how one “bad” decision – in this case, choosing to dine at a bushmeat restaurant – can negatively impact the entire world through the transmission of a zoonotic disease. While evoking a creepy tone, the video is hopeful in its demonstration that we all have the power to avoid causing such a catastrophic event, simply by changing our everyday behaviors. The Host campaign warns of the public health hazards associated with wildlife trade and consumption, as many species can carry pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites, which pose a danger to humans when transmission occurs and which have and will continue to cause pandemics unless we take urgent action to counter the threat.

The four video campaigns have launched in Vietnam on Facebook, Movad taxi screens and on outdoor billboards in Ho Chi Minh, Ha Noi and Da Nang. So far, the videos have attracted over 2 million views on social media and the billboards have been seen by an estimated 10 million people.

Consumers who have been surveyed about the series have been supportive of the message to end the consumption of bushmeat but some have been skeptical of the link between the wildlife trade and the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I hope that Vietnam will never become the origin of a global pandemic. Instead I want Vietnam to be seen as a country that is successful in preventing and controlling diseases. Let us continue to be proud of being one of the leading countries in the fight to prevent a future pandemic. Please continue to use that spirit to immediately put an end to this culture of wildlife consumption,” said Ms. Nguyen Thanh Ngoc Han, Wildlife Program Manager at CHANGE.

Over the coming months, CHANGE, WildAid, the Pangolin Crisis Fund, and other partner organizations will continue to carry out a series of activities that will promote the Prime Minister’s instructions, raise awareness, and ultimately change wildlife consumption behavior, especially around wildlife sold in markets and restaurants. Activities will include: producing videos and media messages, mobilizing business leaders, organizing wildlife journalism awards, training journalists in wildlife trade and consumption hot spots, and campaigning to remove wild meat from restaurant menus. At the same time, these conservation organizations will work with relevant authorities and assist with activities designed to strengthen law enforcement, helping to strictly enforce violations on wildlife trade and strengthen monitoring of wildlife farming activities, in an effort to ensure products are not laundered into trade.

WildAid and CHANGE are proud to partner with the Pangolin Crisis Fund and receive additional support for The Host campaign through Dragon Capital, GalaxyME, Chicilon Media, Vietnam Television Station, Target Media, Movad, and WE Media.

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About WildAid

WildAid is a non-profit organization with a mission to end the illegal wildlife trade in our lifetimes. While most wildlife conservation groups focus on protecting animals from poaching, WildAid primarily works to reduce global consumption of wildlife products such as elephant ivory, rhino horn and shark fin soup. With an unrivaled portfolio of celebrity ambassadors and a global network of media partners, WildAid leverages more than $218 million in annual pro-bono media support with a simple message: When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too. 

Journalists on deadline may email communications@wildaid.org