China's infamous wet markets drew the attention of the world after it was revealed that the coronavirus outbreak originated from one such wild animal market in the city of Wuhan that sold meat, fish as well as exotic animals, usually in unsanitary conditions, making them a hotbed for deadly bacteria and viruses like COVID-19.
However, a shocking new report has revealed that similar markets in New York City, where animals are slaughtered and sold, continue to operate across the city.
Littered with blood and guts, animals forced into cannibalism
Video footage filmed this month at wet markets in Queens and the Bronx reveal the unsanitary conditions in which the animals are kept before being butchered and sold for their meat. The footage shows blood and guts splattered all over the place while carcasses of chickens and cattle hang from hooks or lie piled up on shopping carts.
The video also shows many of the chickens being mercilessly tossed into a trash can by one of the workers, who was plucking them out for slaughter.
At one facility, a dump truck arrived to collect buckets of "red and brown muck." Some chickens ever resorted to cannibalism, feasting on one of their own who had died in a cramped cage.
A ticking time bomb for another deadly outbreak
The animals are kept in cramped, filthy and germ-infested cages, potentially putting people working or shopping there at risk of contracting a deadly virus.
The markets are located in densely populated areas of the city, including Brooklyn and Manhattan, according to Edita Birnkrant from NYCLASS, the animal rights organisation that shot the video.
"There is blood, guts and faeces all over the ground," said Birnkrant, who has witnessed unsanitary conditions at several of NYC's more than 80 wet markets.
"It often gets hosed onto the street and into the sewer, and you have New Yorkers just walking through this, who can track it on their shoes, into the subway, and home. It's a perfect storm for future pandemics. Anybody can see that this is not okay."
New York City, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, has been the worst hit with more than 160,000 COVID-19 cases and over 12,200 deaths.
Legislation to ban wet markets in NYC
New York State Assemblywoman, Linda Rosenthal, is drafting legislation to get these wet markets in the Big Apple shut down.
"COVID-19 is an unprecedented public health crisis, and it demands, at the very least, that we take a close look at what we can do to prevent the next pandemic, " Rosenthal told TMZ. "Top among our priorities must be closing New York's unsanitary live markets, that's why I will be introducing legislation in the coming days to do just that."
She went on to say that some of these slaughterhouses are smack-dab in the middle of residential neighbourhoods, where kids and families reside, and do not maintain even basic sanitary standards, which put many lives at risk.
"Given the poor conditions, it's no wonder that COVID-19 and other deadly zoonotic diseases before it originated in live markets, she added. "We have a responsibility to save lives by closing the live markets now."