Sales of dog and cat meat have risen in some parts of South East Asia as some people believe the meats have properties that ward of coronavirus.
Even some hospital doctors recommend the meat to patients, claiming it helps protect them from cold weather and recover from surgery, according to campaigners.
But experts say caging the animals in large numbers and slaughtering them in insanitary conditions actively increases the chances of starting dangerous diseases, and there is no evidence of the meat having any beneficial effects.
The trade is part of the “ticking time bomb” of live animal markets strongly thought to have sparked the pandemic and which could spark another one, they warn.
Covid-19 has also led to a sudden hike in dog and cat meat dishes being advertised on food delivery apps as restaurants in Vietnam switch to takeaway services.
A street seller in Cambodia told investigators from the global animal welfare organisation Four Paws that buyers believe dog meat “is good for health and helps ward off cold or viral illness, like Covid-19”. Others said it was “natural, without chemicals, and safe to eat”.
Alongside the popularity of southeast Asia’s wildlife markets selling a wide variety of animals for consumption, the trade in dog and cat meat has been rising over the past three years, the organisation says.