Hafta letters: Banning wildlife trade, the NL community, selective outrage
NL Dhulai

Hafta letters: Banning wildlife trade, the NL community, selective outrage

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

By NL Team

Published on :

Dear NL Team,

First of all, my deepest thanks for your unflagging commitment to deliver independent news during a pandemic. I wish you and yours safety and good health.

I am writing specifically with regards to Manisha's open question on whether China has continued its wildlife trade ban. I wanted to provide some context here. Apologies in advance for the long read!

tl;dr shutting down wet markets isn't enough — permanently ban wildlife trade worldwide. Reform our food systems to drastically reduce the scale of meat/dairy/egg production and avert the looming threat of antibiotic resistance.

I'd like to introduce to you a source I regard highly as an aspiring conservationist and nonhuman/environment justice advocate. Mongabay has been reporting exclusively on environment and conservation issues for well over a decade. They even have an India-specific site.

A recent Mongabay article analyses the list of animals eligible for farming, released by the Chinese government just days ago. The list includes non-domesticated but captive-bred and farmed species like alpacas, reindeer, and silver foxes. Crucially, wild-caught animals are not mentioned in the list, because they are not bred in captivity. These require enforcement separate from the ban on captive farmed species, which China has yet to address.

Please note that in addition to wet markets, Chinese demand for trafficked wildlife is driven by the fur trade, and by Chinese traditional medicine, which uses pangolin scales. These operate separate from wet markets. Research covered on Mongabay (superbly written by Malavika Vyawahare) suggests SARS-CoV-2 may have jumped to bats from pangolins.

My main point, therefore, being: The wildlife trade must be banned completely, worldwide. Wet markets, in China and elsewhere, are only one aspect of the issue, a symptom of the underlying problem. To boot, there are unregulated wet markets in India as well. Novel zoonoses occur due to tremendous stress placed on wild animal populations by anthropogenic habitat destruction and climate change. They make the jump to humans when we traffic these afflicted animals. This research paper expertly details this phenomenon.

Additionally, the next pandemic will likely be caused by industrial animal farming. Vast numbers of cattle and poultry are densely packed into unsanitary conditions. They are preemptively fed antibiotics to maintain minimum health and accelerate growth. The justification is that this maximizes output and profits while managing bacterial outbreaks. The high input of antibiotics has resulted in the development of antibiotic resistance. Leah Garces wrote a very timely NY Times article summarising the issue. Ample data exists on the real consequences this is already having.

I hope some of this data helps to clarify and substantiate the current state of affairs on this matter!

Luveen Wadhwani


Someone pointed to Bloomberg as a subscription-only site. Bloomberg has a lot of services. Their terminal business is here. They also have a large media business, which has events, sponsored content, and ads on top of subscriptions. So the comparison isn't apples to apples.

About the co-op/shared ownership structure for the future of Newslaundry, do have a look at B Corps, public benefit corp, and Platform Co-Ops. Looking forward to seeing that changes

Naveen Mishra


Hi Newslaundry team,

Just finished listening to Hafta 272. Absolutely blown away. Clear, succinct and complete exposure of India's bigoted and powerful. Special thanks to Mehraj, he tells us who the real Indian Muslim is, a person who is suddenly being asked to see the devil as the savior. His inputs are a constant rebuttal to the demonisation being carried out by the media. This is why representation is essential, hope NL can improve its caste representation too.

On the idea of a webinar with a migrant worker — absolutely brilliant. Economists step back, NL will give voice to the voiceless.

A suggestion: please do a practice session with the worker as they are probably not comfortable with the technology. Also, this brilliant idea can be extended to the other voiceless: sanitation workers, cleaning staff and wardboys in hospitals, etc.

Finally, on the idea of expanding ownership of NL: I have always fancied myself as part owner because I subscribe and pay to keep news free :) but the fact that there is an effort to actually share power just blows my mind away. This expansion will make the NL model the go-to reference for a succesful and fair corporate model.

The success of NL is becoming an increasingly important mission in my life, so anything I can help with, please just ask. I keep trying to help out anyway I can because NL is not just a news organisation, it is a community in the making. Keep up the good work and a big "I love you" to the whole NL Team.


Goonj Mohan


Hi all,

I have two points to comment on in the last Hafta.

First, calling this virus the Chinese virus is wrong for many reasons. It is already being referred to as coronavirus/Covid across the whole world. To actively try to rename the virus as Chinese virus screams of ulterior motives.

Also, MERS, Zika, and Ebola, are not names of an ethnicity. If we were to apply the same rules we are applying to Chinese virus, we'll call them Arab-Virus, or African-Virus. Names matter. In the US, AIDS was referred to as gay-related immune deficiency (GRID), which led to public apathy regarding the epidemic, and thousands of men perished because of it.

I like Bill Maher's show but he has a tendency to over-simplify things. He specially does this when he goes on his PC-related tirades. Also, "political correctness" is a good topic for NL vs NL.

Second, this is more of a rant but I think the visceral hate that has been brewing in India cannot be overstated. I live in the US and have been increasingly getting frustrated in calls with my parents. We spent many years living in a Muslim neighbourhood with cordiality and friendship. Now my dad talks about Jamaatis and says "In sabko goli mar dena chahiye", and my sweet apolitical mom who says "ye Muslims bahut haavi ho rahe hain".

While my mom is getting these pearls of wisdom from the hate factories on YouTube, my dad only consumes TV news. These dimwitted high-decibel Joseph Goebbels have transformed my low-caste, BJP-hating parents to Modi-worshipping, Islamophobic doomsayers. I would urge anyone who listens to this, to argue and dissuade their boomer parents from drinking this hatorade.

Listen to them, call them out, present a fact-based polemic, sow the seeds of doubt, and tell them to subscribe to Newslaundry, because when the governments pay for news, governments are served…

Shoorveer Singh


Hello Team NL,

It was fascinating to hear the NL Hafta 272 where you guys discussed how those in power are trying to demonise the Muslims and how the entire media machinery seems hell-bent on helping those in power to set the narrative.

However, I feel that the present hate is fueled by some past faultlines in Hindu-Muslim political scenarios which the liberals and intellectuals have failed to address. Until and unless those faultlines are discussed dispassionately, the solution will not emerge. I will name a few which I have personally grappled with.

I can't understand why liberals/intellectuals never open up their mouth when Muslims, who are the second-largest majority in India, rally behind one party or leader in huge numbers and vote as a community to ensure that particular candidate or party wins, but fire away words like "majoritarianism" when Hindus come together and vote in huge numbers to ensure the winning of a candidate. Can't Hindus vote as a community for their greater good or are Hindus destined to be divided on caste lines? If no, then why are words like "majoritarianism" used to describe whenever Hindus come together in an election in India?

Like it or not, the fact is that Islamic tokenism and appeasement was practiced by many parties like the SP, BSP and Congress in the name of "secularism" and this has frustrated large sections of Hindus. Muslims haven't played ball fairly too. Words like "minorities" are loosely used in place of "Muslims" when the fact is that there are other religious minorities in this country too.

Notwithstanding the fact that the term "secular" was inserted into the Preamble in 1976 via the 42nd Amendment during the Emergency. We all know the condition of the Supreme Court during that time. Why did the founding fathers of India not write "secular" in the Preamble while drafting it? Do the liberals have any answer to that?

What we saw in 2014 and 2019 and now is simply the pent-up frustration of the Hindutva forces which got large support from large sections of Hindus who have found refuge in the big organisational umbrella of BJP/RSS. I believe that India by default is a secular nation only because Hindus are a majority in it. This might sound aberrational, but this is the reality as I see it. Unfortunately, liberals don't acknowledge this which leads to a convoluted discussion on secularism which further vitiates the environment against Muslims. Idiots like Navika, Rahul Shivshankar, Arnab are just an extension of that. They are going by the popular narrative which fetches them high TRPs.

Liberals need to understand that calling out the wrongs in a wrong, irrespective of religion, is not old-fashioned when it comes to calling out the wrongs when a Muslim does it. Selective silence/outrage harms the narrative even more which replenishes the arsenal of people like Navika, Arnab, etc.

In these difficult times, I will keep supporting you guys because I really like the work NL does. Keep up the good work.




Hi to the Newslaundry team, hope you all are safe!

New subscriber here, and firstly let me just say that this has been a major discovery for me! Fantastic reporting aside, I most value your podcasts and conversations, they help me get through my day (cheers to Abhinandan, Manisha, and Anand especially), and hearing all the stimulating past episodes have been immensely enjoyable, especially in times of lockdown.

I wanted to broach an issue that somewhat came up when Abhinandan brought up Maher's monologue. Recently, I've felt that people from several circles (perhaps what some would call "extreme left") have been prone to unjustified valourising of China while failing to mention Taiwan, South Korea and Germany's efforts. I'm of course aware of the rise in racism, but I sense a hesitation in condemning what precisely went wrong in China, fearing that they would somehow be complicit in racism or undo their allegiance to left politics because of China's government.

Would love to get the Hafta panel's take on how precisely should we go about demanding explanations/compensations from China, and do they think we have seen some cultural relativism at play. My two cents on this topic is that we need to stress that not only what China did is the bare minimum it owes to its citizens and the world, but also that this shows how nations where transparency and democracy flourishes (Taiwan, for example), the execution is always better.

Keep up with the great work!

PS: You mentioned in Hafta that some of your reporters went to work near Murthal and other nearby parts. Just wanted to say that if they needed any assistance in these times (food, essentials, a place to stay, etc.), I would be happy to help, since I live very close.


Uday Kanungo


Hi NL Team,

I recently wrote you an email about the Awful and Awesome Entertainment Wrap where I confessed that I was a non-subscriber, but that it was only because I am a student and so am using my mother's subscription (much more than her!).

Just wanted to let you guys know that Hafta 272 was excellent! I learn so much from Hafta, particularly when you discuss issues surrounding journalism. I am really glad that NL exists, not only for the news you guys put out but also for every recommendation or reference that teaches me a little more about this crazy world that we live in.

Best regards,



Hi NL Team! I've been a subscriber for a year and a half now.

I suggest Newslaundry releases every month (or maybe fortnightly) a newsletter of sorts (a monthly magazine types) with all the reports/articles written in the preceding month. This can either be e-mailed or uploaded on the website. If something similar already exists, please let me know.

The reason why I made this suggestion: Although we keep hearing (during Hafta) about many articles/reports that the Team NL is working on, it is difficult to keep track of them. The website keeps updating with the latest ones, so it is very likely that we might miss out on some excellent ones. So I felt the newsletter would act as a monthly compilation or as an index of sorts.

Btw, dear Abhindandan, I've been a big fan of yours, but Mehraj is giving you tight competition these days. :P (Due to your requests for keeping the letters short, I'm stopping myself from explaining why. Maybe next letter.)

Part II

This is in continuation of my previous email. I found an example website that does what I was trying to convey (the suggestion of a compilation/categorisation for easy navigation on the website). India Uncut by Amit Verma. He categorises all the blogs into both topics wise as well as month-wise. So it is easier for people to navigate through it.

In fact, I think this is a better model than what I had suggested initially, ie the idea of a newsletter.

Thank you! :)

Nevin Padiyath