The rise of zoonotic diseases that cause public health crises has sparked calls for policy action, including calls to close wildlife markets. Yet, these calls reflect limited understanding of where, precisely, exposure to risk occurs along wild meat trade chains and threaten to negatively impact food security and livelihoods. This article uses ethnographic methods to examine potential exposure to viral pathogens – as well as bacteria and parasites – across a wild meat trade chain in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Focusing on hunting, village-level consumption, transportation, markets, and urban consumption, we reveal specific activities that may expose different actors involved in the trade chain to health risks. Based on these findings, this article discusses interventions aside from market closures could help prevent and mitigate zoonotic disease risks associated with wild meat trade chains. The article concludes by discussing how ethnographic methods help fill gaps in knowledge about zoonotic diseases.
Food safety practices; wild meat; supply chains; zoonosis;