U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, speaks with Iowans about COVID-19. (Source: U.S. Sen. Ernst’s Instagram)

RED OAK, Iowa – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, joined several of her Senate colleagues in support of a bipartisan bill that would block federal spending at Chinese wet markets. 

The federal government’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) spent taxpayer dollars shopping for kittens and puppy parts in China at slaughterhouses and “wet markets,” where living animals are bought, sold, and butchered for human consumption in unsanitary conditions.

The cats and dogs purchased in China were used for experiments, which were discontinued last year. While the total amount spent at the meat markets in China is unknown, the project cost $650,000 a year in taxpayer funds.

Even after the SARS pandemic, which occurred over two decades ago, was believed to have transferred from animals to humans at a wet market in China, previous administrations continued to spend federal dollars to subsidize unregulated wet markets.

“As Iowans, and all Americans, continue to battle COVID-19, we need to do all we can to ensure something like this never happens again. That includes preventing any more American tax dollars from going to unregulated ‘wet markets’ in China,” Ernst said. “While previous administrations should have been working to shut down these dangerous, disease-prone markets, they were subsidizing them with taxpayer money. That’s why I’m working across the aisle to prevent any more American tax dollars from going to China’s unregulated ‘supermarkets of sickness.'”

Ernst also opposes any federal funding for China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), also believed to have played a vital role in the coronavirus outbreak.

“Whether it’s the lab in Wuhan or these repulsive wet markets, Iowans shouldn’t be footing the bill for either,” Ernst said.

 In a bicameral letter, Ernst and her colleagues expressed their deep concern over past federal funding to the controversial Chinese state-run WIV laboratory.

“We’re sure you agree that taxpayers’ money should not be sent to a dangerous Chinese state-run bio-agent laboratory that lacks any meaningful oversight from U.S. authorities and is run by adversaries with a history of lab leaks, including SARS, and deception about the causes and extent of deadly disease outbreaks, including COVID-19,” the letter reads in part. “Although President Trump has stated that his administration ‘will end that grant quickly,’ we hope to ensure that WIV will not receive federal funds in any future spending packages.”

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