TM and TCM incorporated by WHO - appeal to WHO members to guarantee the protection of endangered plant and animal species

During the coming World Health (WHO) Assembly on May 20 - 28 2019, the 11th version of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) will be accepted. In ICD-11, Traditional Medicine (TM) is proposed to be incorporated for the first time, referring to a union set of harmonized traditional medicine conditions of, for example, the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean classifications. Many organisations anticipate that the inclusion of TM in ICD-11 will speed up the already accelerating rise of TM [1] and that it will influence medicine use around the world.

In some cases products from wild plants and animals are incorporated in traditional medicines, even when they are listed on the global IUCN Red List of threatened species [2]. This already had a significant impact on several Red Listed species [3][4][5][6]. Many nature-, conservation- and animal welfare organisations, as well as world citizens, are worried that the integration of TM in ICD will further threaten the existence of rare plant and animal species [7]. Even if inclusion of TM in the ICD means that it is not recognized as medicine as such, we anticipate that TM will receive more credibility in the public opinion and this will only further stimulate the use of TM and might put both endangered animal and plant species at risk.

Therefore several organisations wish to express their concern and co-authored this letter, which can be signed by everybody; NGO's as well as world citizens. We will make sure this petition will be delivered by the member states of WHO during the coming World Health Assembly.

Our concern
We do not contest the integration of TM in ICD-11. However, in some traditional medicines, the use of products from threatened (on the global IUCN Red List) wild plant and animal species has already led to an increase of poaching and illegal trade in endangered wildlife and plants [3] [4] [5][6]. This is also the case with many species listed on the annexes of the Convention of the Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

As a consequence, multiple species of wild plants and animals are pushed to the brink of extinction by these practices, including the pangolin [5] and both Asiatic and African rhinoceros[3], with many other animal and plant species likely to follow suit [4] [8] due to carry-on effects. This impacts not only the species concerned but also the ecosystems they belong to (particularly in the case of keystone species), local communities dependent on wildlife for their livelihoods and the economy of countries concerned. We are worried that integration of TM in ICD-11 might lead to further pressure on all factors mentioned above.

In response to questions, and in an attempt to diffuse concerns about the impact of integration of TM in ICD-11 and the possible effects of this on threatened wildlife, Wu Linlin, a WHO representative in the Beijing office, stated[1] that "WHO does not endorse particular traditional and complementary medicine procedures or remedies". However, this stands in sharp contrast to WHO's actions in other areas. For example the agency gives member countries specific advice on what vaccines and drugs to use[9] [10] and what foods to avoid[11]. Until present, with traditional medicines, however, the WHO omits the advice of not using products of threatened plant and animal species (listed on the global IUCN Red List) in TM.

We refer to the Memorandum of Understanding, signed by the WHO and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2015[12], that both organisations consider "the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 adopted by Conference of the Parties to the Convention in Biological Diversity at its tenth meeting and noted with appreciation by the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly, and any other area of mutual interest, in line with the objectives for sustainable development set out by the United Nations". Sustainable Development Goals 14 (Life below water) and 15 (Life on land) are incompatible with traditional use of plant and animal species leading to species extinction.

What do we request
With so much at stake we urge the WHO and its individual members to proclaim that they are vehemently opposed to any use of products of plant and animal species listed on the global IUCN Red List in TM. We urge the WHO and its individual members to clearly include this observation in ICD-11 and to develop a strategy to prevent TM using products of endangered plants of animals, together with the CBD and CITES. The world needs assurance that integration of TM in ICD-11 will not lead to more pressure on precious and endangered wild plants and animals which also will affect the ecosystems they belong to as well the local communities dependent on wildlife for their livelihoods.

Watch a clip about the use of wild animals in TCM here, 

[1] The big push for Chinese medicine
Publication by: David Cyranoski, published in Nature, vol 561 (2018)

[2] IUCN red list of threatened species

[3] Fact and fiction: the rhino horn trade.
Publication by IUCN, African Foundation Conservation and EIA (2012)

[4] Eradicating the market for big cats
Publication by Environmental Investigation Agency, EIA (2018)

[5] The global trafficking of pangolins
Publication by Traffic (2017)

[6] A review of the trade in orchids and its implications for conservation,
Publication: authors from the IUCN Orchid Specialist Group's Global Trade Programme in Botanical Garden (2017)

[7] Will mainstreaming traditional Chinese medicine threaten wildlife?
Publication by Dina Fine Maron, National Geographic (2018)

[8] An assesment of wildlife poaching and trafficking in Boliva and Suriname
Publication by IUCN Nl (2019)

[9] World Health Organisation, Vaccines

[10] World Health Organisation, Fact sheets

[11] World Health Organisation officially confirms 'bacon as dangerous as smoking cigarettes'
Publication in healthy living idea (2018)

[12] Memorandum Of Understanding WHO and Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2015)

This petition has been endorsed by following NGO's and organisations:

Stichting SPOTS
Dutch Gorilla Foundation
Marjo Hoedemaker Elephant foundation
Stichting Leo
Bears in Mind
Nova Atlantis
Painted Dog Conservation
Stichting Chimbo
Stichting Trésor
Rewilding Foundation
Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF)
Natura Iberica
Stichting International Tropical Conservation Foundation (ITCF)
Lucie Burgers
Campaign Against Canned Hunting (CACH)
N/a'an ku sê foundation
FOUR PAWS International
AfriCat Foundation

Wild Cats World foundation

Cheetah Conservation Botswana

All for Nature Travel

W.A.R.- Wildlife At Risk International

Stichting Leeuw

WildWorld B.V.


Sign Petition
Sign Petition
You have JavaScript disabled. Without it, our site might not function properly.

Privacy Policy

By signing, you accept Care2's Terms of Service.
You can unsub at any time here.

Having problems signing this? Let us know.