Signatories say a blanket ban would have a 'significant negative impact' on responsible animal-keepers.
Representatives from 13 global pet trade associations have signed an open letter calling on international governing bodies to resist calls for a complete ban on the trade of live animals.
The Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association (OATA) and Ornamental Fish International (OFA) are among those who have backed a call for governments and NGOs to rely on sound science and evidence-based solutions to prevent the spread of disease.
'Indiscriminate and broad-ranging bans would have a significant negative impact on the responsible pet and animal-keeping communities,' the letter says.
'For centuries, we have shared our lives with a wide variety of species, from dogs and cats to goldfish and geckos. Live animals for the pet trade have moved between countries successfully for decades under a heavily regulated and continuously evaluated system that protects both human and animal health.;
It continues: 'Like many, we want to end the unsustainable use and illegal trafficking of wildlife. Unsustainable and illegal practices that are harmful to biodiversity taint and demonise the reputation of those who work sustainably and legitimately.
'We support the development of stronger policies and increased enforcement action across the world to tackle these issues. But these key challenges are being marginalised by these unrealistic calls for blanket bans.'
Earlier this month, WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that governments must “rigorously enforce bans on the sale and trade of wildlife for food” to prevent the spread of diseases such as COVID-19.
His words were echoed by international animal welfare charity Born Free, which urged the WHO to work alongside governments to ban wildlife markets and bring an end to the commercial wildlife trade.
But signatories of the letter argue the calls have been made without consideration of the potential consequences.
OATA’s chief executive Dominic Whitmee said: “We are seeing a growing number of indiscriminate calls from a wide range of NGOs and celebrities who are calling for a ban on wildlife trade, with no heed for what this would actually mean.
“We feel many of the anti-trade NGOs are using the cloak of this undoubtedly concerning and worrying pandemic to further their own political agendas, pursuing this call to stop trade without considering the varied nature of the trade and the consequences of any ban for many of the poorest people on this planet.”
OFI president Shane Willis added: "There should be scientific evidence to support regulation of wildlife trade, particularly where livelihoods in vulnerable communities and developing countries are involved.
"There is clear evidence that sustainable trade in ornamental fish can provide sustainable livelihoods and these should not be taken away from people through knee-jerk reactions or political agenda to see the ban on the exploitation of all animals and animal products.”
The letter can be read in full here.