We are all connected, and that has never been more evident than today.
The novel COVID-19, a coronavirus first found in humans in Wuhan, China, and thought to have originated in bats, has since spread to 202 countries, areas or territories, resulting in 754,948 confirmed cases and 36,571 confirmed deaths (as of March 31, 2020 https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019). And it's reinforcing what animal rights activists have been saying all along: live animal markets should be banned across the globe.
This is not the first time in recent history that such an issue has come up. In 2002, the SARS epidemic began through human contact with a mammal, the civet, which bats had infected with the coronavirus. Outbreaks of SARS and COVID-19 are not isolated animal-to-human illnesses by any means. Rabies, West Nile virus, Avian flu, Hantavirus and Lyme disease are all zoonotic (diseases of animals that can be passed to people) that we, as humans, do our best to avoid. Meat markets, an industry with no uniform global sanitary standards, will always put humans at risk, and of course spread illness among animals. So why are these cruel markets, where domestic and wild animals--often already ill--are unfed, dehydrated and uncared for, and in close proximity with people and other animals, still a thing? And why are we allowing the devaluation and abuse of innocent animals to continue?
To find the answer, we have to look back decades. The Food and Environment Reporting Network (FERN) explains: "The root of today's problem began in the late 1970's, when China embarked on an unusual agricultural experiment of wildlife farming. The country had passed through two decades of severe economic distress, including famine and food shortages, under Chairman Mao Zedong’s communist rule. As part of sweeping rural reforms, the collective farming system was abandoned and when there was no money to invest in livestock production, farmers were encouraged to capture and breed wild animals for personal consumption as well as commercial markets. Traditional use of animals as medicine was at one time reserved for royalty, but is now considered a status symbol, and has continued to drive the market. Even more sickening is that often the animals are boiled alive or otherwise tortured, with the belief that this makes the "medicine" stronger.
In China live markets had been banned temporarily, but it’s been reported that they have re-opened. We need to ensure they are stopped completely, everywhere.
Join PETA in urging the World Health Organization to call for an end to these brutal and deadly markets. Click here for more information: https://support.peta.org/page/17888/action/1
In the wake of the novel COVID-19, it's not just the animals at the live meat markets that suffer. Animal rights groups in China have been kept busy taking care of hundreds of pets that were released outside or abandoned in the wake of a lock-down in Wuhan and other cities there. CNN reports that many pet-owners had left enough food and water for a few days for their companions, thinking they would be returning home soon; however after more than a month they have still not been able to return home to care for their pets. Reports have also been circulating of pets being sent to the streets, and of some people claiming they would kill any animals found outside for fear of the virus spreading further.
The World Organisation for Animal Health, an intergovernmental organization responsible for improving animal health worldwide, reports that there is no evidence that companion animals can spread the disease, and "therefore there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare."
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more serious respiratory diseases. While no connection thus far has been made between passing COVID-19 to and from pets, it is advised to have someone else take care of your pets if you are sick, so you can both receive the best of care.
Humane Society International /Canada has tips for keeping our pets safe during the pandemic:
Wash hands thoroughly before and after feeding/watering pets, taking care of them, handling their food and disposing of waste.
Avoid kissing your pets and do not allow them to lick you.
Do not share food.
If you are sick, try to get a family member or friend to care for your pet. If this is not possible, maintain good hygiene practices and wear a mask if possible.
Have extra pet supplies on hand in case your pet has to be re-located.
Keep crates and leashes nearby for easy access.
Keep vaccines up to date, and keep records handy in case your pets need to be boarded.
Ensure all pet medications and prescriptions are kept close by, complete with administering directions.
Make sure pets have proper identification, i.e. a collar and ID tag and microchip with current contact information.
Other things you can do to help:
Donate supplies to your local shelters and rescue operations
Consider fostering or adopting pets
Keep donating money to your favourite animal NFP or charity – they need it more than ever now
Humane Society International/Canada notes on its website: "It is a great time to adopt a pet to reduce the potential strain on shelters and to offer to provide foster care in case shelters start to receive an increase in the number of requests to provide foster care for pets of people who will get seriously ill or be hospitalized."
Pankaj KC, Program Director for Animals in Communities at World Animal Protection said on the organization's website, "To put it into perspective, consider that there are around 750 million dogs living in the world, mostly alongside people. Out of all these, just one single dog has tested positive for coronavirus. This is an extremely rare and isolated case. We need to prevent a knee-jerk reaction to our canine companions, preventing any drastic measures."
COVID-19 Questions and Answers from the World Organisation for Animal Health:
Should I worry that my dog has coronavirus?
Links to Animal Organizations in Canada:
Toronto Humane Society https://torontohumanesociety.com
Ontario SPCA and Humane Society https://ontariospca.ca/
The Farley Foundation: Helps low-income pet owners in Ontario by subsidizing pet bills https://www.farleyfoundation.org/
BC SPCA https://spca.bc.ca/
Regional Animal Protection Society https://www.rapsbc.com/
Edmonton Humane Society https://www.edmontonhumanesociety.com/covid/
Moosejaw Humane Society https://moosejawhumanesociety.ca/home
Winnipeg Humane Society https://www.winnipeghumanesociety.ca/
Humane Society International (Canada) Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQ - Humane Society International
Nova Scotia SPCA https://www.novascotiaspca.ca/
About the author: Keri-Lynn has been in the publishing industry since 1996 as a reporter, photographer, writer, editor and publisher. Her aunt and producer of Four Pillars Productions events, Lisa Turney, introduced her to the world of animal activism and unleashed a new passion in her. Check out her website: https://www.idreaminwords.com