For communities across the world, 2020 has been a tumultuous season. The SARS-CoV-2 virus (which causes COVID-19) spread from a couple of people in a Chinese wildlife market to over 72 million individuals at the end of the year. Yet we were not the pandemic’s just victims.
Animals suffered both by getting ill with the virus and by the socioeconomic impacts of the outbreak. The pandemic also highlighted the deadly costs of animal exploitation. Experts warn that we will need to fundamentally change our relationship with animals, especially wildlife and farm animals, to prevent future pandemics.
The pandemic and wildlife
The COVID-19 pandemic is thought to have originated at a wildlife market in Wuhan, China. The current pandemic is far from the only public health crisis traced back into wild animals. Back in 2003, SARS passed from civets to humans in a Chinese wildlife market. Ebola and HIV are believed to have been transmitted to people from bushmeat hunting.
The report cautioned that without significant modifications,” pandemics will emerge often, spread more quickly, kill more people, and affect the global market with much more devastating effect than ever before.”
Wild creatures available at markets are usually stored in crowded conditions and slaughtered on websites, which can cause the spread of bodily fluids like blood and feces. The newspaper was sent to authorities around the world, asking them to take action. In the USA, the HSUS is advocating for the passage of this Preventing Future Pandemics Act of 2020, which would ban the import, export, and sale of particular live wildlife for human consumption.
The pandemic and animals raised for fur
Mink fur farms in the Netherlands, U.S., Denmark, France, Spain, Sweden, Lithuania, Greece, Poland, and Italy have experienced outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2. Countless mink died from the virus from the U.S. alone after infected mink were discovered on fur farms in Wisconsin, Utah, Michigan, and Oregon.
Veterinary professionals together with the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association noted that it is not surprising that even fur farms have experienced outbreaks of the virus. Very similar to forest markets, animals in fur farms tend to be housed in crowded conditions where they are subjected to bodily fluids. A Humane Society International/U. K. evaluation of a Finnish fur farm in 2019 found foxes and mink experiencing gaping wounds and eye infections and dead creatures lying in cages, sometimes being consumed by other animals. Inhumane living conditions can raise anxiety levels, consequently weakening the animals’ immune systems and making them susceptible to the virus.
The pandemic and animals used in research
Scientists working to understand the virus and examine vaccines utilize animals such as mice, ferrets, and primates as study subjects. Specifically, primates are utilized to check the effectiveness of vaccines because of their genetic similarity to humans. Researchers have used so many primates for COVID-19 research that labs claim they’re undergoing fighter shortages. But Lindsay Marshall, biomedical science advisor in the HSUS and Humane Society International, says that animal research has its limitations.
“These are animals, they have the illness differently than us, they recover differently than us and they are just different,” Marshall says. Most monkey species get just mildly ill from COVID-19 and do not suffer particular severe symptoms that many people do, which hampers researchers’ ability to comprehend how the disease impacts human bodies.
The pandemic and companion animals
During April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the first cases of SARS-CoV-2 in U.S. pets: 2 cats living in separate homes in New York, one of whom had an owner who had previously tested positive for the virus. In June, a dog tested positive after one of his owners had been ill with COVID-19.
Though other cats and dogs have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the number of confirmed cases is extremely low when compared with the number of pets in the U.S… There are still an estimated 89 million pet dogs and 94 million pet cats in the U.S., but only 49 confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 in cats and 35 confirmed cases in puppies. Veterinarians believe companion animals are not that susceptible to SARS-CoV-2, even though cats are believed to be at a higher risk than dogs. Even though there is a really small risk of transmission from humans to companion animals, there’s no proof that companion animals can transmit the virus to people. The CDC recommends COVID-19 patients avoid contact with their pets and have others care for their animals, if at all possible.
The pandemic and animals raised for food
As crazy animal meat gained increased scrutiny throughout the ordeal, people also started to rethink their ingestion of animals such as cows, cows, pigs, and fish. A May poll indicates that 52 percent of respondents believe the food industry should concentrate more on plant-based foods. Revenue of plant-based meats and kale have surged since the onset of the pandemic.
While SARS-CoV-2 has been tracked to wildlife, ago zoonotic disease outbreaks–such as avian influenza and swine flu–originated from farm animal surgeries. The United Nations report notes the growth and intensification of agriculture is one of the chief drivers of potential pandemic threat and livestock are one of the most probable reservoirs of pathogens that could cause a future pandemic.