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Our Cruel Treatment of Animals Led to the Coronavirus

The New York Times

David Benatar

The conditions that lead to the emergence of new infectious diseases are the same ones that inflict horrific harms on animals.

 

There is the obvious and then there is what should be obvious.

 

The obvious is that the coronavirus pandemic has brought much of the human world to a standstill. Many countries are in lockdown. So far, more than 1.7 million have been infected, more than 100,000 have died, and billions live in fear that the

numbers of sick and dead will rise exponentially. Economies are in recession, with all the hardship that entails for human well-being.

 

What should be obvious, but may not be to many, is that none of this should come as a surprise. That there would be another pandemic was entirely predictable, even though the precise timing of its emergence and the shape of its trajectory were not. And there is an important sense in which the pandemic is of our own making as humans. A pandemic may seem like an entirely natural disaster, but it is often — perhaps even usually — not.

 

The coronavirus arose in animals and jumped the species barrier to humans and then spread with human-to-human transmission. This is a common phenomenon. Most — and some believe all — infectious diseases are of this type (zoonotic). That in itself does not put them within the realm of human responsibility. However, many zoonotic diseases arise because of the ways in which humans treat animals. The “wet” markets of China are a prime example. They are the likely source not only of Covid-19 but also of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and some outbreaks of avian influenza, for example. (Another possible source of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 may be one of the many mixed wildlife-livestock farms in China, but humans are responsible for those, too.)

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