The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

Animal Doctor Column and Animal Politics

DEAR DR. FOX: I greatly appreciate all the stands you take (on current events). It’s too serious for us not to speak up! Thank you! -- J.B., Tulsa, Oklahoma

DEAR DR. FOX: Please keep writing about anything that concerns you, including politics. I am extremely concerned about the destruction of our environment. -- P.A., Claremore, Oklahoma

DEAR J.B. and P.A.: Thanks for your encouraging support.

Many who live in denial would sooner kill the messenger, and continue to rationalize harmful activities and products, rather than assume responsibility for the health and viability of planet Earth.

The existential challenges we face as a species to either evolve or perish are indeed of a deeply spiritual nature. By spiritual, I mean how we define ourselves: our purpose, ethics, empathy and compassion. Practical and effective solutions will not be forthcoming without these qualities in the public, political and corporate arenas.

I take the stand of an “apocalyptarian” -- a term used in a derogatory fashion by some, akin to “doomsday prophets.” On the contrary, in this case, “apocalypse” refers to the tearing of the veil that separates us from Life and Spirit, so that we can see the consequences of our actions and begin to live in closer accord with the Golden Rule.

I receive daily reports, like the one below, from around the world on issues that can make one feel depressed and hopeless. Indeed, where there is no vision, the people will perish. But where there is life, there is hope, and above all, our survival instincts can motivate us, collectively, to either evolve or perish. We are learning that all of life is interdependent. It is enlightened self-interest to give all species equal and fair consideration, and not put ourselves first without regard for “the least of these,” as per my book “Animals and Nature First.”


Common neonicotinoid pesticides have been found to starve fish “astoundingly fast” by killing aquatic insects, according to scientists investigating the collapse of fisheries in Japan. They say similar effects have likely taken place elsewhere. (The Guardian, Oct. 31)

From The Guardian:

“The long-term study showed an immediate plunge in insect and plankton numbers in a large lake after the introduction of neonicotinoid pesticides to rice paddies. This was rapidly followed by the collapse of smelt and eel populations, which had been stable for decades but which rely on the tiny creatures for food.

“The analysis shows a strong correlation, but cannot prove a causal link between the insecticides and the collapse. However, independent scientists said other possibilities had been ruled out and that the work provided ‘compelling evidence.’ ...

“Neonicotinoids’ harm to bees is well known, but previous studies in Europe have linked neonicotinoids to die-offs in other freshwater species, including mayflies, dragonflies and snails, and also to falling populations of

farmland birds that feed on insects, including starlings and swallows. The insecticide has also been shown to make migrating songbirds lose their way.”

In their report, the Japanese researchers said: “The ecological and economic impact of neonicotinoids on the inland waters of Japan confirms (Rachel) Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ prophecy.”


Demand has risen for the scales of endangered pangolins (scaly anteaters) for use in traditional Asian medicine, and trade has increased despite an international trade ban.

International criminal networks that illegally trade African elephant ivory have found a lucrative market in pangolin scales, with Nigeria emerging as a global export hub and Vietnam surpassing China as the largest source of demand, according to a report from the Wildlife Justice Commission.

Some virologists suspect the COVID-19 outbreak could have come from pangolins, and possibly bats, sold for human consumption in Wuhan, China. Such cross-species transfers of disease can be seen as nature’s retributive justice, and in reality are a warning to us all to stop encroaching on what is left of wildlife habitat and indigenous species. This is a call not only for better quarantine and disease monitoring in the U.S. and other countries, but for more rigorous policing and prosecution of illegal wildlife poachers and traders.

Also, an end to legal wildlife trade and international traffic, especially for the “exotic” pet trade, is long overdue. All traffic, legal and illegal, should be prohibited, except for legitimate conservation purposes. Countries should be subject to economic sanctions for engaging in these practices -- as should Brazil and surrounding countries, for destroying the Amazon forest, which is of such critical importance for climate health.

(Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

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