The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

Part 1 of 5: Musings of an Octogenarian Vegetarian Veterinarian

DEAR READERS: During the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people have been driven into poverty and hunger while more billionaires have been recorded than ever. Richer nations and private corporations are spending billions not to address the climate, extinction and public health crises, but rather to explore Mars and seed telecommunications satellites around the Earth; to manufacture more weapons of mass destruction; and to create more animal- and human-tested, genetically engineered pharmaceuticals and crops.

A United Environmental Nations is needed to temper, regulate and redirect the hegemony of this rising global biotechnocracy. Our current economic, social and environmental trajectories will make life on Earth ever more of a challenge for future generations. To believe otherwise is to deny the evidentiary science and accept the pseudo-science of biotechnocratic “progress” and its false promises of a better world to come -- one that will, in reality, be totally corrupted by vested interests and ideologies far removed from the concept of One Health. Indeed, we cannot afford not to adopt the mantra and philosophy of “One Health, One People, One Economy and One Earth.”

Millions of people around the world are malnourished while others have very limited access to healthful foods and to nutritional education. Obesity and diabetes are prevalent in the latter communities. Transitioning to low- or zero-carbon emission organic agriculture, which can provide nutritious, principally plant-based diets to us all, is an ethical imperative to reduce the environmental, climate and public health costs of our current fossil fuel- and petrochemical-based agriculture industry.

Many solutions lie in enlightened capitalism and responsible socialism, but not at Nature’s continued expense. Both political spheres are stymied by polarizing, paralyzing political ideologies and vested interests. But in redefining the meaning of progress from the One Health perspective, we may redefine what it means to be human. We can choose to prosper in spite of ourselves before a nihilistic party of bio-fascism takes hold.

Equalitarianism -- respecting human rights and the interests and intrinsic value of other species, whether plant or animal -- coupled with environmental ethics and planetary CPR (conservation, protection and restoration) is the foundation for a viable and just democracy.

(Related resources: See Maria Ivanova‘s article “At 50, the UN Environment Programme must lead again” in the journal Nature, and my book “Bringing Ethics to Life: Global Bioethics for a Humane Society.”)

SOUTH’S DEEP FREEZE TOOK A TOLL ON WILDLIFE

The intense cold snap in the southern U.S. last month had severe repercussions on the region’s wildlife. In Texas, bats came out of hibernation in an attempt to escape the cold, only to starve due to the lack of insects; young birds have been found dead on sidewalks and in yards; and wildlife officials in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas suspect large numbers of fish, deer and antelope succumbed to the cold. More than 10,600 hypothermic sea turtles have been found along the Gulf of Mexico, and scientists are concerned that migrating monarch butterflies will be unable to find milkweed. (Full story: Associated Press, Feb. 24)

DEAR DR. FOX: Once again, I commend you for being the voice for those who do not have one. I realize you have to navigate a tight path in your position, but you’re a much kinder soul than me when it comes to hunters. I wonder if the hunter who wrote to you for an apology would have had even a hint of self-reflection if his family’s “time-honored tradition” was something other than deer hunting -- in other words, something he didn’t thoroughly enjoy.

The rationalization we humans are capable of would almost be comical if it weren’t for the fact that innocent, voiceless lives are taken -- with absolutely zero justification, the overwhelming majority of the time.

I grew up in Oklahoma and have heard just about every story imaginable to justify hunting, except for the real, primary reason: They love the thrill of the kill. The same dispassion these guys displayed as they killed bullfrogs and birds with BB guns when we were younger simply carries over into adulthood. (And yes, sadly, I was part of the bullfrog-hunting group -- until I actually killed one.)

Of course, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. -- R.P.M., Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

DEAR R.P.M.: Thanks for your kind words of support and personal history regarding hunting. I shot a blackbird with a friend’s BB rifle when I was around 13. It was an incredible (and, thank God, merciful) 20-yard shot, right through its left eye, where I had aimed. My friend was impressed, congratulating me as I held the bird and turned away, choking on my tears. I never shot another creature after that, except as a veterinarian with a captive bolt pistol to euthanize.

(Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com 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.

Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)