DEAR READERS: We are all witness to the tragic loss of lives, personal suffering, and social and economic chaos that have accompanied COVID-19, along with a lack of governmental and personal responsibility in stemming the pandemic. It is time to pause amid the rush to market new vaccines and drugs, and consider the origins of this virus. It is not so much “from China” as it is from our continued cultural acceptance of consuming other species for food, and of encroaching on the last of the wild lands.
If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that becoming vegetarians -- and ideally, vegans -- is the best preventive for future pandemics. This is consonant with the ethical One Health imperative of seeking to restore and maintain a healthy environment, clean air and water, and safe, sustainably produced food.
Two independent scientific reports have determined that several species of mammals, some endangered wild species, and others raised for food or kept as pets could become infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus from people who have the COVID-19 disease. The animals could then become a source of infection to humans and other species. Every precaution must therefore be taken by all of us -- especially farmers, staff and visitors at ranches, horse stables, zoos, aquariums, safari parks and pet stores with live animals (especially ferrets).
THOUSANDS OF MINK DIE FROM COVID-19 INFECTED WORKERS
Two of the largest mink farms in Utah were put under quarantine in August after animals and employees tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 (Salt Lake Tribune, 8/17). Subsequently, nine mink farms in three Utah counties were quarantined after thousands of mink died of SARS-CoV-2 infections, likely spread to the animals from workers at the farms, says Utah State Veterinarian Dean Taylor. Most of the deaths have occurred in older mink, and the farms have not resorted to euthanasia to stop the virus’s spread, Taylor said (Kaiser Health News, 10/20).
Internationally, SARS-CoV-2 infections were confirmed in mink at 41 farms in Denmark and suspected at 20 more. Around 1 million animals might be culled at the affected farms and at others nearby (Reuters, 10/2).
DEAR DR. FOX: You wrote in a recent column that “science loses its credibility when it serves vested interests, and the current anti-science political ethos in the U.S. seeks to silence the informed who speak truth to power.”
I really want to thank you for not polarizing your perspective -- to choose not to be antithetical to one narrative to facilitate your stance. I think it’s helpful to have individuals like yourself who are willing to admit that politics and science need to divorce from each other when it comes to health and profit margins.
Even in my field, I catch a lot of flak from my colleagues because I take a mix of science and personal experience to facilitate change. I can see the benefit of having more people who are willing to listen to experts, but also hope to have room to speak on “case dependent” situations. -- M.P., Aberdeen, Maryland
DEAR M.P.: I hope that other readers share your view of my position concerning the politicization of facts, evidence and science in these times of division, duplicity and disinformation. We must all examine the truths we live by, as well as our own motives, before we criticize others.
In my case, my motive is not to make money or sell anything, but to promote the concept of One Health and justice based on what I call trans-species democracy: respect for all life. Politics and economics that are contrary to these principles and cause harm to the environment -- and ultimately to ourselves and other living beings -- must be confronted and changed.
The cultural and socioeconomic crises in the U.S. and many other countries, catalyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic, are collisions of truths. Profits can no longer be put before public health, environmental justice and animal protection, nor can personal “freedom” (such as the right not to wear protective masks) take precedent over personal responsibility. (For details, see my book “Bringing Life to Ethics: Global Bioethics for a Humane Society.”)
(Send all mail to email@example.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.)