DEAR DR. FOX: If the billions of dollars lavished on Fluffy and Fido's food, toys, dentist and vet bills were spent on humans, the world would be a better place. Massive harm is done by not putting humans first. Please quit hawking the Pet-Industrial Complex's narrative. Dr. Fox, your priorities are totally immoral. -- T.V.H., Tulsa, Oklahoma
DEAR T.V.H.: Many readers may agree with you that some people go overboard in indulging their animal companions, but I do not see how my advocacy for animal health and well-being is "immoral" or that I am "hawking" pet industry products. I am a longtime critic of most manufactured pet foods and treats that often have harmful ingredients, many coming from China.
In reality, the "massive harm" to which you allude of not putting humans first actually comes from putting human interests over those of other species and the natural environment, the COVID-19 pandemic being one consequence. For more details see my book "Animals and Nature First."
Our own health and economic security depend upon us caring for the environment and for animals, wild and domesticated, a fact now acknowledged internationally by advocates of One Health. We have polluted and poisoned the planet and reap the bitter harvest of ever more children with cancer, birth defects and other health problems that could have been prevented. But preventive measures go against the grain of profit-driven industries, including the medical and pharmaceutical. Companion animals provide emotional and various well-documented health benefits which amount to considerable public health cost-saving.
Putting people first, which is the worldview of anthropocentrism, has helped bring on the climate, population and extinction crises. The cultural and cultish influence of author and philosopher Ayn Rand in her 1964 book "The Value of Selfishness," which discusses a theory that she called "rational egoism," regrettably helped sanctify this human-centered world view of Western industrial civilization.
Anthropocentrism is the ultimate blind spot which, biologically, leads to an evolutionary dead-end. This is why putting the eco-centric One Health worldview into politics, business and industry is an ethical and survival imperative -- and enlightened selfishness!
HARMING THE ENVIRONMENT, WE HARM OURSELVES
In the article by Erin Brockovich, "Plummeting Sperm Counts, Shrinking Penises: Toxic Chemicals Threaten Humanity," she discusses a new book called "Countdown," by Shanna Swan, an environmental and reproductive epidemiologist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, who finds that sperm counts have dropped almost 60% since 1973. "Following the trajectory we are on," Brockovich writes in The Guardian, "Swan's research suggests sperm counts could reach zero by 2045. Zero. Let that sink in. That would mean no babies. No reproduction. No more humans. Forgive me for asking: Why isn't the U.N. calling an emergency meeting on this right now?
"The chemicals to blame for this crisis are found in everything from plastic containers and food wrapping, to waterproof clothes and fragrances in cleaning products, to soaps and shampoos, to electronics and carpeting. Some of them, called PFAS, are known as 'forever chemicals,' because they don't break down in the environment or the human body. They just accumulate and accumulate -- doing more and more damage, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. Now, it seems, humanity is reaching a breaking point."
Many of these chemicals are leaching from municipal waste landfills into the groundwater and ultimately our drinking water. They're also in the air and rain from incinerating plastics and from microplastics in what we eat and drink that can act like magnets and bind these toxic petrochemicals on their surfaces.
SALMONELLOSIS OUTBREAK TRACED TO PET TURTLES
Pet turtles purchased from roadside or transient vendors have caused a salmonellosis outbreak in Pennsylvania that killed at least one adult, the state health department says. Reptiles shed salmonella bacteria in their feces that easily contaminate objects and surfaces. They should never be allowed where food is prepared or eaten, and close contact with them should be avoided. (Full story: WHTM-TV, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Feb. 24)
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)