Just like everyone else, I can’t ignore it: the new corona virus. Most of the world is affected by the new virus and the consequences are massive. In times like these, the focus lies with decreasing the further spreading of the disease. Entire countries are in quarantine and it’s all you hear about on the news. Even though I understand that, I tried to look at the core of the problem the past days. How did this new virus arise and what is there to change so that this doesn’t happen again? What can we learn from COVID-19?
The core problem
In a way, it makes sense that most media platforms are talking about the consequences rather than where the problem came from. They’re here to inform the public. People need to know what to do and what not to do. You know, keep 1.5 meter distance, don’t go out of your house if you don’t have to, wash your hands frequently, all that. I truly get that, but I am missing the core problem. How did this virus arise in the first place? What are we doing wrong? I didn’t find much on the news, but luckily scientists are actually looking into that.
The new coronavirus, The Dutch ministry calls it COVID-19 but it is officially named SARS-CoV2. COVID-19 is zoonotic disease, a disease that is transferred from animals to humans (source). Up to 75% of all new diseases affecting people are zoonotic (source). Besides COVID-19, Ebola, Aviaire Influenza (bird flu) and salmonella are also zoonotic diseases. There are up to 150, but I won’t name all of them here.
There are many ways in which a zoonotic disease can be transferred from animals to humans, but the biggest source is eating animals. The research into the origin of the COVID-19 virus shows that it’s originated in a wild animal market in China (source). The disease has probably first occurred in a bat. Then the bat has transferred this to another animal and this animal was then brought to the Chinese wild animal market (source). The infected animal then came into contact with humans and from there it spread across the globe.
My personal interpretation
As research shows, the problem begins when we remove the animal from its natural habitat and come in contact with it. The virus wasn’t a problem when it was inside the bat and the other wild animal which it was transferred to. But the moment we take the animal from it’s natural habitat, domesticate it, or worse, slaughter it, the spread of the disease starts. So, apart from all the ethical reasons I can think of to not eat animals, there’s another good argument added to the list: zoonotic diseases that kill people.
If we did not eat or trade animals, this pandemic would not have occurred.
And so, what we can learn from this massive problem which affects literally almost the entire world, COVID-19? We should not eat, domesticate or trade animals or animal products.
Not only wild animals
And even if you’re a Dutch person who lives in an urban area and think: my diet does not consist of wild animals. Well, if you eat an average Dutch diet, you do. Fish are wild animals, I’ve seen restaurants serve wild meat and during Christmas a lot of people hunt. And even then, zoonotic diseases are not only transferred to humans by eating wild animals. It also occurs when humans eat domesticated animals like chickens or cows. These animals do not always get sick from the virus, but they do transmit it to humans. A few examples are Aviaire Influenza, which can be transmitted mostly through chickens (source), Campylobacter, also transferred through mostly chickens (source) and listeria, which can be caused by eating all kinds of animal products (source).
For me personally zoonotic diseases are another good reasons to not eat, domesticate (yes, that also means no pets or horses) or trade animals.
That’s what I think we can learn from COVID-19. What do you think about zoonotic diseases?