Coronavirus: a backlash against animals that should be solved by education
From All-Creatures.org Animal Rights/Vegan Activist Strategies Articles Archive

FROM Pei Su, CEO and CO-founder, ACTAsia
February 2020


[Also read Coronavirus: the deadly consequences of our exploitation of animals? AND When is wildlife not wildlife?]

Asian culture is new to pet ownership so ACTAsia uses education to help people meet their responsibilities. We start teaching children about the needs of pets in Grade 1, as it is an ideal way to introduce them to animal sentience.

Our Caring for Life Education programme also teaches people the potential dangers of manipulating and exploiting nature for commercial profit.

This viral outbreak underlines the message that forcing nature into unnatural circumstances for human gain is ultimately always a bad idea.

wet market

Last weekend, our web news on Coronavirus offered some insight into the role that exploiting wild animals for commercial profit has played in the spread of Coronavirus. But news moves fast, and now we must respond again as a needless backlash against companion animals is reported to take hold in Asia.

WHO Coronavirus

We all know the dangers of fake news, and commenting on events as they unfold means walking a fine line - for all of us. It's hard to establish the truth once news is reported second/third/fourth hand - or worse - so we must defer to the experts before we jump to any conclusions.

The news is rife with terrible stories of companion animals on the receiving end of abuse and neglect, resulting from suspicion that dogs and cats can spread Coronavirus to humans. Despite reassurance from the World Health Organisation (WHO) stating that dogs and cats have their own species-specific versions of Coronavirus that cannot be transmitted to any other species (see poster above), the fear appears to be growing. Troubling reports range from government culls of dogs and cats, to pet owners throwing animals to their deaths from tower blocks. Agents from around the world are asking us if the stories and supporting images are true.

Child Dogs Cat

To the best of our knowledge and research on the ground, we can say that we have not found 'official' culling of dogs by the Government. However, in some cities, local communities are calling residents to restrict the movement of companion dogs, and there is some opposition to keeping pets at all. Such scares and negative attitudes towards companion animals are common when there is an outbreak of disease. Reports and footage support claims that some pets were left home along for what was intended to be a short period over New Year, but turned out to be much longer due to restrictions placed on movement across China. Some dogs and cats have reportedly been released from apartments by force while their owners have been unable to return home. Through these responses, we can say with certainty that pet ownership is a relatively new concept in Asia, so the responsibilities that come with pets are not yet fully understood by most of society.

Kids and Dogs

It is because Asian culture is new to pet-ownership that ACTAsia uses education to help people meet their responsibilities. We start teaching children about the needs of pets in Grade 1, as itís an ideal way to introduce them to animal sentience. It helps them develop compassion at a time when they are starting to develop their own values. But these concepts are in their infancy across much of Asia, and many societies have a long way to go.

Wet Market
Live animals are kept caged until a customer places an order for meat. Carcasses and animal remains are kept in close proximity (see lower right corner).

Our Caring for Life Education programme also teaches people the potential dangers of manipulating and exploiting nature for commercial profit. We encourage the public to think about the origins of the goods and services they consume and the impact they have on our planet, including meat, wildlife products and animal fur, technology, toys, holidays, plastic and much more.

Tragically, there are always people on every continent who abuse animals through commercial exploitation or for sadistic pleasure, and sadly it is likely that Coronavirus is being used as an opportunity and excuse for some such abuse. But please be reassured that these cases are by far the exception, not the norm.

At ACTAsia, we work with children and adults to help them develop compassion and critical thinking. We encourage them to become responsible guardians for our planet, sympathetic towards each other, considerate consumers and compassionate pet owners.

We're in no doubt that a permanent ban should be placed on live animal markets and intensively farmed animals across Asia, whether wildlife, fur-bearing animals, dogs, cats or other pets, birds or fish. Our reasons extend far beyond the dangers of Coronavirus. But this viral outbreak underlines the message that forcing nature into unnatural circumstances for human gain is ultimately always a bad idea. We must take action to ensure this is never allowed to happen again. 


Return to: Animal Rights/Vegan Activist Strategies