I appeared today on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to speak about the COVID-19 crisis and wildlife markets with Humane Society International’s Peter Li and our colleague Gene Baur of Farm Sanctuary. Together, we made the case for an immediate end to wildlife markets all over the world, and described the filth, cruelty, lawlessness and pandemic risk that make these markets so wrong for the twenty-first century. Peter, a professor of political science at the University of Houston, grew up in China, and has seen these markets at first hand. And Gene, a pioneering figure in American farm animal protection work, reminded the audience that humanity’s massive factory farms represent a public health threat that is also deserving of our scrutiny in the current hour. While the COVID-19 pandemic resulted from a wildlife market and the global wildlife trade, the worldwide intensive confinement of farm animals—particularly chickens and pigs—has allowed viruses such as bird flu to multiply and mutate into contagious and deadly forms.
We’re in increasingly good company in our indictment of wildlife markets and other points of vulnerability. Last week, Anthony Fauci weighed in powerfully on the subject, while today, in an interview published in the Guardian, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema of the United Nations Environment Program, who is the active executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, supported the closure of such markets, too. I appreciated Mrema’s attempt to draw a big-picture perspective, one that resonates deeply with our work at the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International.
Like Mrema, Peter, Gene and I were trying to get across a simple but deeply urgent precept, that we need a new conception of our relationship with the non-human, whether it is the animals with whom we share this world, or the natural habitat and wild spaces that sustain all life on the planet.
In the current crisis, we’re doing all that we can to support those seeking to help animals. We’re making grants to local societies working under duress, thanks to the generosity of the Lewyt Foundation and other friends. We’re arranging for the purchase and shipment of needed pet food and supplies to remote communities like those in western Alaska and supporting direct care and services through our Pets for Life program and through Remote Animal Veterinary Services. We’re providing needed resources for keeping animals safe during the pandemic, both for the animal sheltering sector and for the general public. We’re supporting our own animal care facilities in their essential operations. We’re pressing for the inclusion of animals in the formulation and implementation of COVID-19 Response Orders. And we’re pushing hard on our public policy goals concerning live animal markets, wildlife trade and trafficking, and related issues.
If you are involved as a donor or friend of the HSUS and its affiliates in this critical time, you have a right to see us fully visible and engaged in the work of helping animals. And you will. We’re giving it everything we’ve got, and we’re doing so with the resources, the energy and the dedication to mission that your commitment and support make possible.