Philip Lymbery | Why Protecting People Means Protecting Animals Too
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Why Protecting People Means Protecting Animals Too

Image Credit: aldarinho

I last wrote about the coronavirus at the end of January.  At that time, news of the devastating Covid-19 outbreak had led to swift action by the authorities in China, banning the trade in wildlife.  The virus had been traced to a seafood market in Wuhan that was illegally selling wild animals.

Looking back, it is hard to imagine that throughout the world, countries are now in emergency situations and in lockdown, with more deaths and more cases being reported each day.  The world has literally been turned upside down. Life has become like living in a disaster movie. We all hope for a swift and happy end.   

Here at Compassion in World Farming, we have been greatly cheered by your continued and wonderful support.  Rest assured, despite the current challenging circumstances, our fight against factory farming goes on.  It is as urgent now as ever and we remain united in our mission to create a fairer food system. To end industrial farming forever. Around the world, every farm animal who is suffering in a cage, crate, or overcrowded shed still needs our help. Farm animals still need a voice. Here at Compassion, we remain that voice. Louder than ever.

Out of the darkest times comes light. I am sure, like me, you have been greatly heartened by the many uplifting stories of kindness, compassion and even humour.  This dreadful coronavirus has united the human race across the globe against a common enemy, regardless of our culture, religion, occupation, finances or indeed how famous we might be.  It would seem that the best of humanity is shining through. There is a sense that ‘we are all in this together’.

Perhaps most of all, it is reminding us all about the importance of life itself, putting into sharp focus the value we place on our health and on the wellbeing of those closest to us.  When all is said and done, perhaps this crisis is helping us, or forcing us, to recalibrate and rethink our lives.  To reassess what is most important.

For my part, I find solace in animals and nature; in walking my rescue dog Duke, seeing Spring arrive in the garden and all around me.

Embracing the natural wonders of our beautiful planet provides me with both a calm space and an invigorating energy, to help face what is ahead. Life itself is so precious, yet we know that climate breakdown, and the collapse of nature, fueled in no small part by factory farming, are the most important challenges this planet will face this century. This pandemic is showing humanity how very vulnerable we are when we attempt to control, cage and confine nature for our own ends.

We know that scientists both inside and out of China have warned of the dangers of people eating animals involved in the illegal trade in wildlife.  After Sars – the severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2002-3 caused by a similar coronavirus to the one involved in this outbreak – Chinese scientists wrote papers on the risks of allowing people to trade and eat wild meat.

Yet disease threats to people come not only from poor treatment of wildlife; the way we keep animals on industrial farms also poses a huge threat.

I cannot but help see a parallel here with other viruses such as Swine Flu and highly pathogenic strains of Avian Influenza, which stem from our treatment of farm animals.

Both these diseases have been devastating; both likely emanate in large part from keeping living, breathing, sentient creatures in the most unnaturally crowded conditions on industrial farms. Conditions that provide the perfect breeding ground for new and more deadly strains of disease.

What Swine flu taught us over a decade ago was that treating animals as mere commodities – be they domesticated or wild – means playing Russian Roulette with people’s health. 

To me, it seems clear that a key component of reducing the risk of devastating diseases in the future is to reconnect with our humanity for animals and for the environment. To ensure that the sentience of animals – their ability to feel pain, to suffer, and to experience a sense of joy if we let them – whether wild or farmed, lies at the heart of future disease control strategies.

But, when Covid-19 is beaten, will we learn the lessons?  Will it be business as usual or will we embrace a new way of working?  A new beginning, where we safeguard the health and wellbeing of people, by recognising the importance of animal welfare, of natural habitats and the environment?

Let’s take this moment to pledge for a new beginning where we reconnect with our most basic values; the love we have for one another, and for other beings that share this planet and for life itself.  I firmly believe that together we will beat this pandemic crisis and emerge all the stronger, with a new purpose to embrace what is truly important. The next step will be to revalue nature as the life-sustaining force that it is and to end factory farming. For all our sakes. 

Thank you.  Stay safe everyone

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