| By: Jessica Bridgers | Reading time: 4 minutesAdvocates are asking the United Nations to consider the role of animals in their COVID-19 recovery policies. They fear the return to ‘business as usual’ could lead to another deadly pandemic.|
Almost as soon as it became clear that our societies and economic systems would not continue as normal through the COVID-19 pandemic, calls to “Build back better” and even to “Build forward” began to grow louder and more urgent across the world.
COVID-19 is yet another in a series of diseases that have emerged from humans’ interactions with animals and has been preceded by HIV, Ebola, swine flu, and avian influenza, to name a few.
But even as the policies to achieve this “build back” are being proposed, debated, and implemented, the root causes of the pandemic lack full recognition, muting the ability of these policies to prevent history from repeating itself, perhaps with an even more deadly pandemic, in the future.
Now that we are close to the approval of a vaccine, it appears that the circulation of COVID-19 in mink on European fur farms has contributed to the emergence of new variants of the virus. Some worry that these variants will reduce the effectiveness of the vaccines currently in development, underscoring how our intransigence in addressing our relationship with animals continues to put us at risk.
“Today we stand at a crossroads,” writes Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE in the foreword of The Animals’ Manifesto, a new joint-manifesto from 150 animal and environmental protection agencies calling for the inclusion of animal welfare in COVID-19 recovery policies.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is still affecting almost all countries of the world,” writes Goodall. “How shocking to realize that we brought this on ourselves. Through our disrespect of the natural world, and our disrespect of animals.”THE ANIMALS’ MANIFESTO
In The Animals’ Manifesto, over 150 organizations across the globe are calling on world leaders, international institutions, political parties, and stakeholders to assess the direction of current COVID-19 response efforts, realign these with the glaring need for transformative change, and finally address humanity’s exploitation of animals. Specifically, the organizations are calling for:Steps to incorporate One Health and One Welfare into policies. One Health recognizes the linkages between human, animal, and environmental health, while One Welfare extends this concept to other aspects of wellbeing, such as food security, livelihoods, and humane treatment. Incorporating a One Welfare approach is key to ensuring an equitable, sustainable, and humane future.
Concrete politics and actions that transform farming systems, change food consumption habits, end the unnecessary exploitation of wildlife, increase vaccine development efficiencies, and ensure the wellbeing of animals in communities—such as companion animals and working equines.
Visionary, prudent, and necessarily bold leadership by global institutions at the center of the COVID-19 response, including the UN General Assembly, the UN Environmental Programme, the UN Development Programme, and international financial institutions.
To read the full manifesto, click here.
While COVID-19 should have been a clarion call to fully address our broken relationship with animals and chart a new course forward, many global institutions are still sidestepping the issue.
Last week, the UN General Assembly hosted a Special Session on COVID-19. The Concept Note and Program circulated in a letter by the President of the General Assembly (PGA) stated that the two-day event will allow stakeholders to reflect on COVID-19 response thus far and “forge a united, coordinated, and people-centered path forward,” yet the word “animal” did not appear even once in the PGA’s letter.
In other policy frameworks, rather than work towards a socially just end to the commercial trade of wildlife, policymakers are calling simply to make the wildlife trade “safe.” And international financial institutions like the International Finance Corporation are continuing to funnel millions of dollars into intensive pig farms in countries like China, where the CDC is already monitoring a new group of swine flu viruses that have “pandemic potential.”
“Will we continue with ‘business as usual’ or, shall we choose to get together and develop a new relationship with the natural world?”
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