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COVID-19 and cruelty toward animals: The undeniable link

The more we learn from this pandemic, the better equipped we are to prevent another one in the future. Amidst the din of stories, facts, questions and concerns about this particular coronavirus, we’ve lost track of a fundamental question: How did the spread of COVID-19 begin in the first place? 

In the simplest of terms, it was transmitted to humans from animals. Tragically, these were animals who were being held in terrible conditions in China’s notorious wildlife markets. Similar viral outbreaks have occurred in the past through people intruding on wild animal habitats and taking exotic animals for food and folk remedies. HIV, Ebola, SARS and other deadly viruses all invaded the human population through wildlife destruction and exploitation routes. 

To put it plainly: When we wreak havoc on the natural world, we wreak havoc on ourselves. 

Destroying the natural habitats of non-domesticated creatures means putting ourselves at the mercy of viruses to which we have no natural immunity. While a vaccine for COVID-19 will be developed eventually, medical professionals know that it is only a matter of time before the next viral threat appears. We as a species must stop dismantling the natural world for short-term gain and learn to live in peace with that world. The consequences of failing to do so are grave, as illustrated by the current pandemic.

Best Friends’ vision is a better world through kindness to animals and if there was ever a time to embrace that sentiment and take it literally, it’s now. While our organizational mission is focused on saving dogs and cats, those aren’t the only animals who find refuge at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Goats and horses, owls and eagles, pigs and peacocks, parrots and pigeons, rabbits and reptiles, skunks and squirrels, turtles and turkeys: They all find sanctuary here because this was their home before it was ours. 

Kindness isn’t a commodity reserved for the animals or our families and friends. Kindness doesn’t begin at point A and end at point B. It is the fabric and the measure of our lives. And now we find ourselves in the midst of a global crisis, and the only viable path forward is kindness. We must do everything we can to help and protect each other and the lives that depend on us — the animals who are a part of our communities.

A shared love for all living creatures is a powerful unifying value during trying times. And if current public health and safety measures prevent us from welcoming fellow lovers of the natural world to the Sanctuary in person, we’ll do everything we can to recreate that connection in spirit.

We are part of a community of like-minded people rich in compassion, experience and knowledge. When times are shaky — as they are now — it’s this bedrock community to which I turn.

As we continue our journey through these uncharted waters — despite all that can shake us from our moorings and push us into isolation — let’s not lose sight of those shared values that link us together across economic, racial and political boundaries. Caring for animals and the natural world goes hand-in-hand with caring for one another. 

Throughout the weeks and months ahead, we will continue our lifesaving mission and emerge from this altered reality united in purpose to Save Them All.

Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society Julie Castle
CEO
Best Friends Animal Society