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How COVID-19 Has Affected Animals and the Environment

Photo: Courtesy of Keyang Zheng

COVID-19 has been devastating to people and our economy. It has also affected animals, as we now know of the transference of COVID-19 from a human to a tiger in the Bronx Zoo. However, during this pandemic, there have been some inspiring beneficial effects.

Less pollution

With fewer of us driving or flying, air pollution is on the decline. This means our environment, including animals, has been thriving. There are reports of animals being able to expand in their habitats during this time, not just due to better air quality, but due to a lack of threat from people and the problems that overpopulation brings to their spaces. Nature is thriving, and when nature thrives, humans thrive.

Wildlife, not entertainment

People at home have been bingeing “Tiger King.”After watching this docuseries, more people are aware of the plight of wild animals that are held in captivity for entertainment and profit. One shocking fact that came out of this series is that more tigers are held in captivity in the United States than are in the wild globally. It also shed light on the character of the people involved in the captive wildlife industry that are clearly in it for profit and to exploit animals. There is more awareness now that we should not keep animals in cages for our entertainment – they belong in the wild.

The other benefit of so many people watching “Tiger King” is awareness that the ownership of exotic pets is obviously cruel. People cannot keep control of exotic animals as pets, they cannot ensure that these animals get the nourishment and diet needed, and it is almost impossible to provide an environment appropriate for the needs wild animals have in their natural habitats. Snakes, big cats, bears, birds, and other wild animals kept as pets all suffer when kept in captivity. They also become a threat to our environment when their owners cannot take care of them, and they are abandoned in habitats that cannot support them and threaten other species.

Spending time with pets

Fostering at local animal shelters is at an all-time high, which is a great thing, but also our pets in our homes are benefiting from more human companionship. It has been proven that pets lower blood pressure, so at this time of high stress, pets could not make better companions. Pets also teach us to be kind to animals, which is a good thing for us to all practice, especially when we realize that this pandemic was started because of the poor way we treat wild animals.

New awareness

75 percent of all new infectious diseases are zoonotic. SARS, MERS, Zika, Ebola, HIV, and now COVID-19 have all come from animals. Scientists believe that a decline in biodiversity as a result of climate change is putting humans in closer contact with animals, which is resulting in these infections diseases. We can do something about this. We need to stop taking animals out of the wild and using them as entertainment as a start.

We also need to end factory farming. Factory farming has been found to be one of the leading causes of pollution and climate change. Factory farming of pigs and cows irreversibly pollutes the land, air, and water around them and is poisoning people as well. In 2020, it is estimated that 23,000 people will die of an antibiotic-resistant infection. One of the leading causes of this is factory farming and the overuse of antibiotics to keep animals alive in a dirty and unnatural environment. We can stop these unnecessary deaths and cause of climate change by simply reducing our meat intake and switching to more plant-based foods. It is better for our health, our environment, and animals.

We cannot continue to destroy the environment and destroy wildlife habitats. We cannot continue to mass produce farmed animals in factory farm settings. And we cannot continue to abuse animals and use them as entertainment. If we want to avoid another pandemic, we need to act now.

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