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  • Writer's pictureClaire Carreras

Animal Welfare During the Pandemic

All around the world humanity is going through an unprecedented event. The outbreak and quick spread of COVID-19 has both pushed and pulled people together in ways I’ve never seen. Individuals and businesses alike are banding together as a community to offer help, assistance, resources and information.

Like many, I find it difficult to think about friends and family becoming unwell and being unable to be with them.

A deer in Sri Lanka Credit: Getty Images

I also worry for the animals at times like this.

Has the world’s view on how we interact with the other species on this Earth changed?

Reports of animals reclaiming populated territory in the absence of humans are everywhere - And people seem to delight in the idea of animals excelling in a world with less interference from people.

Will this raise new awareness and urgency for better treatment of animals? Will the virus create a push for new considerations into the consumption of animals and animal derived ingredients? Furthermore I wonder - How can activists and rescue workers aid animals in need, in a world where human-to-human contact is prohibited. Can animal welfare be effectively organized and executed remotely?

I reached out to Angela Kung at World Animal Protection US for insight on how our self-isolation nation has affected their campaigns and what we can do to help;

How does World Animal Protection plan to continue fighting on the front line when we aren't allowed to gather?

Though we unfortunately had to cancel any offline events and gatherings, we are continuing our campaign work digitally. Luckily we have all the tools and tech to still mobilize supporters through our website/online petitions/social media as well as keep in touch through video conferencing. We are still moving forward with campaign actions, such as recently urging the USDA to recommend more plant-based food in the 2020 Dietary Guidelines, launching a report on ball pythons as exotic pets, speaking to various stakeholders to make animal welfare a priority within their businesses and more to come.

Is animal rescue and welfare work classified as an essential service?

Every country, environment and dynamic is different but the positive thing is even if our NYC office is closed indefinitely, all of our staff are working remotely and safe at home. Even our China colleagues who have been quarantined for more than 3 months are continuing to work, including launching a campaign for responsible pet ownership amidst the news of individuals getting rid of their pets out of fear of contracting diseases. As of last week, we released our official statement for Covid-19 and World Animal Protection’s network of offices around the world are banding together in order to call for the global wildlife trade ban in order to not only protect animals but prevent future pandemics like this from happening again. We urge all animal lovers and advocates to take action here.

Outside of World Animal Protection, I have seen an influx of animal shelters asking people to foster and adopt companion animals since most of the workforce are at home. Even though my local shelter is closed to the public, they are still holding adoptions by appointment and most shelters are deemed essential. Other animal welfare nonprofits and organizations are similar to us in relying more on digital actions and engagement rather than field work.

Are domestic animals the most negatively impacted during a human crisis i.e. cat & dog shelters/adoption rate up or down, farm animals being improperly cared for or culled in fear of disease?

Good question but it all depends on the situation and type of crisis at hand. Since the coronavirus outbreak stemmed from a wild animal (suspected bat to pangolin), unfortunately wildlife are the most affected at this time. That’s why we are calling for a global permanent wildlife trade ban to protect these animals and keep them in the wild, where they belong.

As mentioned previously, there has been an increase in dog/cat adoption and fostering in the US since most people are working from home. Our China colleagues have even worked with the government and celebrities/key opinion leaders to educate the public about responsible pet ownership during this time.

As our farming work focuses on ending factory farms and bettering animal welfare conditions, we advocate for farmed animals having lives worth living. Our campaigning includes collaborating with governments, corporations, and farmers to embrace practical and affordable ways to protect animals as well as encouraging people to reduce their meat consumption and choose food produced in line with high welfare standards.

Luckily, our varied programs touch upon animal welfare and protection across all these issues so hopefully our efforts can educate people and move companies to take action to help animals and humanity.

Self-isolation and social distancing have become staples in our vocabulary. Do you believe that limiting human/animal contact in the post-pandemic world can become the norm?

Limiting human/wildlife contact is the strategy we are campaigning for within our wildlife work, especially in the entertainment/tourism and traditional medicine industries. From our elephant sanctuary partners, ChangChill and Following Giants, we have seen that tourists and animal lovers still enjoy seeing wildlife from afar and are willing to pay a premium for the animals to live in a more natural habitat where they can freely roam. For our exotic pets campaign, we advocate to leave wildlife in the wild rather than have them as pets in the house since they aren’t able to exercise any natural behaviors and endure immeasurable stress during transport. We recently released our bear bile report which focuses on the cruelty behind using wild animals as part of Traditional Medicine and will work with the Chinese government to promote plant-based alternatives.

All in all, we believe human interaction with wild animals should be limited moving forward for both animal protection and human safety and we are calling for this in our upcoming global wildlife trade ban.

What can we do now to make an impact?

As the economic impact of COVID-19 is immense from individual to corporate to systemic levels, we are urging our supporters to continue supporting and funding our work through donations. Unfortunately, we predict a decrease in our fundraising revenue in 2020 and can only hope that situations go back to “normal” sooner than later for the sake of our organization along with other nonprofits. Our global target is to gather as many supporter signatures as possible to present at the G20 summit in November so our teams can highlight why the wildlife trade ban is so important to everyone’s future.

For more on how you can get involved check out World Animal Protection’s latest blog post:

5 Ways You Can Help Protect Animals From Home

A global event such as the COVID-19 outbreak can only bring us closer together and strengthen our relationships with each other and the non-human animals we share our existence with. Now more than ever people are waking up to the reality that we are all animals of the Earth. We are all vulnerable to the actions of others and have a social responsibility to act for the greater good of everyone’s well-being.

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