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COVID-19, is it repercussion of cruelty towards animal kingdom?

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Dr Bipin B Verma
Dr Bipin B Verma
The author is a retired professor of NIT Rourkela. He follows a nationalistic approach in life. His area of interest is “sustainable rural development”. Email: [email protected]

Dr Bipin B Verma, Retd. Prof. of NIT Rourkela

Email: [email protected]

Abstract: The worldwide epidemic COVID-19 has put several question marks on human civilization. Most of the resent flus are Zoonotic diseases and are usually deadly. In many cases the Zoonotic diseases have emerged from the wet animal markets. The wet markets put people, and live and dead animals in close contact.These conditions facilitate a virus to jump from one species to another animal species and then to human. Deforestation on massive scale, mostly for farming and other acts of damaging the ecosystem are also responsible for pandemic in the world. The killing of wildlife for food is the second most important reason for their extinction. It is well established that our survival is just not possible without the existence of wildlife and natural vegetation. We are rapidly running out of time, and it is uttermost important to stop cruelty against the animal kingdom.

Key words:COVID-19; Zoonotic diseases; Flu; Wet markets; Damaging ecosystem

The epidemic COVID-19 outbreak has brought the world to a halt. The worldwide epidemic has put a question mark on our existence and reminds limitations of our knowledge, modern medical science and integrity. The severe respiratory disease that has recently emerged in China is caused by a novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Several facets and angles are proposed behind the spread of this epidemic. However, there is uncertainty about the origination of this epidemic. Many theories suggests deep-rooted conspiracy behind this worldwide epidemic. A group of scientists who analyzed the available genomic data strongly condemn conspiracy theories. In their opinion, COVID-19 virus is not developed in the laboratories. If there is any conspiracy behind this epidemic, it’s a matter of grave concern? Such an irresponsible act can annihilate the entire human race in no time. Though it appears that the present viral epidemic is a natural outbreak and the microbes are not engineered in the laboratories, the indirect contribution of the human in the development of this epidemic cannot be ruled out. 

Epidemics of the Recent Past

This virus is similar to the SARS coronavirus (SARS- CoV), identified in 2003 and affected 26 countries and infected more than 8000 people.The SARS coronavirus is thought to be a virus originated from animal’s reservoirs, perhaps bats, that spread to other animals (civet cats) and first infected humans in the Guangdong province of southern China in 2002 [WHO Report]. The new coronavirus is the latest example of a disease that has jumped from animals into humans.  Nearly all viruses and bacteria that infect other organisms are mostly harmless to people. But a very small fraction can infect human and cause diseases known as Zoonotic diseases and are usually deadly.

The 1957 influenza pandemic (the Asian flu) was one of the famous influenza pandemics in history. Based on a report published in Sino Biological, the Asian Flu was a category 2 flu pandemic. That disease was avian influenza and originated in China in early 1956 and lasting until 1958. It originated from a mutation in wild ducks combining with a pre-existing human strain. The 2009 H1N1 influenza virus was first detected in the United States in April 2009. This virus was referred to as the swine flu because laboratory testing showed that its gene segments were similar to influenza viruses that were most recently identified in and known to circulate among pigs [Gavin J.D. Smith et al., Nature. 459, p 1122, 25 June 2009 ]. According to a published study the first case of the novel avian influenza, A H7N9 virus was identified on March 30, 2013, and by April 18, 2013 the virus had spread in six different provinces and cities of China [Joseph Nordqvist, Medical News Today, 3 May 2013]. 

Wet Markets of China

The wet markets of China put people, and live and dead animals, such as dogs, chickens, pigs, snakes, civets, bats and more inconsistently in close contact. Such atmospheres and conditions make it easy for a virus to jump from one species to another animal species and then to human. “When you bring animals together in these unnatural situations, you have the risk of human diseases emerging,” Kevin Olival, a disease ecologist and conservationist told the National Geographic. “If the animals are housed in bad conditions under a lot of stress, it might create a better opportunity for them to shed virus and to be sick.” It is also suspected that the bats were the original hosts of COVID-19 virus, alike, SARS coronavirus virus. The bats then infected other animals of wet animal markets, which transmitted the virus to the human population. Bats and birds are considered reservoir species for viruses with pandemic potential, according to Bart Haagmans, a virologist at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Deforestation on Massive Scale

Humans are clearing forests on a massive scale, mostly for farming and other unsustainable development work. The widespread burning continues even today in tropical forests in the Amazon and some parts of Africa and Southeast Asia. It is the concerns of the experts that the action of deforestation and damaging the ecosystem of the forest may trigger some serious pandemic in the world. As per the opinion of Carlos Zambrana-Torrelio, a disease ecologist at Eco health Alliance, clearing of the forest leads to emergence of infectious diseases in human.   Andy MacDonald, a disease ecologist at the Earth Research Institute of the University of California, Santa Barbara cautioned, “It’s pretty well established that deforestation can be a strong driver of infectious disease transmission.” He argued that “The more we degrade and clear forest habitats, the more likely it is that we are going to find ourselves in these situations where epidemics of infectious diseases occur” [National Geographic, Nov. 2019]. This is also linked with the snatching the habitat from wildlife, depriving them of their food and overall environment.  There are numerous cases observed worldwide prompting the widespread deadly diseases emerging and spreading due to our greed and unsustainable development schemes. Plasmodium knowlesi is a species of malaria parasite found in wild macaque populations. This macaque is the main cause of malaria among human population in Malaysian Borneo. It is reported that the disease spread from macaques to people through infected mosquitoes [Kimberly M. Fornace et. al.,PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases 12(6),June 2018].

The deforestation, agricultural expansion and population growth result in changes in the environment. Such actions lead to changes in vegetation, micro climate and alteration in chemistry and biology of the soil. The consequences of these alteration scan affect the species composition in the soil and environment and abundance of some harmful insect and microbe populations resulting transmission of diseases to human and pets.It is now established that many infectious diseases usually confined to wildlife spills over to people in areas undergoing rapid forest clearing. Several scientific evidences suggest that deforestation triggers a complex cascade of events, creates the conditions for a range of deadly pathogens to spread to people [Katarina Zimmer, The Scientist, Jan. 2019].

Annihilation of Wildlife and Marine Species

Humanity has wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970. Some of the world’s foremost experts have warned that the annihilation of wildlife is now threatening the entire civilization [Damin Carrington, The Guardian, 30 Oct. 2018]. The ever-growing population of the globe, growing consumption of food and resources by the population is destroying the unexplored and complex web of life and vegetation.It took billions of years to develop life on this planet and the whole human race depends for clean air, water, food, energy, climate and everything else gifted by Mother Nature. We are not just damaging the nature and its beauty, rather we are now jeopardising the future of mankind and writing the last chapter of their existence. By simply protecting some wild species and a few reserved forests, we cannot protect the earth and the humanities. “We are rapidly running out of time,” said Prof Johan Rockström, a global sustainability expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. “Only by addressing both ecosystems and climate do we stand a chance of safeguarding a stable planet for humanity’s future on Earth?” Recent analyses have revealed that humanity has destroyed 83% of all mammals and half of plants since the dawn of civilization. Even if the destruction stops today, the Earth would take 5 to 7 million years to recover the nature. The biggest cause of wildlife losses is the destruction of their natural habitats on the massive scale and their conversion for farming.

The killing of wildlife for food is the second most important reason for their extinction, Jennifer Bove, 7 July 2019.  As reported, nearly 300 mammals facing extinction and oceans are the victim of overfishing and are half of the marine species are facing their annihilation due to our food habit [Jasmine Aguilera, Time, 18 July 2019].

Nature is very complex, and some of the phenomena are beyond the understanding of our present scientific knowledge. Although, the relationship between the extinction of a few species on the survival of other lives and vegetation on the globe is not yet understood, however ignoring the same will be suicidal for the human race. Increasing pollution also plays a significant role in the extinction of various species worldwide.

It is obvious and well established that our survival is just not possible without the existence of wildlife and natural vegetation. It is proper to realize the fact now and take corrective measures to protect the Earth. The Wisdom encapsulated in the Shanti Mantra (Peace prayer) from Yajur Veda guides us to express our gratitude towards the universe, the earth, water, all vegetations, the almighty and all living and non-living beings.

ॐ द्यौः शान्तिरन्तरिक्षं शान्तिः
पृथिवी शान्तिरापः शान्तिरोषधयः शान्तिः ।
वनस्पतयः शान्तिर्विश्वेदेवाः शान्तिर्ब्रह्म शान्तिः
सर्वं शान्तिः शान्तिरेव शान्तिः सा मा शान्तिरेधि ॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

Om Dyauh Shaantir- Antarikssam Shaantih
Prthivii Shaantir- Aapah Shaantir- Ossadhayah Shaantih |
Vanaspatayah Shaantir- Vishve-Devaah Shaantir-Brahma Shaantih
Sarvam Shaantih Shaantireva ShaantihSaaMaaShaantir-Edhi |
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||

Meaning: 
May peace radiates there in the whole sky as well as in the vast ethereal space everywhere.
May peace reign all over this earth, in water and in all herbs, trees and creepers.
May peace flow over the whole Universe
May peace be in the Supreme Being Brahman.
And may there always exist in all peace and peace alone.
Aum peace, peace and peace to us and all beings!

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Dr Bipin B Verma
Dr Bipin B Verma
The author is a retired professor of NIT Rourkela. He follows a nationalistic approach in life. His area of interest is “sustainable rural development”. Email: [email protected]
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