Coronavirus is a zoonotic disease—meaning the virus jumped from animals to humans. The stress of confinement suffered by trapped and enslaved animals is known to bring about pathologies. We know this from past pandemics. Mutations allow diseases to jump species: trichinosis, tuberculosis, and swine flu were originally diseases found in pigs, influenza came from avian (bird) flu, horsepox mutated into smallpox, bovine rinderpest became measles, Creutzfeldt-Jakobs disease is the human equivalent of mad cow disease. The 2003 SARs pandemic like today’s Covid-19 is thought to have been transmitted by bats. Many scientists think that AIDs spread to humans through bush meat. The 2014 Ebola outbreak originating in Africa was believed to be caused by eating bushmeat. Bushmeat refers to many species of wild animals including bats, antelopes, monkeys, snakes, and rats.
Isn’t it way beyond the time that we stop eating animals? Stop trapping them? Stop putting them in cages? Stop confining them in dark warehouses, feedlots and barns? Stop breeding them as commodities? Stop slaughtering them by the billions every year world-wide? When someone says that if other people choose to eat animals, that is their choice–their business; well, with this recent coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese animal markets have become our business too. Anywhere where animals are being used and abused should become our business. Animal enslavement, exploitation, and abuse are happening everywhere in every country, on land and sea. It has formed the basis of our global economy since the first stock markets.
Yes, it is a good step for China and other countries to close down the live markets dealing with the buying, selling and slaughtering on site of wild animals. But this will not eradicate the underlying cause. Putting blame on wild animals for carrying the coronavirus and wanting all bats to be exterminated is another example of our civilization’s war against mother nature—an extension of our fear of all things wild while establishing human superiority over other beings. Blaming others is never a valid solution.
To point the finger of blame on China or someplace else is to ignore what we are also doing all over the world: confining animals in farms and cages. The difference is that we keep them drugged and hidden from the public. Even with the heavy doses of antibiotics prescribed by the USDA and other health organizations that regulate the agribusiness, overcrowded factory farms and slaughterhouses are breeding ground for disease, including parasites, bacteria, and viruses along with new emerging pathogens that are antibiotic-resistant. Slaughterhouses and farms are not clean places and certainly not kind places. They are places of fear and violence. Animals are vulnerable, stressed, sick and filled with fear. Remember the Swine Flu, a global pandemic in 2010, killing hundreds of thousands of people across the globe, but because of its connection to domesticated pigs and the animal agribusiness, it was largely obscured.
We can learn from reflecting upon the past, but still, the big question is, what do we do now? Do we, as individuals, shirk responsibility and continue to blame and complain? Do we live in fear and angrily demand from our government leaders to take care of the situation? Do we turn a blind eye and party hardy? Do we wash our hands and hoard toilet paper? Do we hope that scientists quickly figure out a solution and give us a vaccine, enabling us to go back to our normal unsustainable lives, until the next pandemic arrives? Is fear, anger, and blame justified, can it really help? As yogis, we are committed to purifying our actions so as to cause the least amount of negative impact to others. Whatever we do to others will come back to us, so our own health, happiness and liberation is dependent on how we treat others. All of life is interdependent. What each of us does affects everyone. No one of us can be truly happy by causing unhappiness to others—other animals and the environment included. If we ourselves value freedom then our project should be liberation for all.
Corona means crown. Human beings have long felt that we are the crown of creation—superior to every other form of life. Our arrogance has vindicated our “might is right” attitude sanctioning the enslaving and exploiting of others for our own short-sighted gain. Perhaps Mother Nature is only answering our demands and giving us the crown that we have insisted we deserve. Back in the 1960s when Grace Slick, vocalist for the Jefferson Airplane sang, “You are the Crown of Creation and you’ve got no place to go…” could that have been taken as a forewarning to us now to wake up and realize that we are homebound—all of us on this small planet. Why not seize this time of crisis as an opportunity to take off this vile ill-fitting crown and humbly bow our bare heads in awe, respect and loving devotion to God and creation?