In just a matter of weeks, our lives have been upended as the novel coronavirus made its way around the world, turning into a global pandemic. Troubling reports about coronavirus in dogs, cats and other animals have added another layer of concern to animal guardians who now fear potentially infecting beloved companions.

Others wondering, “Can coronavirus in dogs spread to humans?” have recklessly abandoned cats, dogs and other animals for fear of contracting the disease—a fear which is misplaced and not grounded in any science.

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Animals on farms are being “depopulated” because of changes in supply chains; animals in laboratories will have their lives needlessly taken in search of treatments; wild animals continue to be traded and killed.

But the impact of this disease doesn’t have to be bleak. This is a moment we must use to protect our interconnected web of life.

The world is looking at China, but it is now time to look at our own dirty laundry.  We are losing human lives because of the lives we’ve taken, yet this pandemic might just save billions.

Ironically, sheltering from COVID-19 provides an opportune time to talk about why this pandemic is happening, and how a whole food plant-based diet could prevent future pandemics and halt slower-acting diseases that are even more deadly.

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Animal-borne diseases are a significant source of illness; more than 60 percent of human infections come from animals

The novel coronavirus is a zoonotic disease — one that can jump from animals to humans. We’ve seen the devastating impact of animal-borne diseases with the H1N1 swine flu, H5N1 bird flu and MERS.

What caused the coronavirus?

Both SARS and COVID-19 were traced back to China’s “wet markets,” where live animals are bought and then slaughtered on the spot. Many different animals are sold and eaten there: snakes, bats, turtles, wolf cubs, rats, otters, badgers and civets, among other less exotic species.

Similar markets exist throughout the world, including here in the U.S. Wherever they exist, these markets create an environment ripe for diseases to jump from one host to the next.

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For animals and humans, a wet market is hell on earth.

Our vulnerability to animal-borne diseases exists everywhere. In the U.S., farming methods have changed dramatically in recent decades. Farms have industrialized to improve output and profits, becoming “concentrated animal feeding operations” (CAFOs), better known as factory farms.

Source: Orest lyzhechka/Shutterstock

Animal farming is a major threat to humanity, right in our backyard. 

Buildings can be packed with thousands of stressed animals who are confined in small, filthy conditions and routinely fed antibiotics. America’s farms are Petri dishes for antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, a.k.a. superbugs, which can spread to us—and we are powerless to fight them.

Our factory farms turn out mountains of meat… and deadly diseases too.

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Unfortunately, an anthropocentric view embedded in Western religions and philosophies sees humans as central, or the most significant entity in the world. This has led to behaviors that harm animals, the soil, water, air, plant-life and, in turn, our own human health. The result: a novel coronavirus racing around the world, killing humans, particularly our most vulnerable.

To experience joy, we must be open to loss. When COVID-19 hit, confining humanity, it set us free from automatic thinking and an old habit of taking life for granted. We must nurture the silver lining of this pandemic and take courage to feel our shared fragility and the potential it creates for us to enact meaningful change.

Source: roee shpernik/Shutterstock

It’s time to join together and strengthen our commitment to fight abuse on our planet and create a new normal for animals.

It’s tragic that it took a pandemic to get here, but maybe now animal rights skeptics will be ready to acknowledge the truth that all sentient beings are connected.

A takeaway lesson: if we continue to eat animals, we, too, will be eaten!

  • Please take action to acknowledge and tackle the animal-borne cause of the COVID-19 outbreak by signing our pledge: www.idausa.org/stopcorona.
  • Take action to shut down U.S. wet markets and prevent the next pandemic here.
  • In Defense of Animals is here for you in this difficult time. If you’re worried about animals or need someone to listen, please take advantage of our support line for animal activists: www.idausa.org/activistsupport.

Marilyn Kroplick M.D. is president of In Defense of Animals, a certified plant-based nutritionist, a board-certified psychiatrist, and an award-winning socio-political photographer. Since 2011, Dr. Kroplick has led In Defense of Animals’ powerful campaigns to end the dog meat trade, advocate for elephants, strengthen animal cruelty laws, and save animals in need around the world. Her groundbreaking programs support humans and animals alike, aiding animal activists to overcome the challenges of their important work, and helping people adopt a vegan lifestyle.

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