The Environment and Pandemics of Global Proportion

This may be of interest to many naturalists, especially given the current situation.
UN

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Also: brief mentions in interview of Rohit Chakravarty by Chennai Young Naturalists Network, India this, page 21 and 22, I have added the relevant screenshots nelow


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I have been deeply upset by the demonization of bats that this pandemic seems to have caused. Similarly, though I do not agree with unethical treatment of animals or with taking from a wild population without addressing its conservation needs, I am also upset by the demonization of other cultures’ food habits. I really do not understand the arguments that the pandemic is the result of people interacting with and eating wild animals, as if interacting with and eating domestic cows and pigs raised in their own manure is somehow safer and more ethical? As someone who gets their meat from hunting white-tailed deer, it is clear that our ancestors who hunted for their food lived in much closer connection with wild animals than must of us do today. Not to throw around conspiracy theories, but I personally have to wonder if this virus “came” from a domesticated species that is regularly raised inhumanely in unsanitary conditions, which seem far more likely to favor the growth and spread of disease. People always want someone/something to blame for their problems; ultimately it is the unknown which scares people the most.

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Demonization of bats during COVID pandemics is extremely bad thing. But you are not very correct about using wild animals for food or intercating with them carelessly, which indeed may be a dangerous thing. More dangerous than eating farm animals. Deer is not a good example here either. Just to remind you several risks: trichinellosis, rabies, recent cases of plague.

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I was not advocating interacting with wild animals “carelessly”, as you put it; indeed, careless interaction with any species may be dangerous. I was trying to say that cultural stigma isn’t good for anyone involved, but maybe I wasn’t very clear. Why is deer not a good example? I am well aware of the diseases which white-tailed deer carry, and I would like to point out that cases of rabies in white-tailed deer, at least where I live, are extremely rare. Trichinellosis is primarily an issue in humans because of undercooked meat, and it is carried by domesticated animals. I have honestly not heard of plague in white-tailed deer as being a significant danger, and I haven’t heard of it being present in the eastern United States at all - if I am wrong about this, please let me know, I am genuinely interested in this. There are certainly far more prevalent diseases in livestock that affect humans: swine flu, avian flu, mad cow disease, etc., as well as those which you mentioned. Nothing in our world is truly “safe”, nor should it be; that isn’t how ecology works. I’m not trying to argue, I’m just pointing out that discriminating against interacting with wild species and consuming wild food isn’t fair to wild species or people who interact with them on a regular basis.

Respectfully,
Joshua Harkness

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I definitely agree about demonization of bats in general; as far as I know only one genus carries coronaviruses like this and it’s not the bats’ fault that the virus travelled to people. My understanding is also that the bats having rabies idea is quite exaggerated?

My impression is that increasing cases of completely new zoonotic diseases is a result of increasing contact between humans and animals in ways that didn’t occur historically, in combination with globalization making it easier for them to travel. Habitat destruction for example forces animals to leave “wilderness” and be more likely to wander near areas inhabited by humans. I imagine this risk is diminished with popular livestock species because we’ve been living with them for millenia, allowing plenty of opportunity for any diseases to transfer. However, newer farming practices probably could increase the risk.

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I largely agree, though these species would also have to be ones which we wouldn’t have come into contact with as hunter-gatherers, as we have been exposed to such species for our entire existence as a species. The idea that species common in the “wilderness” but not in the “human world” would be significant disease vectors seems highly unlikely, as we were once part of many “wilderness” areas and would have had regular contact with many wild animals. Perhaps it is also that similar diseases would have been comparatively minor in hunter-gatherers as many groups were/are well-isolated throughout the world, thus that a disease spread to humans from another animal would quickly run its course without affecting large populations? I think you are absolutely right, it is certainly globalization that is more at fault than wild animals and human-wild animal interactions for this pandemic.

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Globalization, animal trade, loss of habitats, human intrusion into the habitats - these are main factors of new emerging diseases in human population, though animal trade is the most important factor in transferring novel diseases to new places. When writing about rabies, I did not have in mind bats. They do transfer rabies but to a minor extent. Other animals are much more common sources for rabies.

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I was talking about other animals as sources of rabies or plague. Deer was not a good example in this case because it is comparatively “safe” animal and source of wild meat. In the country where I live, trichinelosis is very common in wild boar population and every boar that is hunted has to be checked for it prior to eating its meat. Plague is common in certain areas among rodents. I believe, there were cases of plague in the US because of people interacting with prairie dogs. Recent outbreak of plague in northern China and Mongolia is connected to the tradition of eating local rodents, such as ground squirrels and marmots. As to COVID, it seems that initial guesses are becoming more and more confirmed that the outbreak may be connected to the illegal animal (pangolin) trade = local food/medicine tradition, which is not always good. You cannot term as good the tradition which decimates populations of endangered animals and possibly is a source of emerging diseases.

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Thank you for clarifying, I misunderstood what you wrote. It seemed like you were suggesting these diseases as being a serious concern for eating deer meat. By the way, I was not using deer as an example of wild meat being “safe”, but to point out, from my experience hunting them, that people who hunt for their food come in much closer contact with still living/recently dead animals than those who buy their food from a grocery store, and as this is something we have been doing for the entire existence of our species, it doesn’t make sense to use close contact with wild animals (without specifying a group that contact with would not have been frequent) as an explanation for a significant amount of disease transmission.

By the way, I never said I agree with the wild animal trade, actually, I specifically said that I don’t agree with it. I’m only pointing out the cultural stigma that originates from situations like this, and how it is unfortunate that people are more likely to blame those who eat wild animals rather than the ways they do so.

Hedgehogs have rabies all the time, bats are not much different in my view.

you might want to take a look at the stats before making generalisations
bats: CDC
hedgehogs: NIH https://www.msdvetmanual.com/exotic-and-laboratory-animals/hedgehogs/diseases-of-hedgehogs

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https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3571733/HEDGEHOG-RABIES-hits-Russia-Public-warned-not-near-animals.html
I don’t know who exactly you answered with that, but the first link supports what I said.

The first link does not support the notion that ‘All hedgehogs have rabies, bats are the same’, it just says that most cases of rabies in humans are caused by bats, not ‘all bats have rabies’, and the news article you linked is specific to moscow, not all locations where hedgehogs are found. While it is important that humans use discretion while in proximity with wildlife, it is not necessary to conclude that all members of an animal species carry a certain disease in order to exercise caution. It is important to avoid painting animals in a negative light when possible, as doing so reduces public regard for wildlife and the environment. It is possible to educate people about zoonotic diseases without making blanket statements concluding that all individuals of a species carrying a disease. People should be informed to keep at a distance when it comes to wildlife in general, for reasons of safety as well as the wellbeing of the animal. There may be some exceptions regarding metropolitan/domestic animals that are relatively okay with being in close range with humans, and animals with large populations, but otherwise, one must exercise caution when it comes to the environment.

I don’t get what you’re trying to explain to me, I was answering to a comment of a person who was uncertain about ability of bats having rabies. Hedgehogs are not the #1 to think about rabis carriers, bats are too. Yes, region I live in has a known situation with hedgehogs&rabies, it means I assume physiologically bats can have it too. I don’t understand parts about “all bats”, etc. as I never said that.

oh ok I misinterpreted ‘have rabies all the time’ to a generalisation meaning ‘all hedgehogs have rabies’ and ‘bats are no different’ to mean the same thing about bats. I now understand that you were just informing the commenter that bats can have rabies, and I apologise for the misunderstanding.

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