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First we imprison them, then we infect them

Gorillas at the San Diego Zoo in California are the first captive non-human primates to be diagnosed with COVID-19, the result of an asymptomatic employee who later tested positive for the virus.


They are not, of course, the only non-human animals we've managed to infect, nor, even, the only ones in zoos. Several tigers, lions and a snow leopard have also been infected since the pandemic began. (On a side note: don't be fooled--zoos exist for human entertainment and do shockingly little for conservation or education.)


Perhaps most significant, though, at least in terms of lives lost, are those of the millions of captive minks raised around the world for their fur. Mink farms are filthy, crowded places perfect for the spread of disease: mink are cramped into tiny cages barely large enough for them to move about in, and these clever animals are left to do nothing but pace endlessly until they are killed--generally via gassing, oral or anal electrocution, suffocation or a broken neck. They are, like humans, vulnerable to respiratory illness, and now nine countries have reported COVID outbreaks on their mink fur farms; what's more, due to physiological similarities, the new strain infecting the mink is easily transmitted back to humans--meaning that it has the potential to prolong this pandemic or result in an even more dangerous variant. (We wrote about this issue back in November.) Millions of mink have been killed prematurely in an attempt to stop the progress of the virus; the only potential positive outcome is that this may speed the end of the mink fur industry in some countries.


Remarkable how easily so much of this could be avoided. Instead our species appears to be content with business as usual, even as millions of non-human and human animals suffer and die as a result.



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