Singer: Pandemic should prompt reflection on risks of animal consumption

By Helen Cook

New York, Apr 15 (efe-epa).- Renowned Australian bio-ethicist, philosopher and animal welfare advocate Peter Singer says that amid the death and economic destruction wrought by the novel coronavirus people have a unique opportunity to reflect on the global repercussions of using animals as a source of food.

“What we ought to gain is an awareness of the fact that this virus, like other recent viruses like SARS and swine flu and avian influenza, have come from the consumption of animals,” the 73-year-old Princeton University professor and author of the 1975 classic pro-vegan work “Animal Liberation” said in an interview with Efe from his home city of Melbourne, Australia.

Yet Singer added that he is skeptical that the right lessons will be learned from the novel coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in a live-animal market in Wuhan, China.

Question: What should we gain as a result of this crisis?

Answer: I hope that we’ll rethink the use of animals for food. Most obviously (the use of) wildlife, which is relatively easy, but wet markets as a whole and factory farms as a whole because they are posing a serious danger … I think it’s probable we may (rethink) wet markets, although how well that then will be enforced in many countries, where it’s part of their culture, I don’t know. But I’m not particularly optimistic that (the crisis) will have the impact on factory farming that it should have.

Another thing clearly that we can all hope will come out of it will be a greater sense that we’re all in this together, that it’s one world and the things that happen in other countries have very drastic effects all over the world, and that we need to be more globally concerned. We need to have greater global solidarity in order to handle these problems.

Q: And what have we lost as a society with this pandemic?

A: I suppose we’ve lost our sense of security, which we now know is a false sense of security. But we have not been taking pandemic risks very seriously … In general, I think we ought to be looking at serious risks to health, including the world as a whole, much more closely than we have been. We’ve had an enormous amount of hardship and I’m not only thinking of the people who died tragically from this, but also the number of people who’ve lost their jobs, our industries that are in danger and, depending on how long the shutdown goes on for, may not survive.

Q: Do you think the government of the United States, which has the most infections worldwide, has acted ethically in this situation?

A: That’s a big question. I think they really made bad decisions. I think, eliminating the committee they had to look at pandemics that was part of the (White House) National Security Council was obviously a bad thing to do. Maybe they were trying to save some money, but it shows that it’s not ethical to save money at the cost of imposing greater risks on people. Some of the appointments (to President Donald Trump’s administration) have been clearly political appointments, and as I said that’s putting people at risk because you don’t have the most competent people in charge.

Part of what’s happening in the United States is a matter of state administrations, and I read that there’s still 14 states in the US that allow people to meet in large numbers for religious purposes for church or synagogue or mosque. I think that’s crazy. Basically that’s putting a lot of people at risk and I think that that ought to be stopped.

Q: The coronavirus also will spread in developing countries that lack the infrastructure of wealthier regions. How will the world respond to potentially catastrophic situations in Africa or Latin America?

A: I think (the developed countries) will be giving significant assistance. That’s certainly what they should be doing. Despite the crisis and despite the spending that’s required, they still have a lot more resources, and there are actually things that they can do. There are things that some of the charities that I support that are working in low-income countries, in terms of using their expertise and their teams on the ground to provide assistance. And I think the public is starting to support those charities. EFE-EPA


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