COVID-19 as an Anthroponosis: Toward a Nonspeciesist Criminology of Human-to-Animal Pathogen Transmission
This paper examines a potentially fatal type of pathogen transmission, namely, the spillover of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) from COVID-19-positive humans to nonhuman animals. This neglected direction of pathogen transmission (“anthroponosis”) was first publicized in March 2020, when eight large felids at a zoo in New York City were infected with SARS-CoV-2 by a COVID-19-positive employee. The paper gathers and problematizes the as-yet sparse evidence of anthroponotic transmissions of SARS-CoV-2 at sites in the animal–industrial complex where animals are held captive in zoos; appointed as human companions; used in scientific experiments; and raised and slaughtered in industrialized agriculture. The great fear is that animals infected with SARS-CoV-2 by COVID-19-positive humans will develop mutant strains of the virus, that these variants will be transmitted back to humans, and that the variants will be immune to the vaccines currently in use or in development. When we harm animals, we harm ourselves. Never has the need for a nonspeciesist approach to public health and safety been more urgent.
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