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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Published: 2022-09-01
Pages:139 to 152
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How to Cite
Beirne, P. (2022) “COVID-19 as an Anthroponosis: Toward a Nonspeciesist Criminology of Human-to-Animal Pathogen Transmission”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 11(3), pp. 139-152. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.2093.

Author Biography

University of Southern Maine
 United States

Piers Beirne is Emeritus Professor of Sociology and Legal Studies at the University of
Southern Maine. Among his books are Murdering Animals: Writings on Theriocide,
Homicide and Nonspeciesist Criminology (2018, Palgrave Macmillan). His current
interests include the visual representation of animals in 18th century British art.