Updated: Mar 15
Coronaviruses are viruses that cause many different illnesses, including the common cold and more serious diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a new strain that was discovered in 2019 and had not been previously identified in humans.
What Happens If You Get Coronavirus?
The most common signs of coronavirus are a dry cough and a fever, but some people will have trouble breathing, while other people will have the disease but feel no symptoms at all. In more severe cases the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Where to Coronaviruses Come From?
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, this means that they are transmitted between animals and people. SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV was transmitted to humans from camels. With all of the coronaviruses that have infected humans there are many more that animals carry that haven't infected people yet.
The latest coronavirus, COVID-19, seems to have come from bats at the beginning, but it mutated, changed, so that it could infect pangolins, a scaly mammal that looks a lot like an anteater. This virus then changed again and infected people, spreading quickly and leading to a pandemic. The pangolin is a wild animals and normally doesn't come into contact with humans, but these pangolins were being sold in a wild animal market. These markets sell a mixture of live and dead animals, both domestic and wild. The markets are packed with animals crammed into cages, allowing people to take their pick. In this environment it is cramped and unclean, allowing disease to spread from animal to animal and also to people. Now, the market that sold the infected pangolins has been closed down, but these market are not gone completely.
Why Do They Sell Wild Animals?
Wild animals are sold for a few different reasons. Some people will buy wild animals to create their own zoo. There are a surprising number of private, illegal, zoos with rich people collecting animals like lions, tigers and bears. They see the animals as a status symbol, using them as a sign of how wealthy and powerful they are. The animals are sold and moved illegally, but the people that make money from this will hide the animals, labelling them as something else, lying on paperwork or even paying authorities to let them do it. Wild animals will also be sold for meat; in Yerevan supermarkets live crocodiles were sold to cook for New Year’s celebrations. People will eat gorilla meat, believing that it will make them strong, even giraffes and zebra are considered food by some. The fact that these animals are endangered, that there are too few left, is neither here nor there to these people, if they want it they take, or pay someone to take it for them. Then there is the trade in animal parts for medicine. Shark fin, ivory, pangolin scales; if someone believes that there is some magical healing power in the body parts of an animal they will pay someone to get those parts and, again, this is all completely, 100%, illegal.
So, If The World Were Vegan Would Corona Have Infected Humans?
On social media, Instagram in particular, there are many people posting that if people didn't eat bats, or if people didn't eat pangolins no one would have ever caught this virus, but this isn't right. This isn't exactly incorrect, it's more inaccurate as this wasn't what happened. If you look at being vegan in terms of not eating meat then coronavirus would still have infected people as no one ate the bat that started this and nobody ate the pangolin either. If you consider being vegan to be a lifestyle in which animals are left to live their lives naturally, in their natural environment and in peace then, most likely, the virus would not have infected humans as they wouldn't have been near the animals. However, it is impossible to say that being vegan would have prevented this. What caused the virus to spread quickly is society and the way we live. In society we live very close to each other, living in apartment buildings and blocks of flats, travelling in packed trains. Then there's all of the international travel. One infected person can spread an illness to hundreds of other people in just a day in the right circumstances, being vegan won't stop that.
What Do We Do?
In the midst of an outbreak of disease the first thing we all need to do is stay calm. With COVID-19 there was a lot of panic, with people overbuying supplies, scared of running out of everyday items, like toilet roll. People started wearing surgical masks everywhere they went in the belief that it would stop them from getting the virus, those masks don't work like that, it was pointless. What we need to do is listen to advice and instructions from the government and health authorities, such as the NHS. With corona virus you must wash your hands frequently and wash them properly. Avoid touching your face, particularly your eyes, nose and mouth; and stay away from people. Don't go into crowded areas, don't visit other people's homes, avoid all public spaces if you can, use hand sanitiser when you're out and be mindful of what you touch.
These disease outbreaks have happened before with many many people getting very ill, some of them dying. But, with these diseases, we will and do recover, just as long as we look after one another, think of others before yourself and follow the instructions that we are all given.