More than a year ago, the American country began shutting down, unsure of what the future would hold in a world suddenly seized by the coronavirus. Today, life is slowly but surely returning to normal. The White House announced at the beginning of April that 20 percent of the adult population has been vaccinated.
As life returns to normal, however, we must ensure that the world we return to isn’t identical to the one that allowed this pandemic to occur. The origins of COVID-19 lie in a broken social contract between humans and animals. Animal cruelty in wet markets, which are havens for filth and disease, facilitated the initial spread of COVID-19.
To rebuild the world safely, we must elevate the standards of living for animals not just in America, but around the world. Early in the pandemic, American Humane released a New Deal for Animals, People and the World We Share. The 10-point policy proposal outlines how politicians around the world can ensure the humane treatment of animals and build a more humane, compassionate world.
Central to American Humane’s New Deal is the elimination of the organization poaching and the bush meat trade. Africa’s tourism industry, which before the pandemic brought in roughly $39 billion a year, is essential for funding the preservation and conservation of iconic megafauna. Our planet’s largest animals, including elephants, rhinos and big cats, often function as critical keystones of their respective habitats. When these animals are poached and sold, entire ecosystems are threatened.
The economic incentives that prop up poaching are immense. Consider that the illegal wildlife trade is worth $23 billion, making it the fourth-most valuable black-market industry, behind trafficking drugs, people and weapons. A rhinoceros horn, for example, will sell for $167 a kilogram in Africa, but fetch up to $66,000 a kilogram in China.
To deter poaching, policymakers must not only enforce stringent anti-poaching policies, but support responsible eco-tourism that will not only pay for the protection of vital habitats and animals but will revitalize impoverished communities.
The road ahead isn’t easy, but if leaders fail to improve the human-animal social contract, then we risk inviting another COVID pandemic. Read more about American Humane’s call to action at www.AmericanHumane.org/NewDeal.