As the rate of positive COVID-19 tests rise again, we must consider the source of the virus and how to prevent future pandemics. The New York Times referred to the coronavirus as a wave that will “be with us for the foreseeable future before it diminishes” and will take more than one round of social distancing. We cannot depend on the warmer weather to diminish the number of cases or hope that a vaccine comes quickly; we must face the grim reality that the pandemic may persist into the next year. First, we need to educate ourselves on the nature of zoonotic diseases, which the Center for Disease Control defines as being caused by “germs spread between animals and people.” According to One Health Commision, in the past three decades around 75 percent of all emerging infectious diseases originated in animals. These viruses are brought to humans by wild animals, whether humans consume them, capture and cross-breed species or increase encounter rates by destroying natural habitats.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity has increased in the United States. This is particularly true for households with young children. According to Brookings Institute, which has been named “Top Think Tank in the World” every year since 2008, by the end of April, more than 20 percent of households in the United States and 40 percent of households with mothers with children 12 and under were food insecure. These mothers said, “The food we bought just didn’t last and we didn’t have enough money to get more.” The incidence of hardship among children as measured by responses to this question has increased 460 percent. At the same time, farmers are destroying their products.
Whether people know it or not, the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified an anthropocentric view that most people already had. There has always been a kinship between human beings and animals, whether it be through pets or zoos. After all, the way a person treats their pet dog or cat can likely predict how they will treat another person. These animals are not viewed as wild animals, but as companion species. We have a kinship toward them and treat them as though they are one of us, a part of our family.
The partnership between the veterinary college and Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse allows students to gain hands-on experience in zoological medicine as the primary medical care providers for the zoo’s 275 species.
For all Cornell students desiring a pet in college without having to undertake a lifetime commitment, look no further — the Alley Cat Cafe allows students and Ithaca community members to foster cats while they wait to be adopted into a forever home.
I am a fourth year veterinary student. This month, I’m rotating through Cornell’s Equine and Farm Animal Hospital, where I care for food animals like pigs, cattle, goats and even sheep. The approach is different from treating the family Labrador, but the goals are often the same — to quote part of the Veterinarian’s Oath, “the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering.” The apparent paradox is not lost on me. Though I’ll wake up at 2 a.m. and rush to the hospital for a cow with a uterine torsion, I have no qualms going to Five Guys for a burger at the end of the day. As veterinarians, we are the only health professionals who eat our patients.
What is more emblematic of the United States’ corporate capitalist narrative than Air Bud? A well-groomed, intelligent Golden Retriever frees himself from an abusive owner to provide both athletic success and companionship to a fatherless boy. Yet, as Air Bud nears its 20th anniversary in a year and change, it is imperative to reconsider this touchstone family film. Is Air Bud a story of basketball glory and family cohesion, of friendship between human and other animal, or is it truly a parable of an oppressive corporate system cloaking the workers’ alientation in false empathy? Buddy, the film’s protagonist, represents the indoctrinated masses.
Grímur Hákonarson’s Icelandic film, RAMS, won’t warm you up. Set in a secluded, mountainous valley, winter rolls into the lives of Gummi and Kiddi, two sheep-rearing brothers, much as it does in Ithaca, and brings with it an ironically accessible story of death and rebirth. Despite the wind and snow, RAMS captures the warmth of our approaching spring. The film combines an understanding of humanity and nature in the lives of Gummi and Kiddi, two aging men, neighbors and antagonists. When scrapie, a brain-eating sheep disease, infects Kiddi’s herd, veterinarians demand that every sheep and ram in the valley be slaughtered.