South Africa: Living With Wild Animals, Part One - Cash Cows or Fellow Beings?

opinion

The world is witnessing an unprecedented, human-induced collapse of biodiversity and is in the middle of a global pandemic caused by the consumption of wild species often kept in cruel, unsanitary conditions. Laws insisting on animal welfare and legal rights would have prevented this.

Let's face it, we treat most fellow animals very badly and rationalise ourselves into complacency. In addition to vast feedlots and hatcheries, we're penetrating deeper and deeper into wild areas, clear-cutting forests, and are shaking loose viral contagions like the Covid-19 pandemic.

Most of our diseases are zoonotic - derived from animals. Hundreds are known, thousands more are lurking in non-conventional food like pangolins, civets, snakes, lion bones, bats, primates and bush meat. It's time to take a hard look at how we regard the wild creatures with whom we share this planet.

Wild animals are regarded by humans in two very different ways: as commercial objects or with compassion. The position we take has to do with how we ourselves engage with the world.

According to David Bilchitz, a professor of Fundamental Rights and Constitutional Law at the University of Johannesburg, one view, sustainable use, sees wild animals solely in terms of their benefit to...

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