Covid-19 Lockdown by Maria Slough

The earth was so still this morning, so silent aside from the prolific birdsong that filled the garden. No sound of traffic, no people on the streets, almost as if I could feel the earth breathing. But this shift in the planet is not designated just to my garden; the canals of Venice run clear, you can hear a pin drop in major airports across the world, no coins are being dropped in the Trevi fountain and London’s streets are deserted. This is the Covid-19 lockdown 2020, across the globe.

This pandemic world disaster that continues to claim the lives of hundreds of thousands of people across the world, is reported to have originated in a wet market in Wuhan China, a city with a population of nearly 11 million. In these markets, places of living hell, animals awaiting brutal barbaric unlicensed slaughter are caged alongside decaying animal carcases of those that have already lost their lives; bats, snakes, rabbits and birds are illegally sold. The first personreported to be infected with the virus was a stallholder from the Wuhan market and the first person to die from the virus was a 61-year-old frequent shopper at the wet market. So began the spread of Covid-19.

Shortly after the outbreak, with suspicions of the virus originating in the bats of these markets, officials in China imposed a nationwide ban on the buying and selling of wild animals for consumption in markets, restaurants and other retail places - but already that ban has been lifted and once again while the rest of the world is fighting to survive this pandemic, the obsession with consuming sentient animals continues to put this planet at risk.

Viruses are much smaller than bacteria and don’t grow outside of a host cell. When a suitable human host eats the infected “food” of the animal carcass, the virus can infect the cells in the host and rapidly multiply until the host cell breaks open, releasing more virus particles. These go on to infect more cells, which creates more virus particles and so the human race spreads such an outbreak at the speed we have seen.

Covid-19 lockdown

Matt Turner, spokesperson for The Vegan Society told me, "The spread of zoonotic diseases is a constant threat when we take into account the environments in which non-human animals are exploited, which often involves cramped conditions where disease is able to spread with ease. While a vegan diet alone would not necessarily stop the spread of these diseases, it is evident that a vegan diet could greatly reduce the risk of outbreaks.”

This isn’t the first zoonotic disease, (a disease which is spread from animals to humans) to ravage the modern world. In 2002 SARS originated from the consumption of pigs; E.Coli comes from ground beef; BSE (Mad Cow’s disease) from beef cattle; Salmonella from the consumption of poultry and eggs and Trichonosis and the transmission of Hepatitis E from eating pork.

My house went into lockdown two weeks before the official government guidelines were set and I have only left to collect medicine for one of the rescue dogs that share my home with me. There was an eerie silence as I drove through the empty streets, closed shop fronts displaying Covid-19 signs, shelves stripped bare for fear of looting. Arriving at the vets you can see the reception area from the road; a usually brightly lit and busy space was empty. At the desk a lone worker sat behind a Perspex screen, I thought how vulnerable she seemed; that she is someone’s daughter and she is here putting herself at risk to help take care of the companion animals of this world. She walked from the building smiling and quickly placed the meds in my open boot before it locked tight again – how quickly the world has changed; safety now comes from enclosure.

Yet in these times of uncertainty where fear creeps in and rationale can be elusive there are many things we can focus on to stay strong. Take a break from the constant flow of misreporting and find the feelgood stories like the cat rescuer of Wuhan, Ye Jialin, a young man who walked the streets of his city to take care of cats that had to be left in evacuated buildings and everyone’s hero Captain Tom Moore who has raised over 28 million for NHS charities. Reach out to someone you know is isolating alone, treat yourself to some designated downtime to read, meditate or watch an afternoon movie. Structure and routine is vital at times like this but so is having little things to look forward to like Thursdays at 8pm when we come together to clap for our carers.

Our extraordinary NHS workers, and doctors and nurses around the world are soldiers on the frontline in this modern day war but there are so many other ‘frontline’ workers that I also clap for each week. The postmen and women, the delivery drivers, supermarket workers, manufacturers, the vets on the frontline and those still working in call centres providing essential communications to the country, and the hundreds of thousands of volunteers that have signed up to help shield the most vulnerable.

Before this pandemic hit so many of us were heading for self destruction without really knowing it, the world and its residents hurtling full speed towards burn out, the Ozone vanishing before us and our lungs filling with pollution as modern day living ravages planet earth. NASA’s pollution-monitoring satellites have detected major decreases in the poisonous gas nitrogen dioxide over China and CO2 emissions fell by an estimated 200 million tonnes in the four weeks of shutdown. The European Space Agency’s satellites recorded a drop in pollution levels across the continent, particularly over northern Italy where the region has been impacted most by corona virus.

The imbalance of 21st century living has to be addressed; we must accept where this pandemic came from, learn from it and stop it happening again. It is extraordinary to think the world has listened and stayed at home coming together in unity but I have been mystified with social media being full of photos of lamb and beef and pork dishes that people have cooked. Is the connection not being made? We are fighting a pandemic that originated in a meat market, what about that is not getting through to us?

Matt Turner says, “The threat to global health that the exploitation of animals possesses is both dangerous and at times unpredictable. Moving forwards, there will be time to reflect upon this threat and advocate for a clear solution that could reduce the risk of global pandemics in the future."

For many weeks we have paced our homes like animals incarcerated in a Zoo as our survival instinct kicked in and I cannot help but think of the sentient beings in that market in Wuhan, in slaughterhouses around the world who will all fight for their lives with that same instinct at the point of their death.

Before this pandemic hit so many of us were heading for self destruction without really knowing it, the world and its residents hurtling full speed towards burn out, the Ozone vanishing before us and our lungs filling with pollution as modern day living ravages planet earth.

The birds are singing again this evening as I finish this piece, there are no plane trails in the sky and the air is filled with a balmy scent that tells us summer is on its way. While footage of lambs enjoying a playground roundabout in Raglan, wild pigs running with joy down a street in Philadelphia and Lions in Africa lazing on a golf course have shown how the animal kingdom has relaxed into lockdown, the reports of those hospitalised with Covid-19 have had a profound impact on me. This Footage of men and women and children fighting for breath, fighting to get home to their children and families a constant reminder of the overwhelming pain of those distanced from their loved ones at their time of need . The unimaginable death toll we all feared from this invisible attacker has tragically become a reality; a reality that will stay with us all for always.

In their honour we must live again and celebrate the life that we all once knew. My hope is that we will all listen to healing heartbeat of this planet, find a better way to all live together and go forward with more compassion, more respect and mindfulness to all the living creatures that we share this planet with.

You can find the PETA petition appealing to the World Health Organisation to close down live animal markets here: https://support.peta.org/page/17888/action/1

Statistic Sources; New Food Online; OPenTextBC, Nasa, Google, The Vegan Society.

Covid-19 Lockdown by Maria Slough 1Follow Maria's photography journey at mariasloughphotography.com and Instagram at @mariasloughphotography

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