January 25, 2020

Plagues from the east are nothing new. The Black Death and other epidemics arrived in Europe from China during the 1300’s, killing a large percentage of its population. Much of this pestilence came from rats that stowed away on merchant ships coming from the east.

At the end of World War I, another pandemic, wrongly called the Spanish flu, killed an estimated 18 to 50 million people in Europe and North America.

Seventeen years after the SARS virus killed some 800 people in China and Canada and terrified the entire world, a new plague threatens the West: the Wuhan Coronavirus.

Officially named 2019-nCoV, the new virus has so far infected over 800 people in China. This latest plague erupted in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, population 11 million, which is located on the Yangtze River and is an important hub for national communications.

Like SARS, the Wuhan virus is believed to have come from a live animal market that specializes in exotic animals from the Himalayas or China’s remote mountain regions. Serving exotic animals at dinner parties is a big status symbol in China. Sometimes they are even served while still alive. Dog meat is a favorite in northern China.

SARS was believed to have come from civet cats. As a result, thousands of these creatures were brutally killed. But it was later determined the virus originated from bats, then spread to other captive animals. Bat soup is another Chinese delicacy.

Keeping large numbers of captive animals crammed together in cages with poor ventilation and no cleaning is an ideal vector for viral diseases. Each year, China consumes 730 million pigs. Fifty percent of China’s factory farmed pigs have so far contracted lethal swine flu. Rising living standards have boosted demand for pork.

I have seen how China raises and transports pigs. It’s a nightmare of brutality and inhuman behavior. No wonder so many of these intelligent sensitive animals fall ill and die. Swine fever could be payback for China’s terrible cruelty to pigs.

And it’s not just China. Pigs in North America are treated almost as badly. A lady where I live was actually jailed and prosecuted for having given water to a truckload of thirsty, starving, terrified pigs on the way to the slaughterhouse.

In North America, animals destined for slaughter are packed together and then dosed with heavy antibiotics to combat communicable diseases from over-crowding and mistreatment.

When the SARS epidemic erupted in South China 17 years ago, the Chinese communist party tried to hush up the crisis, allowing infected people to travel to North America and Europe.

This time, China did the right thing by jumping hard on the epidemic: shutting down all air, sea and land communications with the greater Wuhan region and 14 smaller cities – right in the middle of China’s huge new year celebrations when over 400 million people return to their homes. The epidemic could not have come at a worse time.

Some Wuhan residents have already flown to other parts of Asia and North America. Simply checking incoming air travellers for fever will not prevent the virus from spreading or identify passengers who have contracted and are developing the illness.

A better solution would be to quarantine all people arriving from Central China and even bar airlines coming from there until we better understand the new virus. We stop so-called ‘terrorists’ and Muslims from flying to our shores. Why not potentially infective people?

China must also be pressed to cease its dangerous, inhumane trade in exotic wild animals and urged to treat all animals with humanity and care. China is a major cause of species loss. Aside from a few brave animal rights groups, there is very little consciousness of our animal neighbors in China nor understanding that animals are sentient beings with emotions similar to those of humans. The Chinese are one of the most intelligent people on earth. Yet when it comes to animals, all they see is walking food.

As I’ve seen on my travels across China, it has made great strides in public sanitation and cleanliness as well as planting trees. Now, it’s time to stop abusing animals or the plagues will keep coming.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2020

This post is in: Animal Rights, China


  1. Excellent article Eric, thank you. But just one thing. The plague originated in Kenya first in 525CE. It reoccurred many times but always gestated in the East African area or so I am led to believe.

    A book I am reading explains it all and that 525CE was a catastrophe of global proportions caused by a massive volcanic eruption:

  2. “At the end of World War I, another pandemic, wrongly called the Spanish flu”; I’m surprised the Dotard hasn’t labelled the new influenza, the ‘Chinese Flu’. Maybe it’s a matter of simply giving him a little more time, but, it’s the politically correct thing to do.
    The pandemic is in it’s early stages, and it may be a little premature to call it a pandemic. It has the serious potential to become a real serious one. To show how commerce is so embedded in modern governments, little or nothing is being done to stop the spread. I fear the this latest influenza will take off. Even our Canadian minister for health has no concept about how dangerous this can get, or at least he’s not acting on it. I’m closely following this in the news just to see the progression. At least the Chinese tried to contain it, but, they let a few ‘escape’. Containment may have little purpose, other than to slow the progression. This may provide a little more time with which to come up with an anti-viral agent.
    The Black Death (aka Bubonic Plague) was interesting. It spread far and wide when transportation was limited to ‘on foot’, ‘by horse’ and by ship. Travelling large distances quickly was not an option. It is my understanding that as a result of the large reduction in the population that the lives of the peasants improved slightly because there was a greater demand for their services since such a large portion of them had been removed.
    The AIDS pandemic could have been a lot worse. It was somewhat contained because it was sexually transmitted and slow. If the virus was airborne with a very long ‘incubation’ period, it would have been much more serious. Any illness that could lie dormant for years and that was readily transmitted could infect a substantial portion of the population before it was recognised. At that point it might be too late to work on a ‘flu shot’.
    “Dog meat is a favorite in northern China.” I hear it goes good with noodles… also common to northern China. I suspect that rural China is still struggling to keep from starving to death. People in that situation are likely ready to eat anything and have survived in that manner for millennium. My programmer buddy’s mother refered to ‘cats’ as a German word that I don’t recall and not the normal ‘katze’. I asked Rick what the term was and he said it translated into ‘roof rabbit’. During the German depression, I guess cats were like long tailed rabbits. Out of desperation people eat almost anything… even people. Donner comes to mind. It’s interesting that with the Chinese zodiac, that the New Year is the ‘Year of the Pig’.
    The Chinese aren’t the only ones that abuse ‘livestock’. Westerners processing of pigs and cattle can be pretty rough, considering that we are the ‘civilised’ ones. The Western contribution to Climate Change has put billions of animals at risk. The number was quoted as a likely count of the animals that perished in the Australian bush fires. Other than a handful of Middle Eastern countries, Australia is second after the US, for the per capita carbon output. Time for them to ‘pay the piper’. The Dotard is doing everything to ‘roll back’ pollution controls. The American day will come. With climate change, I’m looking to the day when the wild fires will progress north.
    “The epidemic could not have come at a worse time.” Your statement could not be more correct. New Years is a very significant event to the Chinese culture. It is a time for travel and for joining together for festivities.

  3. I never take these modern black death stories seriously. What the media always does is raise the death toll of the Spanish flu to panic us all and conveniently fail to mention is that compared to now the medicines of 1919 were little better than magic chants and leeches. What most of what is going on in the news is fear mongering by big pharma which basically owns all the media to get us all to panic and rush to get the vaccine that will miraculously appear to save us. The same hapened for SARS, sure the desease is serious but the intentionally manufactured hysterics aren’t.

    • “I never take these modern black death stories seriously.”
      It might be time to reconsider your views. An airborne infection has the potential of killing most inhabitants on earth. We are lining in huge population centres where closeness is a way of life. We have numerous methods of travelling large distances in a short period of time. We have caused the development of numerous antibiotic resistant organisms.
      Other than the vector, the last three items can really complicate and exacerbate a pandemic.
      The last item to mention… and the foundations for it are related to Climate Change. The downside of doing nothing is far worse than the downside of being in error.

    • Another ‘feature’ to add to the list of reasons why the coronavirus is so dangerous. From the BBC:
      “A new coronavirus that has spread to almost 2,000 people is infectious in its incubation period – before symptoms show – making it harder to contain, Chinese officials say.”


  4. China has been protein short for many centuries given their huge population and limited land mass. Nothing goes “to waste” there. Ditto Korea.

    As they are able to increase the farm production of protein and as their population peaks and then declines and ages, demand for protein will decrease while production will likely increase.

    This will take pressure off natural sources and possibly allow the wild populations of some species to recover. Desperation drive people to eat anything as all of our histories show. Appreciation for animals and their personalities increases when they are no longer seen as either a threat or as food.

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