The Link Between COVID-19 and Mistreatment of Animals

cows in mud

Karner Blue Capital, an investment advisor working with publicly traded companies that incorporate animal welfare and biodiversity protection into their operations, is calling attention to the link between infectious diseases like COVID-19 and the mistreatment of animals in order to highlight the health and economic consequences of these interactions.

“Karner Blue Capital expresses sympathy for people whose lives have been personally affected by COVID-19 and is grateful to all agencies and organizations fighting to contain the spread of the disease,” said Vicki Benjamin, president of Karner Blue Capital. “While the health and economic effects of the outbreak require immediate attention, we want people to recognize that the rise and spread of this disease isn’t anything unpredictable. It’s a derivative of reckless animal handling and consumption practices, and it demonstrates the essential need for human beings to compassionately share the planet with other species.”

Researchers have tentatively identified the origin of COVID-19 in China’s “wet markets,” where live animals are held, slaughtered and sold in densely packed, high-stress, unsanitary and poorly regulated conditions. Human contact with the blood and body parts of wild animals at such markets is a major source for the transmission of zoonotic viruses that spread from animals to humans. These wet markets operate in nations throughout the world, even to some degree in the United States.

While efforts to close wet markets are critical, that important goal will be insufficient to abate public health threats posed by reckless animal handling practices. The markets are only one of many points of origin for human health threats spawned by the mistreatment of animals.

  • In many industrial meat production facilities, antibiotics are recklessly administered to animals to accelerate growth and to address the potential for disease transmission because the animals are so stressed and so overcrowded. Such conditions could give rise to antibiotic-resistant bacteria that could cause a new global health crisis and we would be largely helpless to arrest its spread. Major medical groups have sounded warnings about this public-health menace for years, but with policy makers ignoring their advice.
  • Demand for exotic animals as pets, and also the use of animals in the entertainment, food, trophy hunting, clothing and personal products industries, is driving increased contact between humans and wild animals, presenting opportunities for zoonotic transmissions. The bush meat trade – which claims the lives of hundreds of millions of wild animals in Africa every year – drives contact and consumption that are an imminent threat to human health. AIDS is thought to have jumped the species barrier with human consumption of primates.
  • The loss of natural habitats through deforestation and development increases contact among humans, livestock and wild animals, which can facilitate the spread of zoonotic transmissions. Research indicates that up to 60% of new infectious diseases in humans originated in other animals and one in three new outbreaks are related to deforestation and other land-use changes.
  • Climate change increases the likelihood of animal species coming into contact with humans as rising temperatures spur animal migrations, alter ecosystems, and accelerate biodiversity loss.  Some experts believe that a warmer planet will not only give rise to new pathogens, but will also enable existing diseases, such as malaria, dengue fever and Lyme disease, to move into new territories as the mosquitoes and ticks carrying those diseases expand their ranges.

Through proprietary research and company benchmarking, Karner Blue Capital identifies and invests in companies that promote and implement better animal welfare and biodiversity policies. Karner Blue Capital focuses on identifying those companies that are working to reduce deforestation, promote biodiversity, curb greenhouse gas emissions and provide humane conditions for livestock – policies that limit risky interactions between wildlife and humans and decrease the opportunity for the transmission of disease.

“If we don’t take animal welfare seriously in all aspects of our lives, this will become the new normal,” Benjamin said. “Shutting down or regulating China’s wet markets will wipe out a dangerous set of human-animal interactions, but it’s just one step toward sound public health policies and interactions. We need to completely rethink our relationship with animals and begin taking steps to transition toward regenerative agriculture, biodiversity protection, and a plant-based economy.”

For more information on Karner Blue Capital’s innovative animal welfare investment strategy and the Karner Blue Animal Impact Fund, visit and

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