COVID-19 and the animals

Publication Name

Geographical Research


COVID-19 has brought the human world to crisis. This work examines how nonhuman animals are also connected to the pandemic in three ways that emerged early in the crisis. First, COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease that reached humans via nonhuman animal hosts. Animal geographers and others cast light on the spread and control of animal diseases and on the “almost animal,” including the microorganism. Second, the outbreak is understood to have transferred to humans in a market selling live animals in Wuhan, China. Disputes over the source of the outbreak signal the complexity that characterises the commodification of animals. Third, social restrictions have seen city streets empty of people. In the ensuing quiet, unexpected animals have entered cities or begun to behave differently. The arrivals, and the wonder they have sparked among people, raise questions about who and what is deemed to belong in the city. This commentary aims to unpack how geographers and those in related fields might turn to the animals to analyse and respond to the pandemic and other disasters. Through these three case studies, I find that the lives of human and nonhuman animals are deeply connected, and yet relations are characterised by separation and objectification. I argue for further relational and political work to more deeply understand connections and their implications.

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