Will animal rights groups let Africans continue to die of Ebola?

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A woman receives an experimental Ebola vaccine at a makeshift clinic on the outskirts of the Congolese city of Mbandaka in early June.

The cause of the deadly ebola virus has at last been discovered in a Liberian laboratory. The rest of Africa should be rejoicing. Prohibiting the eating of a particular bat species — just as we know not to eat some types of mushrooms — may significantly limit the further loss of human life.

Finding the ebola virus in a flying bat that is consumed by people in countries that have suffered the worst ebola outbreaks is a monumental public health development. Until further studies confirm the Liberian finding and a vaccine can be developed, the ebola virus will remain a major danger to all citizens of Africa. Thousands of people, some 11,000 between 2013 and 2016 including doctors from African and Western countries, have died from this virulent and deadly virus. 

While Liberian officials have appealed for urgent efforts to convert their initial findings to a solution to end the spread of the ebola virus, there is a fear that the Western animal rights groups’ may prevent further work. These groups have declared permanent opposition to any medical experiments on animals or any interference with wildlife, including presumably virus-carrying bats.  

“Western animal rights groups want wild animals to be allowed to live their lives to the fullest extent without human involvement, “said Managing Director of the Los Angeles-based Ivory Education Institute, Mr Godfrey Harris. “According to the major animal rights groups, any use of animals by humans is an immoral interference with nature.”

As an example of this attitude, the US-based animal rights organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), is opposed to medical research using animals.

“The reality is that the majority of animal experiments do not contribute to improving human health, and the value of the role that animal experimentation plays in most medical advances is questionable,” said PETA in a statement found under “issues” on the www.peta.org web site. In addition, the policy position of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is the same: to oppose any use of wildlife for human benefit.

Yet it appears that further medical research on the ebola virus could save countless more human lives, particularly African lives. Watch carefully to see if the animal rights groups understand the dynamics of human beings living with wild animals. While the pro-sustainable use NGOs seeks a balance between the two, the animal rights groups seems to favour animals in all cases over humans. Can they for the first time keep quiet and not oppose medical research that holds the promise of ending further ebola deaths?

The sad fact is that Western animal rights groups such as PETA and the HSUS are increasingly threatening the wellbeing of African people and their wildlife. They have banned international trade in ivory and rhino horn by pressuring the delegates of the member nations of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES). Now they want to end all trade and all use of wild animals for any purpose by humans.

Ironically, their effort to end of all trade in wild animals has strengthened demand for both ivory and rhino horn. The spike in demand has increased the incentive for poaching. Yet the animal rights groups scandalously and hypocritically beg for more and more funding to ”save” the same mega fauna that they have put in danger. Even when it comes to experimenting with wildlife for medical research, they appeal to international donors and private citizens to fund them to stop these experiments. But is their true motivation to save wildlife from harm or to make money for their own purposes?

“The animal rights groups couldn’t care a damn about nature, wildlife or human beings,” said renowned ecologist and CEO of South Africa-based pro-sustainable use NGO, the True Green Alliance, Mr Ron Thomson. “All they are interested in is themselves.  As long as they make money they ignore all other considerations. So, they dig into every “issue” that they can use to incite the emotions of people – who they milk of their money”

Sustainable development happens when both the environment (including wildlife) and humans are building on the delicately balanced status quo. “The animal rights groups have got it wrong,” said Mr Harris.  “All animals, including the humans, are sharing the planet and its available space. The fact that wild animals can carry diseases with fatal impact on humans gives us every right to involve ourselves with how those animals interact with man.”

The animal rights groups believe that their goal of saving wild animals from human interference is more important than anything that African nations may want for their people. This is a further aspect of the Western assault on the sovereignty of African countries. This must end now or sub-Saharan Africa will surely be dragged back to the colonial period when racism dominated Western policy towards this Continent.

Emmanuel Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning environmental journalist who has written extensively on environment and development issues.