U.S. national flags, representing the 200,000 people lost in the United States to COVID-19, will be deployed on the National Mall in Washington, DC, United States on September 22, 2020. Photo: Xinhua
The decision by local authorities in Harbin, northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province to euthanize three domestic cats that tested positive for COVID-19 has sparked controversy. Unsurprisingly, some US media and Western users on social media platforms like Twitter took the chance to attack China. They blew the decision as an act of cruelty to life and as a result of China’s “scare tactics over COVID-19”.
China has been criticized for cruel treatment of life for killing three cats infected with the virus – is this serious? The US COVID-19 death toll has now approached 700,000, surpassing the 1918 devastating flu pandemic. In the face of such a botched anti-pandemic situation, these westerners are unable to preach to China about dealing with life.
Animal rights activists in China have also criticized the decision. They urged health authorities to offer a more ethical and standardized method of treating virus-infected animals. However, the majority of Chinese people believe that euthanizing cats is a necessary decision in accordance with Epidemic Prevention and Control Act. It is assumed that the epidemic prevention and control staff have fully assessed the risks of virus transmission and selected the most necessary method.
The end-of-life decision is supported by the People’s Republic of China’s Law for the Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Diseases, which provides that if an infectious disease breaks out, infected wild animals and domestic animals can be controlled or, if necessary, killed.
Feng Zijian, deputy director general of the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview with The Beijing News on Tuesday that there is little experience dealing with infected animals and that when a cat is constantly carrying a virus, the risks of transmission exist and great care must be taken in handling them. He stressed that a cat that repeatedly tests positive for COVID-19 must be euthanized. In addition, it is also noticeable that as the pandemic spreads around the world, cases in which infected animals such as tigers, cats and dogs are euthanized in other countries are not uncommon.
“From the perspective of crisis management and public health control, euthanizing the three cats is a critical measure to minimize negative effects and avoid worst outcomes,” Shen Yi, professor at Fudan University in Shanghai, told the Global Times . “If there is real cat-to-human transmission and community spread, are these critics responsible? How can they afford it?” asked Shen.
With the week-long national holiday approaching, the enormous flow of people during this time poses great challenges for the prevention and control of the epidemic. Cities like Harbin, where new local cases are still being reported, face an arduous task of effectively controlling and reducing the risk of the virus spreading. The decision of the Disease Prevention and Control staff to euthanize the cats demonstrated their responsible attitude towards the safety of human life.
The owner of the cats, a COVID-19 patient, is being treated in the hospital. Your sadness is understandable. From their posts on Weibo, we can learn that the three cats were well looked after by community workers before they were discovered to be carriers of the virus. The owner also said she understood that the safety of the land and people should be a priority.
It must be noted that China is undoubtedly the most humanitarian country in the fight against the pandemic. Since the epidemic began, China has insisted on putting life first. It has upheld “people first, life first” and protected the life, health and safety of people at all costs. This is in sharp contrast to the US and some other Western countries, which disregard people’s lives but give priority to political and party interests. It is no exaggeration to say that the lives of cats in China are more important than the lives of COVID-19 patients in these western countries.
“The subtext that these Western critics failed to say is that it doesn’t matter how many people are infected with the virus or killed as long as the three cats are not euthanized,” Shen said. What interests them, however, is not the cats at all, but instead find another excuse to attack China’s anti-epidemic efforts, which only shows their moral impotence, noted Shen.