In the first half of the show, animal welfare expert Wayne Pacelle joined George Knapp for a conversation on animal welfare issues and how they relate to us in the age of the novel coronavirus. Mistreatment of animals in the form of factory farming, cock fighting, exotic pet trade, and wet markets have negative health repercussions for people, Pacelle explained. "When we mistreat [animals], overcrowd them, cause them stress, cause them harm... we take on additional risks of zoonotic disease," he said, noting 60 percent of diseases originate in animals and jump to humans.
The coronavirus responsible for COVID-19 is only the most recent example of a virus passing from animals to humans, which is thought to have begun with bats for sale in a wet market in Wuhan, China, Pacelle continued. "Wet markets are mixing bowls for human and animal fluids and repertory excretions," he reported. And it's not only China where wet markets are a problem. According to Pacelle, there are dangerous wet markets selling millions of frogs and turtles from China in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle. "We should know better from a humane perspective, as well as a animal health and public health perspective to not do these sorts of things," he declared. He also pointed out how the exotic pet trade is another enormous transmission pathway for animal to human diseases.
During the second part of the program, 15-year veteran science reporter and TIME editor Bryan Walsh discussed pandemics and what we should learn from the current coronavirus pandemic. According to Walsh, viruses and pathogens have been the single biggest check on human development throughout history. And humans have had numerous recent "dress rehearsal viruses," including SARS and MERS, to prepare for one, he explained, noting it was only a matter of time before something as contagious as COVID-19 emerged and would be difficult to stop. "We can't say we didn't see this one coming," Walsh said.
He warned the complacent and those who think the coronavirus will not touch them about this virus' highly contagious nature. The stern measures and isolation of the infected regions by Chinese leaders show how tough this virus is to contain, Walsh continued. "And why it's so dangerous... if you have a virus coming from an animal into a human being, there's no immunity," he cautioned. Walsh spoke about what the coronavirus has wrought in New York City, where hospitals are overloaded and it is akin to a warzone. George Knapp commented about seeing a photograph of refrigeration trailers brought in as makeshift morgues to deal with the surge in coronavirus deaths there. This virus is an effective spreader because humans have no immunity, there is no vaccine, and many infected show no signs of sickness, he added.