“Back in the heydays across the Southeast Asian plateau where every other plantation owner is entitled a shotgun permit, wild life hunting was a common sport for the male gender, a habit acquired from colonizers, what used to be regarded as ‘the sport of Kings!)
Wild life meat and body parts were believed to be medicinal and beneficial thus many people consume them as elixir and courage booster, whilst the aborigines and Bomohs kept the bones, skins and whiskers as amulets because of the believe in their spiritual, magical and healing aspects. Supposedly, it wards the wearer against evil spirits, harm or impending danger. Teeth of wild boars, tigers, and palm of bears were strung around necks and arms or fashioned as anklets. Some were hung at the entrances to homes whilst others were lodged onto headgears and staffs.
Whilst CITEs has now classified some of these species as endangered, and health authorities has pinpointed some of them as the possible culprit towards the new strains of viruses plaguing the air, everyone of Southeast Asian origin can attest to have seen bottled snakes and centipedes in Chinese medicinal shops and witnesses the tradition of drinking the blood of snakes and the devouring of its meat, cooked in various styles especially herbal alongside porcupines, monitor lizards, civet cats, flying foxes, frogs and even turtles. This practice is very much a part of life. It has existed for centuries and is still very much alive today. In countries like Thailand or Indonesia it adds as a curious tourist draw, but the irony is, why didn’t the deadly mutant virus manifest then and does it’s mischief but managed to stay submerged? Why then must it be a couple of chickens a few years back, then swine, and now rats and bats? And why China?
Science has repeatedly warned us against unhygienic practices and the dangers of eating uncooked meat without highlighting the difference between what they discourage as compared to the ritual of eating raw Sashimi popular amongst the Japanese, abalone and Yee Sang as for the Chinese, and steaks done rare in the West. Were there viruses all along involving marine animals and the mutation of it as well that we do not know of?
More than ever, even when the practice of poaching for wild meats must end for reasons of conservation, wild life should not be made the convenient scapegoat for someone else’s shoddy hygiene and animistic tendency. In Southeast Asia, perhaps all these exotic meats were all well cooked except for the blood of snakes consumed with brandy. Has wasabi something to do with the annihilation of parasites found in raw meats the same way it was believed that brandy can do that to blood? Maybe but who knows?
There are other instances such as this which if left unanswered or unresolved, will quickly lead to more conspiracy theories regarding its outbreak. Biological or chemical leakages is high on the list, not helped by Wuhan’s close proximity to the viral research institute. There are also concerns linking them to the West’s marginalization of China over its meteoric economic rise. Can we blame the speculators from speculating?
As the world anticipates in suspense over the confirmed root cause and source of the virus, epidemicians the world over together with WHO are working around the clock to curb its lethal spread and eradication, besides developing a convincing antidote. Meanwhile, face masks and hand sanitizers flew off shelves like hot cakes as unlucky victims collapses one by one like dead flies. The question is should all the innocent humankind pay for the inoculation, injection or oral servings of antidotes to these global pharmaceuticals concerns if ever they found one?
Meanwhile, what can responsible citizens do to help contain and arrest the widespread blunder rather than seeking others to blame for the mistakes?
Social responsibility should start at home and the practice of self quarantine for those unwell seems best to retard the spread. Refraining from going out unnecessarily and if possible, postponing trips abroad is necessary. Hygiene and the constant usage of masks and hand sanitizers, washing of body parts that comes in contact with supermarket trolleys, lift buttons and door handles, does better for those who are compelled to go out particularly to places where a high volume of traffic is encountered.
We must also realize that this problem aren’t the fault of animals but people and people alone. How it is transmitted, where it is transmitted, the fear of being infected is very real because the virus is practically invisible to the naked eye, is carried by the wind and one may not know if he or she is infected or is a carrier so, stay safe everyone!