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Contamination: The Case of Civets, Companionship, COVID, and SARS

By J. Hooper

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This research explores the intersection between zoonosis and the trade in wild animals by applying the Asian palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) as a lens through which to analyse the ways humans and animals shape, and are shaped by, multi-species entanglements. Civets occupy a unique space within contemporary human-animal relations, as they have become an increasingly popular companion species despite being vectors of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus. The 2002 SARS outbreak not only killed 774 humans, but its confirmed species origin instigated the retribution-like public slaughter of an estimated 10,000 civets. Guided by the theory of "contamination", this paper compares human-civet relations during SARS and COVID-19 outbreaks through content analysis of global news media and the social media activity of "Civet Lover" clubs, dedicated social spaces for civet pet keeping enthusiasts. Results show that amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the civet pet trade is thriving with considerable implications for humans and animals. This paper argues for the exotic pet trade to receive greater monitoring and regulation, for compromised animal welfare and health could present the opportunity for further disease emergence.

Publication Title J Appl Anim Welf Sci
Volume 25
Issue 2
Pages 167-179
ISBN/ISSN 1088-8705
DOI 10.1080/10888705.2022.2028627
Language eng
Notes 1532-7604Hooper, JesJournal ArticleEnglandJ Appl Anim Welf Sci. 2022 Apr-Jun;25(2):167-179. doi: 10.1080/10888705.2022.2028627. Epub 2022 Jan 23.
Author Address Department of Sociology, Philosophy, and Anthropology (SPA), University of Exeter, Exeter Anthrozoology as Symbiotic Ethics (Ease) Working Group, Exeter, UK.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animals
  2. Animal welfare
  3. Covid-19
  4. Evolution
  5. Humans
  6. Pandemics
  7. Virus diseases
  8. Zoonoses