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Smiling family with dog playing outside--all beings deserve a right to health

One Health, COVID-19, and a Right to Health for Human and Nonhuman Animals

by Laurie Sellars, Kimberly Bernotas, and Jeff Sebo

Date: December 8, 2021
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COVID-19 is a reminder that human, nonhuman, and environmental health are linked, and so efforts to improve human, nonhuman, and environmental health should be linked as well. But current efforts to link these issues fall short by not doing enough for humans, not doing enough for nonhumans, and focusing narrowly on health instead of expansively on health, welfare, and rights. ~ Laurie Sellars, Kimberly Bernotas, and Jeff Sebo

The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating impacts on people, animals, and the planet, but the solutions being forwarded are largely short-sighted and are focused on monitoring and reacting.

In this paper, the authors show how the devastating impacts on people and animals of the COVID-19 pandemic make a case for advancing the interdependent rights, health, and wellbeing of humans, other animals, and our shared environment.

The authors begin by advocating for human and nonhuman legal rights (including a right to health). After highlighting the impacts of the pandemic and the limitations of a One Health approach, they outline steps that the international community can take to “respect and promote human and nonhuman health, welfare, and rights simultaneously.”

As part of their assessment of the impacts of the pandemic on humans and other animals, the authors touch upon the impacts in industrial animal farming and animal research laboratories, as well as for animal companions and animals in the wild.

The authors conclude with six implications:

  • “Humans should extend a legal right to health to humans and nonhumans alike.”
  • “Humans should revise and expand policy frameworks such as One Health to consider human and nonhuman health, welfare, and rights (including the right to health) holistically and structurally.”
  • “Humans should research our impacts on human and nonhuman populations and should include human and nonhuman health, welfare, and rights considerations in impact assessments.”
  • “Humans should also include nonhumans in policy decisions regarding education, employment, and social services.”
  • “Humans should include animals in decisions about infrastructure.”
  • “Humans should stop punishing nonhuman animals for human-caused problems.”

Read the essay.

 

This essay is part of the Special Section of the December 2021 Health and Human Rights Journal, edited by PZI’s co-founder and president, Dr. Hope Ferdowsian.

 

Article citation:

Sellars, Laurie, Bernotas, Kimberly, and Jeff Sebo. “One Health, COVID-19, and a Right to Health for Human and Nonhuman Animals.” Health and Human Rights Journal 23, no. 2 (8 December 2021): 35-47.

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