Treves, Adrian (2020) Elephants and pandemics. Animal Sentience 28(20)
Liv Baker and Rebecca Winkler, Asian elephant rescue, rehabilitation and rewilding
Baker & Winkler’s critique of Asian elephant tourism and conservation in Thailand has convinced me that this was “an industry with too many victims.” Yet I fear that B&W’s proposed remedy of returning to past elephant husbandry by Karen hill-peoples has little likelihood of improving the lives of the elephants for long. Who can predict whether the Karen will live up to this hope? B&W advocate for the Karen, but not for “an abolitionist stance on elephant-human relationships.” In my view, whether we discuss elephants or the wild mammals that carry SARS-CoV-2, abolition of many human uses of animals is needed to save our planet and ourselves. Are Karen elephant-keepers that different from the bat-hunters who seem to have brought the pandemic to our doorsteps? Both eke out a marginal living in traditional ways exploiting animals. Human survival does not depend on sustaining “wet markets” or elephant tourism or eating meat every day. What we really need is fundamental reform of our relationships with animals, starting with the human governance of the nonhuman world that sustains us all. Elephants and pandemics expose the myth of limitless human freedom.