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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Sebastian

The coronavirus is not a cosmic punishment for eating meat and other tales of ableism

Updated: Jan 26, 2020

As of January 24, Chinese authorities had acknowledged more than 1,000 cases of coronavirus and over 40 deaths. In the past week, the virus has also been confirmed in Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. And there are two confirmed cases in Chicago. Also, FUCK, I just landed in Chicago. But whatever.

From the moment I heard about the coronavirus, my stomach clenched at where I feared authorities would isolate the outbreak. Sure enough, coronavirus strain 2019-nCoV likely originated at an outdoor market in Wuhan that sold a range of processed and live animals including donkeys, camels, foxes, badgers, hedgehogs and rats.

I knew it wouldn’t take long to hear a refrain as predictable as the sun rising in the east.

“That's what you get for eating animals. I pray this stops this barbaric practice in China. These poor animals.”

It takes a lot of talent to compound racism and ableism so effortlessly in one sentence. But at least one vegan did.

I already addressed the mainstream animal rights community’s perpetual habit of denigrating anyone who is vaguely Asian for somehow being exceptional in their speciesism. But it’s the ableism that we have to talk about today.

Because it‘s not just one person. It‘s a LOT of people.

I can’t believe this has to be said, but the abhorrent trope of illness as retribution has to stop.

We did it with swine flu. We did it with avian flu. And we’re doing it again.

Not only is it absurd to think anyone at all deserves to be sick, illness harms people irrespective of whether they’ve done anything to “deserve” it or not—including children. Anyone can get sick at any time and for any reason.

Pathologizing illness, or ascribing it to eating animals, harms people who literally need help. Moralizing at people with heart disease, cancer, or any other conditions instead of caring for them as is our obligation.

Plus this illustrates another way in which tying veganism to health goes terribly wrong. Because when vegans get sick, for what crime then are we atoning?

Besides if illness is passed judgment or some consequence for injustice, then I’m still waiting on whatever disease is meant to punish the United States for 400 years of slavery, 60 years of Jim Crow, a generous portion of voter and housing discrimination, a few tablespoons of school-to-prison pipeline and a tiny soupçon of imperialism.

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