COVID-19 has affected many aspects of life on Earth. That includes the animal kingdom. In Hong Kong, authorities made plans to kill thousands of small animals, including hamsters, after several tested positive for the coronavirus.
Culling is the planned killing of unhealthy, dangerous, or overly plentiful animals. Some experts say culling can prevent epidemic outbreaks. Non-pet rodents like mice and rats are regularly culled for health reasons. However, certain types of birds, sharks, and deer are also culled to prevent overpopulation and health hazards and for disease control.
In Hong Kong, a pet shop employee tested positive for the coronavirus. Several hamsters imported from the Netherlands at the store tested positive too. So officials there are culling hamsters, chinchillas, and other small mammals.
Officials will also stop the sale of these animals in all Hong Kong pet stores, according to the Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department. Additionally, about 2,000 small mammals will be killed “in a humane manner.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, animals are not significant spreaders of the coronavirus. But Hong Kong authorities aren’t ruling out transmission between animals and humans. A disease that can jump from animal to human is called a zoonosis.
“We cannot exclude the possibility that the shopkeeper was in fact actually infected from the hamsters,” says Edwin Tsui, a controller at the Centre for Health Protection.
Virus experts say COVID-19 most likely jumped from animals to humans in the first place. The outbreak became a pandemic because the virus spreads so easily between people.
Hong Kong customers who bought hamsters from December 22 on must undergo testing. Officials are urging them not to have contact with others without a negative test. Their hamsters must be tested too. And if results are positive, owners will be subject to quarantine.
Customers who bought hamsters from the affected store after January 7 must quarantine and hand their hamsters over to authorities. The animals will likely be destroyed.
Leung Siu-fai, director of the Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department, says everyone should keep their hamsters at home. “All pet owners should observe good personal hygiene, and after you have been in contact with animals and their food, you should wash your hands,” he suggests.
Leung adds one more precaution: “Do not kiss your pets.”
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the Earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the Earth.” — Genesis 1:26
Why? God gives humans dominion over animals and entrusts them with caretaker responsibilities. Sometimes stewardship requires sacrifice in order to ease suffering or prevent disaster.