Coronavirus has spread to more than sixty countries since December, including India, and has claimed over 3000 victims in the past few months. The first case of Coronavirus in India was reported in Kerala, earlier this year and two more Indians were recently tested positive. However, what's deadlier is the pace at which people have been circulating false information related to the disease on social media. And this time too, like the SARS outbreak in 2003, non-vegetarians are facing undue flak.
India on Monday reported two new cases of the novel coronavirus, including one from the national capital and the other in Telangana. Soon after, it was reported that a Noida school had been closed amid concerns that the Delhi resident who contracted coronavirus in Italy attended a birthday party last week in which his children as well as their schoolmates were present.
Amidst all this, an alarming trend on Twitter, with the hashtag #NoMeatNoCoronavirus, launches an attack on the non-vegetarians in the country and blames them for "bringing" the disease to India. The trend also urges people to give up meat and go vegan if they want to survive the pandemic. Say what?
Take a look at some of the tweets we came across:
The only way to stop #CoronavirusOutbreak is to stop eating meat.❌❌ #NoMeat_NoCoronaVirus Only true worship can save us from these viruses.Must watch ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/YzriKxsgCt— दीक्षा (@kabirparmatma) March 2, 2020
#coronavirusindia#NoMeat_NoCoronaVirusBreaking God's commands leads to disasters and it's a plea to the entire world that please stop killing animals. They are also Children of God and if you will kill them he will punish you with such viruses. pic.twitter.com/BDnm0PV8aQ— Manoj (@Manoj38599737) March 3, 2020
Birdflu= chicken (meat)Corona virus= animals (meat)Lassa fever= animals (meat)Ebola= animals. Seems the movement is boycott meat and eat fish! Seems seafood dont have any known viruses killing humans. None that i v heard of tho— Asuzu Enyinnaya (@easuzu) January 30, 2020
#NoMeat_NoCoronaVirusDONT TAKE MEAT.....IF TAKEN CORONA VIRUS FEVER WILL ATTACK....Eating meat is sinful.We should not eat meat.@SantRampalJiMa8 pic.twitter.com/es1SiRAH7j— Tanishk Verma (@TanishkVerma15) February 2, 2020
#NoMeat_NoCoronaVirus#GodMorningSaturdayA developed country is not one that has developed in science!It is one which has developed values.There is a request for all countries, including China, to renounce meat! pic.twitter.com/hXAIEeePCU— Surendra Thakur (@SurendraDass10) February 29, 2020
In short, most of the tweets claim that the 2019 nCoV virus can be spread through eating meat, and that only meat-eaters would be affected by the disease. These claims revolve around the central idea that God did not intend for humans to be meat eaters, and therefore anyone who isn't a pure vegetarian is committing a sin.
If you remember basic high school biology, you'll recall that that's not how any virus spreads. Whenever a virus enters the human body, it can get easily transmitted to another person and doesn't really depend on food consumption. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and the WHO explain that a person who has tested positive for coronavirus can transmit the disease to another person through respiratory droplets, which are usually released when the sick person sneezes or coughs.
But this seems to be lost on Indians, who'd rather believe the absurd claims made by the Hindu Mahasabha. "Corona is not a virus, but avatar for the protection of poor creatures. They have come to give the message of death and punishment to the one who eats them," Swami Chakrapani, the National President of All India Hindu Mahasabha had said earlier this month.
Even PETA drew much flak a few days ago when they tweeted that "Coronavirus" is just an anagram for "Carnivore" and that meat eaters were largely responsible for the outbreak.
In all probability, this finger pointing at meat eaters originated when rumours suggested that a market in Wuhan selling live animals was Ground zero which eventually spread to the rest of the city. However, the CDC has clarified that Coronavirus, now, is spreading through person-to-person transmission.
This is not the first time non-vegetarians have been blamed for "causing a disease", irrespective of how unscientific that may be. In 2002-2004, during the SARS outbreak which was also linked to animal flesh, meat-eaters were asked to refrain from consuming meat and were called "sinners."
The call for ban on meat, henceforth, really makes no sense. A survey carried out a few years ago also revealed that at least seventy percent men and women in India eat meat. By that logic, more than half the population might end up contracting coronavirus simply because of their food choices - a ludicrous claim, to say the least!
The WHO and the Government of India have released detailed advisories regarding precautionary measures and FAQs on coronavirus; as coronavirus creeps into the national capital, maybe it would do us all some good to dispel myths, and just rely on science to get us through the outbreak.