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Awaiting the Next Plague
People think some pretty depressing thoughts.
We think about the “next virus,” the “new COVID.” Where it might pop up, what we can do to survive it. We’re not even through with the current pandemic, and we already dread the next.
This terrifies me, because I will be here for a while. If there are more plagues, Gen Z will experience most of them. And yet, we are not responsible for COVID or any soon-to-come outbreaks.
I am 15. If I live another 75 years, I may experience dozens of new, uncontrollable diseases, touching every region of the world. Already, an infectious virus has been detected in a US turkey farm, classified as deadly.
The infuriating part is that government claims to look out for us. They pretend to protect us against disease, but turn around and create breeding grounds for said disease.
COVID is from a wet market. The world’s leading health authorities have been sounding the alarm for years that cramming animals together in cages filled with their own waste is the recipe for zoonotic disease outbreaks.
“We are sounding the alarm. Business as usual is done. We are activating, in all the ways we know how, and in some ways we have never dreamed,” states Allison Awardy, of the Chicago Dept. of Public Health. Her tone is laced with concern. I find it hypocritical.
There are no less than 14 wet markets - no different from those in Wuhan - in my city, Chicago. They exist unregulated, the only consequences for their recklessness coming about through the efforts of local activists. These activists have begged and pleaded with Allison Arwady to hold them accountable for years.
And she ignores them. Officials, the people put in office to keep us safe, ignore the needs of concerned citizens fearing for their lives. I can only find insult in her inaction.
Imagine you are a young person when COVID-19 takes hold of your city. You are asked to study from home, not visit your friends, stay away from public places, not see family, and miss important events. You are, in effect, told to upend your life.
But you comply, because you see the news, and you know people are dying. Family, neighbors, community members, are fading away. They are hooked up to ventilators, and they die holding the hand of a stranger.
We kids have made sacrifices, with the promise that it is saving lives. With the promise that officials are doing their part, too. Government, we are told, is doing its very best to make the world safe for us.
So you can imagine that, when I discovered the existence of no less than 14 wet markets in my own city… I was shocked. I went to see them for myself.
I visited three: John’s Live Poultry, Chicago Live Poultry, and Aden Live Poultry.
The first thing to hit me was the animals inside. Their desperate eyes looked back at me through the dirty bars of cages, which were littered with feces. They were chicks, pigeons, turkeys, and bunnies.
They huddled together in dread as they witnessed others being slaughtered.
Each and every one who was grabbed from a cage - was screaming at the top of their lungs...
I watched in horror as they were dragged to the back room, where their screaming stopped. It stopped suddenly, because at this point, they were already dead.
Five animals die every minute in Chicago wet markets.
Anyone in their right mind will recognize the violence at the core of these operations. Still, there are other problems attached to wet markets.
The stench within these places is unavoidable. It is the smell of feces, urine, and dead corpses. Laws have been enacted to prevent such horrific conditions, but every single wet market violates at least one of these regulations. Even so, they are allowed to exist, free of consequence, while breaking the law. City and state officials ignore their blatant illegality.
75% of all emerging infectious diseases originate with animals, and with hundreds of animals in any one slaughterhouse, there is no more potent recipe for disaster.
At any time, someone can be infected. They can spread the disease to passerby, family, and friends. Eventually, dozens of people are sick. It is now an outbreak.
If it can happen in Wuhan, it can happen in Chicago. Allison Arwady and Mayor Lightfoot need to treat these places as the serious threats to peoples’ lives that they are.
The government needs to stop saying caring things, and actually do caring things. If the laws meant to protect us are not enforced, everyone will suffer.
Unless politicians do their jobs, my generation will live with this for the rest of our lives.
I am calling/emailing to ask that you listen to your community and shut down Chicago wet markets. They are illegal businesses that abuse animals and put the entire community in danger. They break zoning laws, health rules, and noise regulations. Neighbors to the businesses hear animals screaming constantly.
As a concerned citizen, I ask that you stop allowing these illegal operations to exist in Chicago, or mandate they transition to slaughter-free businesses. If you doubt their harmfulness, I encourage you to visit them.”