An adult hands a bright blue and green model of the globe to a pair of children's hands, against a leafy backdrop.

Academics at Edge Hill University are highlighting the effect of Covid-19 on the natural rather than human world to mark World Environment Day.

The fallout of the global pandemic for the human race has been well-documented but on World Environment Day, Friday 5 June, it is important to remember the outcomes for the natural world will, in many cases, be no less bleak.

As observed by Dr Paula Arcari in a recent article for the University’s Centre for Human Animal Studies (CoHAS), the crisis is exposing the failings of a capitalist world economy for thousands of people around the world, but animal lives are also at risk and have fewer legal protections, if any.

Paula Arcari, wearing a brown jacket and glasses with her dark hair tied back, smiles at the camera.
Dr Paula Arcari, Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow

She said: “Animals are part of vast, globally-connected industries that commodify their bodies not only for food, but also entertainment, research and companionship.

“Now that the systems which provide for their daily maintenance are dissolving, they face the possibility of mass extermination.”

Paula, a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow, revealed that some zoos are facing the reality of having to cull some animals, if not shut down permanently, and highlighted the threat to racehorses and greyhounds with racing suspended.

“After the 2008–2009 financial crisis, the number of racehorses sent to abattoirs in Britain and Ireland doubled and the IMF predicts that the Covid-19 recession will be ‘way worse’,” she added.

Animals involved in the tourism industry, laboratory animals and those in rescue centres are all at risk, she explained, while warning that the number of pets being abandoned was increasing.

Professor Claire Parkinson, co-director of CfHAS, drew on anecdotal evidence that many people were taking a greater interest in the animal and natural world since the vast majority of the population was forced into lockdown.

Claire Parkinson has long blonde hair with a fringe and is wearing a black velvet jacket, smiling at the camera.
Professor Claire Parkinson, co-director of CfHAS

Many gardening and wildlife groups on social media have reported a sharp rise in members, she revealed, with one garden wildlife group on Facebook receiving an additional 2,000 members in the first three weeks of lockdown.

“People have been increasingly focusing on gardens and the wildlife that is on their doorsteps,” Claire said.

“Wildlife ponds have been popular lockdown projects with many people finding ingenious ways to create wildlife-friendly spaces in their gardens using items that would otherwise have been thrown away.

“While lockdown has given people an opportunity to appreciate their relationship to wildlife, whether or not this continues when restrictions are lifted remains to be seen.

“As one member of a Facebook wildlife group commented ‘a pond is for life – not just for lockdown’.”

Christopher Dent, Professor in Economics and International Business and leader of the University’s new sustainability group SustainNET

Looking to the future and recovery from Covid-19, Christopher Dent, Professor in Economics and International Business and leader of the University’s new sustainability group SustainNET, said the global pandemic had made us even more aware of our “risk society” and had “thrown in sharper relief the future consequences of choices we make now”.

In a recent article for East Asia Forum, he wrote: “New investment should be directed towards building a more decarbonised, climate-friendly economy to put us on a more sustainable path.

“This is the ‘historic moment’ to move on to a brighter, cleaner future.”

Find out more about Edge Hill University’s Centre for Human Animal Studies here.