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article imageOp-Ed: After #SalvemosAExcalibur, time for #SalvemosAWestAfrica

By JohnThomas Didymus     Oct 9, 2014 in World
Monrovia - While thousands die unmourned in West Africa, the rest of the world found time for outrage, fury and grief over the decision by the Spanish authorities to euthanize the dog Excalibur belonging to the Ebola-infected Spanish nurse Teresa Romero Ramos.
Ramos was infected with the Ebola virus while helping in the treatment of two Ebola-infected Spanish priests flown into Spain from Liberia last month. On Wednesday, after Ramos and her husband, Jaiver Limon Perez, were moved to a quarantine facility, Spanish veterinary health workers dressed in Hazmat suits entered their apartment and put the dog to sleep before disinfecting the house.
The Spanish authorities took the decision to put the dog to sleep over fears that it could transmit the disease to humans. Previous research conducted in Gabon during the 2001-2002 Ebola outbreak has shown that dogs can be infected with the Ebola virus although they remain asymptomatic. While it remains uncertain whether dogs are able to transmit the infection to humans, the evidence that the virus infection originated in wildlife was sufficient grounds for the Spanish authorities to exercise caution in the case of the dog.
The argument that the dog should have been quarantined rather than put to sleep overlooks the fact that dogs are asymptomatic for the infection. It also ignores the fact that in the situation in which the virus infection has no cure it would be unwise to assign human veterinary workers to take care of the dog in quarantine, thus exposing them to the risk of infection.
Despite the obvious need for precaution in the face of a deadly virus and an epidemic raging in West Africa, thousands of animal lovers mounted a vigil outside the apartment of the couple, engaged police in scuffles, cried, fainted, fell to the ground and screamed "murderers" at health officials who came in a white van to put down the dog and disinfect the house.
A massive Twitter campaign was started under #SalvemosAExcalibur, while about 380,000 people signed a petition on to save the dog's life. Meanwhile, thousands of humans dying daily in three West African countries are receiving scant attention. The petition to save Excalibur got nearly 400,000 signatures in a less than 48 hours, while a previous petition to save the life of a young Nigerian nurse who contracted the virus from her patients went largely unnoticed, despite the desperate clamor raised by her supporters.
The overflow of love for Excalibur the dog would have restored my faith in humanity if it had been reflected in a similar overflowing concern for the plight of thousands of Ebola victims in West Africa. As a West African who has closely followed the dominant pattern of racist and xenophobic discussion of the West African Ebola epidemic in comments dumped often anonymously beneath online news articles on the matter, the sudden generous eruption of humane considerations for the life of a mutt came as an incident of culture shock.
How does one assess cultural enlightenment that prioritizes the life of a mutt over whole human communities facing survival threat?
The question has been raised several times and the answer has been delivered with shocking emotional detachment from the suffering of dark-faced humans in strange faraway lands: Why should Westerners care? Blame Africans for their disgusting appetite for bushmeat.
And, yes, why can't Africans emulate the civilized standards of Americans who eat venison instead of bushmeat?
Having seen hundreds of comments posted to online Western news media with frequent suggestions that the civilized world need not worry unduly about those wretched, filthy, diseased Africans who seem made to roll with the hardest punches of tragedy, the massive focus on the life of a dog was shocking even after acknowledging the fact of misanthropy that often masquerades as love for animals in the fringe of the animal rights movement.
If only dog lovers who launched the #SalvemosAExcalibur campaign had reserved a fraction of their commendable love of dogs, cats and chickens for humans and launched a campaign #SalvemosAWestAfrica to push Western governments to step up response to the Ebola epidemic at a stage before the present out-of-control situation, the tragedy of the Spanish nurse and her mutt would likely have been avoided.
The #SalvemosAExcalibur campaign, after the world looked on unconcerned until the human tragedy in West Africa went out of control, is an outstanding example of how we humans sometimes get our priorities flagrantly and scandalously wrong.
After #SalvemosAExcalibur, it is time for the world to show West Africans that they care, at least as much: #SalvemosAWestAFrica; #SalvemosALiberia; #SalvemosAGuinea; #SalvemosASierraLeone.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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