Hong Kong's huge killing of hamsters and small pets has sparked outrage.
Hong Kong (AFP) – The administration of Hong Kong was criticized on Wednesday for culling hundreds of small animals after hamsters in a store tested positive for Covid-19.
Hong Kong, like China, has a stringent "zero-Covid" policy, eradicating even the tiniest evidence of the virus by contact tracing, mass testing, strict quarantines, and long-term social isolation.
Authorities announced on Tuesday that hamsters and other small mammals, including chinchillas, rabbits, and guinea pigs, will be culled as a "precautionary measure."
After hamsters sold at the Little Boss pet shop tested positive for the Delta type, which is now rare in Hong Kong, the dramatic measure was made.
On Tuesday night, officials in full PPE gear dragged red rubbish bags stamped with biohazard warnings out of the shop.
Anyone who bought a hamster after December 22 — just before Christmas — was "highly encouraged" to give it up for culling.
Animal rights activists in Hong Kong were outraged, with a Change.org petition garnering over 23,000 signatures in less than a day and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) condemning the decision.
In a statement provided to AFP on Wednesday, the SPCA expressed shock and alarm over the new announcement about the care of over 2,000 animals. We strongly advise pet owners not to be alarmed or abandon their animals.
More than 20 questions were received by one hamster lover's group questioning whether owners had to give up their fuzzy companions.
The Covid-positive animals were thought to have been brought from the Netherlands, authorities said Tuesday.
Internationally, there is no proof that dogs may transmit the coronavirus to people, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said at a press briefing. "However, we will take cautious precautions against any vector of transmission."
Authorities claimed that about 1,000 animals sold at Little Boss and another 1,000 hamsters sold in dozens of pet stores across Hong Kong will be culled.
Small mammals have also been prohibited from entering the country. No one is allowed to take my hamster. One owner, who purchased her cat on January 1, responded angrily.
She told local news site The Standard on Wednesday that no one can take her hamster away unless they kill her.
She resisted the government's mass cull, citing a recent birthday party attended by officials that resulted in several Covid infections and embarrassed Hong Kong's leadership.
The owner inquired, "Will they also kill all infected Covid-19 patients and their close contacts?
I'll give my hamster to the government if everyone who attended the birthday celebration is culled.
On Hong Kong-centric social media accounts, a gloomy humour settled in, with netizens posting illustrations of hamsters wearing surgical masks or fighting the Grim Reaper.
The city's major opposition party has also weighed in on the debate, claiming that the strategy of "indiscriminate killing" will only lead to "public resentment."
Will cats, dogs, or other animals be targeted for 'humane dispatch' if they become infected in the future? The Democratic Party's animal rights spokesperson, Felix Chow, posted on the group's official Facebook page.
However, other people support the government's choice.
The latest anti-Covid measures in Hong Kong target hamsters and other small mammals, which will be slaughtered as a 'precautionary step,' according to authorities.
Yuen Kwok-yung, a leading microbiologist who also serves as a government advisor, lauded the policy as "decisive" and "prudent."
According to local station RTHK, some people accepted the government's call to hand up their rodents on Wednesday, with one guy stating he agreed with the authorities' argument for restricting the virus' spread.
When asked about the hamster slaughter in Hong Kong, the World Health Organization stated that some animal species can be infected with the coronavirus, and that animals can infect people.
The risk remains modest, but it is something the WHO's Maria Van Kerkhove is continually monitoring.