Today the United Nations announced the eradication of the contagious viral disease rinderpest today at the 37th Food and Agriculture Organisation conference in Rome.
Whether you know it or not, this is a big deal.
Rinderpest now joins smallpox as the only diseases intentionally put to extinction by humans. Executed, you could say, for crimes against humanity. (Before you start questioning the ethics of intentional extinction, remember viruses aren’t really alive.)
Besides being a major food security and economics issue, (an African outbreak in the 1980s generated 1/2 billion USD in losses), this disease killed millions of cows, buffalo, and split-hoof animals in its 2000+ years’ existence. The case-fatality rate for rinderpest among cattle approached 100%. By comparison, Zaire Ebola virus is only ~90% in humans; smallpox carried an average rate of 30%.
What I really love about these stories is the coming together of humanity for a common goal. Despite all the wars and uprisings, mistrust and animosity, greed and self-interest in the world, we can still manage to unite against an enemy that hurts us all. Plus, it adds a little plausibility to all those fight-off-the-alien-invasion movies.
So are they indebted to us for our generous patronage or is it the least we could do after enslaving their species?