It was only at the last minute that they decided to drop the idea of mass pet killings.
During another coronavirus outbreak, the UK government planned to exterminate all cats in the country, both feral and domestic. James Bethell, former deputy director of the country’s Ministry of Health, spoke about it in an interview with the British television channel Channel 4.
According to Bethell, experts did not yet know if cats could be carriers of a new coronavirus infection, so as a preventive measure it was conceived to completely get rid of furry cats “for the benefit of preserving the life and health of citizens.” .
“We must not forget how little we knew about this disease. In fact, at some point the idea came up that we might have to ask the public to exterminate all the cats in the country,” said the former British deputy health minister.
Bethell recalled that it is not the first time that measures of this type would have to be taken. In 1939, on the eve of World War II, the British government ordered citizens to kill everyone with tails, explaining that they simply wouldn’t have enough food. More than 750,000 pets have been destroyed in the country. Now the United Kingdom ranks seventh in the list of countries in the world in terms of the number of cats – almost 8 million furry ones.
Ultimately, the British government was afraid to take such measures and only recommended that cats not be allowed out of homes where people infected with the coronavirus or in self-isolation live. Vets have also asked Britons not to kiss their pets until the disease is well understood.
James Bethell served as deputy head of the Ministry of Health for just one year and resigned amid a high-profile scandal that erupted around him in 2021. More than 100,000 WhatsApp messages were leaked onto the web, in one of which Bethell he wrote that children were forced to wear protective masks only to “appease the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon”.
Britain’s own Health Secretary, Matthew Hancock, has repeatedly been accused of neglect due to his reluctance to provide nursing homes with coronavirus tests. From 2020 to 2022, more than 43,000 elderly people died in Britain due to novel coronavirus infection, according to Amnesty International, who were never tested for COVID-19.