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One Health and climate change—we need to get the ethics right

BMJ 2023; 383 doi: (Published 03 October 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;383:p2177

Rapid Response:

Re: One Health and climate change—we need to get the ethics right

Dear Editor,

One Health according to Julian Sheather is all about getting the band back together again - humans, plants, animals, inanimate matter, whatever. He seems to think man has been doing a solo run and leaving the others behind. And of course he is right. We have. So it's time to swing back the pendulum. However let us not over-react and wrench everything from its moorings. Man is a moral being with conscience, free will, and intelligence - no other created substance has these faculties. The following are some world views:

Pantheism is the doctrine that holds that the universe is conceived of as a whole is God and, conversely, that there is no God but the combined substance, forces, and laws that are manifested in the existing universe.

Anthropocentrism is the philosophical viewpoint arguing that human beings are the central or most significant entities in the world. This is a basic belief embedded in many Western religions and philosophies. Reasonably acceptable?

Examples of anthropocentrism can be seen in the willingness of humans to cage and eat animals, the domestication of animals, and the human willingness to cause environmental damage for economic benefit.

Finally since half the world population believe in God, what did God say when he created humans? (Gen. 1 Verses 26 to 31).
"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." Billions of people believe this is the foundation of One Health.

God has the last word and so we should re-group and look after his patch. This theocentric view of One Health should be its blueprint, and the not over-reacting response of giving animals, plants and materials, personhood, morality and ethical reason, qualities they do not and never can have. A theocentric view of One Health puts everything in its proper place. It respects nature and man and forces man to protect the planetary inheritance he has received. To do anything else such as ensoul animals and plants will cause movement towards a Gary Larson view of life?

Competing interests: No competing interests

10 October 2023
Eugene Breen
Psychiatrist, Associate Clinical Professor
Mater Misericordiae University Hospital Dublin, University College Dublin
62/63 Eccles St Dublin 7