By Miriam Raftery
Photo via Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
A wildlife rescue nonprofit is asking people around the world to cut straps on masks before throwing them away, after rescuing hundreds of animals and birds that became entangled in elastic bands on masks used during the COVID-19 pandemic.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) director Eilsa Allen says, “Birds have died after become entangled in face masks, while dolphins, turtles and other marine animals can easily choke or suffer from fatal bowel obstructions when they mistake PPE [personal protective equipment] for food,” Yahoo News reports.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in Britain says it has seen over 900 cases of wildlife entrapped by the ear straps on masks, a situation that can cause deaths if rescuers don’t find the trapped animals in time.
For example, a seagull found barely able to walk had a mask cutting off circulation in both legs, causing pain and swelling of the leg joints.
Yahoo News reports that Chris Sherwood, the RSPCA’s chief executive, said: “For many years the public have been aware of the message to cut up plastic six-pack rings (on beverage cans) before throwing them away to stop animals getting tangled in them, and now we are keen to get out the message that the same should be done for face masks too - as very sadly, animals are susceptible to getting tangled up in them.”
PETA’s director urges consumers to not only properly discard masks, but also consider reusable, washable cloth masks to cut down on pollution as well as save wildlife. The masks have been found clogging waterways and some degrade into harmful microplastics, according to Greenpeace.