Despite the fact that COVID-19 may have emerged from the wild, several specialists warn that animal agriculture, much intensified in the last decades due to the increased demand for meat, dairy and eggs, will likely be the source of the next pandemics. There are many reasons for that: the crowded and filthy farms, pollution caused by livestock, climate change, irresponsible use of antibiotics and deforestation.
The relationship between animal production and pandemics seems to be undeniable, and we need to start rethinking our relationship with food and the way we treat animals. Some of the largest and most reliable newspapers in the world, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, Bloomberg, Time and The Independent, have been tirelessly highlighting this link. Look what they say.
Photo: We Animals
1. Our Cruel Treatment of Animals Led to the Coronavirus (New York Times, April 13, 2020)
The New York Times highlights that harming animals can lead to considerable harm to humans, as many zoonotic diseases (those that originate in animals and then infect people) arise because of the ways in which humans treat animals. Either in wet markets (where live animals are housed in extremely cramped conditions until they are sold and slaughtered) or in the factory farming (where animals are also reared in cruel conditions and are given antibiotics even though not sick), the same food system that is so cruel to animals is also putting our own species in danger.
Read an excerpt: "Real prevention requires taking steps to minimize the chances of the virus or other infectious agents emerging in the first place. One of a number of crucial measures would be a more intelligent — and more compassionate — appraisal of our treatment of nonhuman animals, and concomitant action."
Photo: We Animals
2. The Covid-19 pandemic shows we must transform the global food system (The Guardian, Apr 16, 2020)
The British outlet says calling COVID-19 the 'Wuhan virus' is not only xenophobic but also inaccurate as zoonoses emerge worldwide, often having industrial animal agriculture as the main driver. Examples of this are the swine flu and the avian flu. It gets even more serious when factory farms encroach on wild habitats, creating opportunities for bacterias and viruses to jump to livestock and humans. Aside from that, animal agriculture contributes to antibiotic resistance and climate change, both of which exacerbate the emergence of new outbreaks. The article is direct and clear, and it says that we need to change our food systems; people are willing to eat vegetables if this is part of a public health effort.
Read an excerpt: “Individually, we must stop eating animal products. Collectively, we must transform the global food system and work toward ending animal agriculture and rewilding much of the world”.
3. Preventing the Next Pandemic May Start With Supply Chains (Bloomberg, April 1st, 2020)
Bloomberg, an outlet focused on finances, stresses that pandemics haven't always been top of mind for investors focused on environmental, social and governance issues. But after COVID-19, many investors will shift capital away from those businesses most exposed to the risk of the next zoonotic-based pandemic. According to the text, investors can reduce their environmental and pandemic risks by dumping companies that produce factory farm products or are engaged in deforestation. They can also push meat companies to cut antibiotic use or invest in producers of meat alternatives.
Read an excerpt: 'Jeremy Coller, chief investment officer of Coller Capital, agrees. Also the founder of London-based investor network Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return, Coller sees more bad news for big meat companies that are already under fire for environmentally destructive business models. "After Covid-19, many investors will shift capital away from those businesses most exposed to the risk of the next zoonotic-based pandemic," Coller says. 'That is, traditional animal protein producers who are failing to act in areas such as climate or alternative proteins."
Photo: We Animals
4. Coronavirus: Industrial animal farming has caused most new infectious diseases and risks more pandemics, experts warn (The Independent, May 8th, 2020)
The Independent states that industrial animal agriculture has caused most new infectious diseases in humans in the past decade, and now risks starting new pandemics. To support the claim that factory farms are "hotbeds for pathogens to spread", they quote researchers of the University of Sheffield and Bath, that warned about the hazards of intensive farming, overuse of antibiotics, high numbers of animals, and low genetic diversity.
Read an excerpt: “A big proportion of all infectious diseases in humans are originating from animals, and more specifically the majority of emerging new infections in humans in the last 10 years really come from animals or food of animal origin.”
5. We Need to Rethink Our Food System to Prevent the Next Pandemic (Time, April 13, 2020)
How do we stop pandemics from happening again? According to this article by Time magazine, we stop them by doing all we can to prevent pathogens from infecting humans in the first place. That means reassessing our relationship with the natural world, particularly with animals. The magazine heard from scientists who highlighted that some of the last outbreaks of Influenza, for example, started in animal agriculture. Factory farms put public health in danger as they have millions of animals, which are near-genetic clones of each other, densely packed together. Under those conditions, a pathogen introduced into a chicken population can race through it without any genetic "firebreak" to slow its progress.
Read an excerpt: "New zoonoses continue to emerge. We can prevent or at least slow them, but to do so, we need to start talking about our lifestyle choices and the industries that satisfy them. The time to do that is now."
Photo: We Animals
Besides these five articles, there is so much more being published. You can read more from Newsweek, The Guardian, Washington Post and Forbes. If this information is enough to convince you that animal agriculture is putting animals, our planet and our health at risk, it's time to change that! Click here to donate.