It is well documented that the outbreak of COVID-19 came from our treatment of animals.
The disease transferred from animals to humans at a meat market.
Our current worldwide focus is, sensibly, on slowing down the virus’s rapid spread. We would also be wise to lay the groundwork for the return to a healthier world.
I believe it’s vital that we begin by looking at the problem’s roots. We must ask the question: Is a changed relationship to animals critical to worldwide health?
To answer that question, let’s assess the risks caused by our current treatment of animals.
- Do current, mainstream animal agriculture practices pose risks for another disease to emerge?
Yes, according to a book that pulls together well-researched scientific studies. Dr. Michael Greger’s Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching synthesizes numerous studies in an engaging, readable form. In summary, leading public health authorities predict as inevitable a pandemic of influenza, triggered by bird flu and expected to lead to millions of deaths around the globe. This would be a second epidemic, beyond the COVID-19 pandemic we are now experiencing.
- Are current animal agriculture practices in the U.S. safe and sanitary?
No. As one example shows, companies are allowed to sell meat even if it contains salmonella. This report explains how the policy encourages companies to simply sell infected meat, recalling it only after deaths occur. The report also details an alarming 83% rise in the most dangerous meat and poultry related recalls between 2013-2018.
We should consider this information carefully as we think about how to return to a healthier world than the one we now experience.
If a changed relationship with animals is critical for worldwide health, what change would make the most difference?
Of all the ways we relate to animals, animal agriculture is posing the greatest threat to human health, the well-being of animals, and the well-being of our planet.
Ending animal agriculture and moving to plant-based eating would have many benefits:
- Significantly reduce the risk for future epidemics
- Eliminate the misery of the 70 billion land animals raised for food each year
- Slow climate change
- Prevent the destruction of rainforests and critical wild animal habitat
- Release workers from the pain and long-term harm of slaughterhouse labor
- Improve health conditions for people living near confirmed animal feeding operations, who are disproportionately low income and people of color
- Improve worldwide food access as well as provide all nutrients, and potential benefits, for human health
The rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus is terrifying. In addition to taking care of each other, let’s work to build a healthier world by changing our relationship with animals.
Instead of using animals’ bodies, let’s work for their protection. It’s clear that our well-being is intertwined.