According to a white paper published by Humane Society International, intensive animal agriculture breeding can lay the grounds for future pandemics similar to COVID-19.
The novel coronavirus pandemic is said to have originated from an animal market in Wuhan, China, where animals are slaughtered and sold. The paper suggests that factory farms are no different from wet animal markets and are home to a “petri dish” of pathogens and can be the home for the next outbreak of the zoonotic disease in the world.
Previously they have sparked diseases such as H1N1 (swine flu) and H5N1 (avian flu); these viruses evolved from pig and chicken factory farms. Genetic analysis shows that the essential components for H1N1 emerged from a virus circulating among the pigs of North America.
It is ubiquitous to find viruses mutating in the chicken factory farms that are only found in animals, but when they get in humans, they harm them because the viruses are unfamiliar to the human immune system and can prove deadly to us.
Julian Janovsky Vice President of HSI, said that “Since the news broke that coronavirus outbreak originated from a live animal market where innocent animals are crowded and kept in stressed and unsanitary conditions where they are slaughtered alive for consumption, we began examining what other human exploitation of animals are capable of creating similar petri dish of disease. It’s crystal clear when we see data that the unprecedented increase and expansion in animal agriculture, especially in factory farms where billions of animals are raised and slaughtered every year, is a clear front runner. The message is clear: if we really want to stop future pandemics, we need to kick the meat habit significantly, and global leaders need to shift the global diet to a plant-based diet.”
HSI’s white paper has put forward five major risk factors that are associated with factory farming:
- Universal live animal trade: massive amounts of live animals are transported to foreign lands for meat and leather, allowing different pathogens to spread even further.
- Farm concentration: where the murky geographic concentration of farms increases almost every day, so does the risk of pathogens spreading.
- Virus spillover: a wild expansion of farms give rise to vast areas where these viruses are being born.
- Viral amplification: Vast number of stressed animals in one place lead to the boarding of novel viruses.
- Live animal auctions and markets: Animals are being brought from different places from different parts of the world and are exposed to the closest proximity from the public, which makes it a “hub” for viruses.
He also added that “If we study previous outbreaks of animals to human diseases, we can clearly see that intensive animal farming is the real culprit. Also, we can make the world less vulnerable to future pandemics.”
HSI Executive Director Claire said, “Consumers, however, have begun the revolution by choosing the plant-based food, so by swapping out dairy milk with plant milk and beef burgers with veg burgers mimic the same taste and texture, it’s imperative to make conscious diet decisions that will result in better outcomes for planet, animals, and humans.”