Factory farming and eating of animals is creating the conditions for diseases to spread from animal to human, as seen in the latest new virus: COVID-19. The pandemic has created an opportunity to tackle this threat and as a consequence also tackle three other emergencies that are threatening the existence of this planet.
Our need for cheaper and greater quantities of meat is driving more intensive and extensive factory farming of animals, and this has resulted in four of the most pressing issues of our time:
a) Increase in zoonotic diseases that spread from animal to human, e.g. SARS, HIV, ebola, Avian Flu, COVID-19
b) Climate change and species extinction caused by emissions, pollution and habitat destruction associated with meat and dairy industries
c) Human health consequences of overconsumption of meat and dairy, which is driving obesity, heart disease and cancer rates to sky-rocket in developed nations where the most meat and dairy is consumed
d) Animal welfare concerns for the billions of animals per year leading miserable lives before being slaughtered for us to eat
Whilst all this was well known prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to culturally turn the other cheek, addicted to cheap meat and dairy produce alongside ultra-processed convenience foods. However, it has now become impossible to ignore as we anticipate the source of the next inevitable deadly virus to strike, as well as trying to improve the health of the general population to reduce our risk of mortality if we do catch COVID-19. We must capitalise on people’s growing awareness of the dangers of factory farming meat and dairy to take immediate action to reduce the meat and dairy that we consume and encourage people to eat produce that is healthier for them, animals and the environment.