A ProVeg report warns that the use of intensive farming methods, such as factory farming, will be cause for another pandemic.

There is a fundamental and often-overlooked connection between pandemics such as the current COVID-19 crisis and our animal-based food system, says a major new report.

The Food & Pandemics Report, produced by ProVeg International, identifies the eating and farming of animals as the single most risky human behaviour concerning pandemics and calls for urgent changes to the global food system to prevent future outbreaks. The report has drawn support from inside the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

“Over the last few years, we have seen the rapid rise of the plant-based sector for a wide range of reasons – to tackle the climate crisis, protect the environment, human and animal health. And now we have another compelling reason: to prevent the next pandemic,” stresses Jens Tuider, International Director for ProVeg International and lead author of the report.

“The solution also lies with us: it’s on our plates. When more people make this connection, the long-needed transformation of our outdated food system, away from animal agriculture and towards plant-based and cultivated alternatives, will truly gather.”

“The pandemic will have a profound impact on consumer habits,” declares Tuider. “We are already seeing new data showing some of the biggest falls in meat consumption for many years together with accelerated demand for plant-based products. In the US, sales of plant-based meat have grown twice as fast as animal-based meat during the pandemic.”

“The solution also lies with us: it’s on our plates. When more people make this connection, the long-needed transformation of our outdated food system, away from animal agriculture and towards plant-based and cultivated alternatives, will truly gather. Our report sets out in scientific detail how important it is for everyone to make this connection – and then to take action,” he explains.

The ProVeg report demonstrates the connection between industrial animal production and the increased risk of pandemics, adds Dr. Musonda Mumba, Chief of the Terrestrial Ecosystems Unit of the UNEP. “Never before have so many opportunities existed for pathogens to jump from wild and domestic animals to people.”

“Most people would not have been aware just how much of a risk the consumption of animals truly is, and how easily viruses can jump the species barrier from animals – including those we eat – to humans.”

The Food & Pandemics Report, produced by ProVeg International, identifies the eating and farming of animals as the single most risky human behaviour concerning pandemics and calls for urgent changes to the global food system to prevent future outbreaks. Most people would not have been aware just how much of a risk the consumption of animals truly is, and how easily viruses can jump the species barrier from animals – including those we eat – to humans, explains Tuider.

“Most people would not have known that all it takes to bring the world to a standstill is one mutation in one animal and just one point of contact between an animal destined for food and a human, and how fast it can spread around the planet in a globalised world.”

Beware of zoonotic diseases

About 75 percent of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic. Zoonotic diseases, including SARS, MERS, Ebola, rabies, and certain forms of influenza, are responsible for an estimated 2.5 billion cases of illness and 2.7 million deaths worldwide, every year, says ProVeg.

The report finds that dietary choices and the global food system are the key drivers of zoonotic diseases in three clear and mutually reinforcing ways:

  • Through the destruction of animals’ natural habitats and loss of biodiversity, mainly driven by animal agriculture.
  • Through the use of wild animals as food.
  • Through the use of farmed animals as food in intensified animal agriculture.

The report also shines a light on climate change, which increases the risk of future pandemics and antimicrobial resistance, which exacerbates their impact. Both are partly driven by our animal-based food system, the demand for which continues to grow rapidly. The report also touches on COVID-19’s implications for slaughterhouse workers.

“We don’t yet know the full story about the emergence of COVID-19, but there is no uncertainty regarding swine flu and avian flu: those viruses evolved on factory farms, where conditions are perfect for the evolution and transmission of viruses, as well as for the development of antimicrobial resistance.”

In response to the recent COVID-19 outbreaks, there have been several meat-processing plant closures including in the UK, the US and Germany. Dr Mumba adds: “We have also seen in the last few months how industrial animal-production spaces have been spaces for the spread of COVID-19. This provides another opportunity for a rethink of our food systems as they relate to pandemics.”

“We don’t yet know the full story about the emergence of COVID-19, but there is no uncertainty regarding swine flu and avian flu: those viruses evolved on factory farms, where conditions are perfect for the evolution and transmission of viruses, as well as for the development of antimicrobial resistance.

Factory farms are perfect breeding grounds for future pandemics,” Tuider further elaborates. “Mitigating the risk of the next pandemic, which could have an even more devastating impact than COVID-19, is perhaps the most persuasive reason. Science supports this, but is there enough political will?” he questions.

The Food & Pandemics Report follows several reports with similar findings published in recent weeks by WWF, the University of Cambridge, and the UN Environment Programme. There is a growing consensus among NGOs, academic institutions, and the scientific community that the global food system needs to change if we are to prevent future pandemics as well as mitigate the impacts of climate change and protect the environment.

According to Tuider, all sections of society can make positive contributions. Food companies, start-ups, retailers, and investors can take the opportunity presented by COVID-19 to develop, launch or invest in alternative protein portfolios to future-proof their business.

“There is much work to be done to encourage the production and consumption of alternative proteins. And we can all make our contributions, starting with the food on our plates,” he concludes.

Original source: https://www.foodingredientsfirst.com

 

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