VEGAN HEALTH BENEFITS – OLDER ARTICLES
There are many benefits becoming a vegan, but don’t just believe us – read what the experts are saying below. If you aren’t vegan already, you will be after reading these articles!
It was bats. Or pangolins. To hear common narratives about the origins of Covid-19, there is a simple causal relationship between China’s consumption of wild animals and the coronavirus ravaging the globe.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top epidemiologist, told Fox: “It boggles my mind how when we have so many diseases that emanate out of that unusual human-animal interface, that we don’t just shut it down.” His opinion echoes a growing chorus across the political spectrum that singles out China’s so-called “wet markets” as the culprit for the pandemic. The Republican senator Lindsey Graham has called the Chinese exotic animal trade “disgusting” and conservationist Jane Goodall has called for “a global ban”.
Science and political economy, however, tell a more complex story. The principal driver of zoonotic diseases (such as the virus Sars-Cov-2, which spread from animals to humans) is industrial animal agriculture.
When food production encroaches on wild habitats, it creates opportunities for pathogens to jump to livestock and humans. Industrial agriculture also breeds its own diseases, like swine flu and avian flu, on hellish factory farms. And it contributes to antibiotic resistance and climate change, both of which exacerbate the problem.
We need to have an honest public discussion on how to produce our food. 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. Oddly, many people who would never challenge the reality of climate change refuse to acknowledge the role meat-eating plays in endangering public health. Eating meat, it seems, is a socially acceptable form of science denial.
Researchers have long issued warnings about the consequences of our livestock-dominated food system. After the Sars outbreak in 2003, an essay in the American Journal of Public Health lamented that “changing the way humans treat animals – most basically, ceasing to eat them or, at the very least, radically limiting the quantity of them that are eaten – is largely off the radar as a significant preventive measure.” In 2016, the UN Environment Program warned that the “livestock revolution” was a zoonotic disaster waiting to happen.
Yet meat consumption continues to rise. Now, just as experts predicted, eating animals is coming back to bite us.
Xenophobes call Covid-19 the “Wuhan virus”, but in reality zoonoses emerge worldwide, and do so with increasing regularity. The 1918 “Spanish flu” probably came from a midwestern pig farm. In the 1990s, ecological destabilization in the US south-west led to the Four Corners hantavirus outbreak. The Hendra and Menangle viruses are named after Australian towns. The Reston virus is an Ebola strain named after a DC suburb. Marburg virus emerged in Germany. These last two diseases sprang from monkeys imported for laboratory use – the Chinese are not the only ones with a large and dangerous wildlife trade. Sars, Mers and Zika are only three of many novel zoonoses to strike in the new millennium.
Fauci, Graham and Goodall’s call for a clampdown on the “exotic” animal trade is a valid demand, but ignores how that industry is inextricably intertwined with “conventional” food production. The Chinese government has encouraged smallholders to breed and procure wild game to compensate for losing market-share to large livestock firms. Similarly, reliance on “bush meat” in west Africa increased after local fishers were pushed out of coastal waters by foreign trawlers in the 1970s, leading to the outbreaks of HIV and Ebola. The problem isn’t some people’s taste for seemingly strange delicacies, but rather our global, profit-driven, meat-centered food system.
Just as zoonotic threats are multiplying, combating them is becoming harder. Antibiotics are increasingly ineffective in part because commercial livestock farmers abuse them, hoping to speed up growth rates or as a prophylactic measure against the spread of disease on overcrowded factory farms. Overuse of antibiotics spurs the evolution of “super-bugs” like MRSA, a flesh-eating bacterium now found at hospitals worldwide. Modern solutions, like viral cures and vaccines, are elusive. The World Health Organization reported that the most important techniques for controlling the 2003 Sars outbreak were not cutting-edge medicines so much as “19th-century public health strategies of contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation”. This has also been the case with Covid-19.
Our short-term priority is the development of a vaccine for Covid-19. But we must also start thinking about more radical measures to address the roots of this crisis. We need a more resilient food system that puts less stress on the planet and on public health.
This requires three interventions. The first is ending subsidies to industrial animal agriculture and taxing animal products to incorporate the cost of environmental and public health externalities, with the aim of the industry’s eventual abolition.
The second is support for local, sustainable plant farming to replace the monocrop-focused status quo. We must relieve pressure on soil and wildlife while creating better, safer agricultural jobs. (We should also remember that meatpacking workers, like their peers in wet markets, tend to be the first exposed to new pathogens.)
The third is large-scale, public-directed investment in both plant-based meat alternatives and cellular agriculture (ie, growing animal tissue from stem cells), which would expand scientific research and employment while spurring a transition to animal-free protein.
The post-meat age will be a healthier one. Between farming, ranching and feed crops, the livestock industry gobbles up 40% of the world’s habitable surface. A vegan food system would require a tenth as much land. Restoring the natural environment could also create jobs through a public works program akin to the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps. And it would reduce the outbreak of new epidemics by reducing contact between humans and wild animals and by restoring biodiversity.
Old habits can change. In the last few weeks, as the coronavirus has spread and millions shelter in place, bean sales have surged. People, it seems, are willing to eat legumes if it’s part of a public health effort. When this pandemic ends they’ll need to keep doing just that, lest a more lethal disaster comes to pass.
- Jan Dutkiewicz is the Connie Caplan postdoctoral fellow in the department of political science at Johns Hopkins University
- Astra Taylor is the author, most recently, of Democracy May Not Exist, but We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone
- Troy Vettese is an environmental historian and a William Lyon Mackenzie King research fellow at Harvard University
- Original Source: https://www.theguardian.com/
The source of the dead COVID-19 virus might be a politically hot and controversial topic, but one thing is for sure; it is the result of animal suffering.
Where did the virus causing the current pandemic come from? How did it get to a food market in Wuhan, China, from where it is thought to have spilled over into humans? The answers to these questions are gradually being pieced together, and the story they tell makes for uncomfortable reading.
Let’s start at the beginning. As of 17 March, we know that the Sars-CoV-2 virus (a member of the coronavirus family that causes the respiratory illness Covid-19) is the product of natural evolution. A study of its genetic sequence, conducted by infectious disease expert Kristian G Andersen of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, and colleagues, rules out the possibility that it could have been manufactured in a lab or otherwise engineered. Puff go the conspiracy theories.
The next step is a little less certain, but it seems likely that the original animal reservoir for the virus was bats. Andersen’s team showed – like the Chinese before them –that the sequence of Sars-CoV-2 is similar to other coronaviruses that infect bats.
Since other bat coronaviruses have transited to humans via an intermediate animal host, it seems likely that this one did too. That animal was probably one that some Chinese people like to eat, and that is therefore sold in “wet” markets (those that sell fresh meat, fish, seafood and other produce). This animal may have been the scaly mammal called a pangolin. That can’t be conclusively proved, but several groups have found sequence similarities between Sars-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses that infect pangolins.
If this is indeed the route the virus took to humans, it has two critical interfaces: one between us and the intermediate host, possibly a pangolin, and one between that host and bats. Most of the attention so far has been focused on the interface between humans and the intermediate host, with fingers of blame being pointed at Chinese wet markets and eating habits, but both interfaces were required for the pandemic to ignite. So where and how did the spillover from the bat to the pangolin – or other wild or semi-wild intermediate host – occur?
“Our study does not directly shed light on the geographical origin of the virus,” says Andersen. “However, all the available evidence shows that it was inside China.”
Case closed then, and President Trump is right to call Sars-CoV-2 the “Chinese virus”. Well, no, because if you want to understand why this pandemic happened now and not, say, 20 years ago – since Chinese people’s taste for what we in the west consider exotic fare is not new – you have to include a number of other factors. “We can blame the object – the virus, the cultural practice – but causality extends out into the relationships between people and ecology,” says evolutionary biologist Rob Wallace of the Agroecology and Rural Economics Research Corps in St Paul, Minnesota.
Starting in the 1990s, as part of its economic transformation, China ramped up its food production systems to industrial scale. One side effect of this, as anthropologists Lyle Fearnley and Christos Lynteris have documented, was that smallholding farmers were undercut and pushed out of the livestock industry. Searching for a new way to earn a living, some of them turned to farming “wild” species that had previously been eaten for subsistence only.
Wild food was formalised as a sector, and was increasingly branded as a luxury product. But the smallholders weren’t only pushed out economically. As industrial farming concerns took up more and more land, these small-scale farmers were pushed out geographically too – closer to uncultivable zones. Closer to the edge of the forest, that is, where bats and the viruses that infect them lurk. The density and frequency of contacts at that first interface increased, and hence, so did the risk of a spillover.
It’s true, in other words, that an expanding human population pushing into previously undisturbed ecosystems has contributed to the increasing number of zoonoses – human infections of animal origin – in recent decades. That has been documented for Ebola and HIV, for example. But behind that shift has been another, in the way food is produced. Modern models of agribusiness are contributing to the emergence of zoonoses.
Take flu, a disease that is considered to have high pandemic potential, having caused an estimated 15 pandemics in the past 500 years. “There is clearly a link between the emergence of highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses and intensified poultry production systems,” says spatial epidemiologist Marius Gilbert of the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium.
The reasons, many of which were documented in Wallace’s 2016 book Big Farms Make Big Flu, include the density with which chickens, turkeys or other poultry are packed into factory farms, and the fact that the birds in a given farm tend to be near genetic clones of one another – having been selected over decades for desirable traits such as lean meat. If a virus gets introduced into such a flock, it can race through it without meeting any resistance in the form of genetic variants that prevent its spread. Both experimental manipulations and observations in the real world have demonstrated that this process can result in a ratcheting up of the virus’s virulence. If it then spills over into humans, we are potentially in trouble.
In a paper published in 2018, Gilbert’s group reviewed historical “conversion events”, as they call them – when a not-very-pathogenic avian flu strain became much more dangerous, and found that most of them had occurred in commercial poultry systems, and more frequently in wealthy countries. Europe, Australia and the US had generated more of them than China.
That doesn’t let China off the hook. Two highly pathogenic forms of avian flu – H5N1 and H7N9 – have emerged in that country in recent decades. Both infect humans, though not easily (yet). The first human cases of H7N9 were reported in 2013, and there were small annual outbreaks thereafter. But, says Gilbert, “nothing was done until the virus turned out to be pathogenic for chickens as well. Then it became an important economic issue and China started to mass-vaccinate its poultry against H7N9, and that ended the transmission to humans.”
China is one of the world’s major exporters of poultry, but its poultry industry is not wholly Chinese-owned. After the recession of 2008, for example, New York-based investment bank Goldman Sachs diversified its holdings and moved into Chinese poultry farms. So if China has its share of responsibility for spillover events, it isn’t alone. That is why Wallace insists on talking about relational geographies rather than absolute geographies, when it comes to identifying the causes of disease. Or as he puts it: “Follow the money.”
Not everybody sees a straightforward link between factory farming and new and dangerous forms of flu. Michael Worobey, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona, points out that before they were brought into factory farms, poultry were kept outside. The factory model may ramp up virulence, he says, but it probably protects a flock from being infected by a virus in the first place.
Still, Worobey doesn’t doubt that farming and other human-animal interactions have shaped our disease ecology. His group collects the sequences of flu viruses from a range of animal hosts, including humans, and plots them on a family tree to try to understand how flu has evolved over time. Flu is constantly mutating – that’s the reason the seasonal flu vaccine has to be updated each year – but it mutates at different rates in different hosts, which means that his flu family tree is informative both about the parentage and intermediate host of each strain and about the approximate timing of past spillover events.
It’s possible – though by no means certain – that flu first became a disease of humans after the Chinese domesticated ducks about 4,000 years ago – drawing that animal reservoir into human communities for the first time. But humans can also catch flu from, and give flu to, pigs – another animal we have lived alongside for millennia. A few years ago, Worobey suggested – controversially – that birds might not always have been the main intermediate host for human flu viruses. Until about a century ago, he reported, people may have caught flu from horses. Around the time that motor vehicles supplanted horses as transport, poultry farming was expanding in the western hemisphere, and it’s possible, Worobey argued, that birds then took over as the main intermediate host of flu for humans.
Not everyone buys that scenario. Wendy Barclay, a virologist at Imperial College London, says that if horses were once the main intermediate host for flu, “most avian viruses would contain the mammalian adaptation”, and they don’t. David Morens of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, thinks that it is more likely that the horse was a temporary detour, and that the main intermediate host of flu for humans has always been birds – especially wild ones. But all agree that humans have shaped these host-pathogen relationships, through our use of land and other animal species. And as Worobey points out, the sheer size of the human population today means that in the 21st century, we are doing so on an unprecedented scale. He estimates, for example, that domesticated ducks probably outnumber wild ones by now.
And we’re not just talking about birds. Gilbert believes a ratcheting up of viral virulence is happening in pig herds, too. Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), a disease of pigs that was first described in the US in the late 1980s, has since spread to herds across the world and strains detected recently in China are more virulent than the early American ones. A 2015 study carried out by Martha Nelson of the US National Institutes of Health and colleagues mapped the genetic sequences of swine flu viruses and found that Europe and the US – the largest global exporters of pigs – are also the largest exporters of swine flu.
There have been claims on social media, sometimes posted by vegans, that if we ate less meat there would have been no Covid-19. Interestingly, some of these have been blocked by mainstream news organisations as “partly false”. But the claims are also partly true. Though the links they draw are too simplistic, the evidence is now strong that the way meat is produced – and not just in China – contributed to Covid-19.
It is clear that to prevent or at least slow the emergence of new zoonoses, as Fearnley and Lynteris have argued, China’s wet markets will need to be better regulated. But we also need to look behind those markets, at how our food is produced globally.
Though it may not feel like it now, Wallace says, we have been lucky with Sars-CoV-2. It appears to be far less lethal that either H7N9 – which kills around a third of those it infects – or H5N1, which kills even more. This gives us an opportunity, he says, to question our lifestyle choices – because chicken isn’t cheap if it costs a million lives – and vote for politicians who hold agribusiness to higher standards of ecological, social and epidemiological sustainability. “Hopefully,” he says, “this will change our notions about agricultural production, land use and conservation.”
Original source: https://www.theguardian.com/
From Prevention to Cure: A closer look at the Coronavirus, vaccines and the impact of animal exploitation on public health.
As scientists race to develop a vaccine to help curb the coronavirus in future, others are looking back at how it began, with a view to preventing future outbreaks.
Experts agree that the virus, which has officially led to more than 7,000 deaths worldwide, originated in a market in Wuhan, China, that had kept vast numbers of species crammed together, in busy passageways that often flowed with the blood of animals killed on demand for customers.
No animal smaller than a human was off-limits, apparently. Pangolins, wolf pups, hares, snakes, raccoon dogs, porcupines, badgers, pigs, chickens, fish and peacocks were sold for consumption and the “traditional medicine” trade.
Similar “wet” markets – so called because of the slaughter on site – thrived around China, and certain other regions including Indonesia and Thailand.
These markets put side by side species that would never normally mix in the wild, according to Steve Blake, of the US-based WildAid organisation.
With people being in such close contact as well, such places, where body parts and blood are out in the open, have been described as a perfect breeding ground for the emergence of “zoonotic” diseases – those that jump from animals to humans.
Last month, scientists at South China Agricultural University identified pangolins as a possible coronavirus host. It was suspected the pathogen may have come from bats, which are considered a delicacy, and then been spread to people by the endangered scaly ant-eater.
Hong Kong University virologist professor Leo Poon told CNN: “These viruses can jump from one species to another species, then that species may become an amplifier, which increases the amount of virus in the wet market substantially.”
World Animal Protection says: “Wildlife markets crowded with people and wildlife are a ticking time bomb for deadly epidemics. The animals are poached from the wild or intensively farmed, often placed in squalid, cramped cages, creating a lethal hotbed of disease, as well as causing enormous suffering and cruelty.”
But it doesn’t have to be this way, the organisation says, if a temporary wildlife trade ban introduced by Chinese government last month was made permanent, enshrined in law and rigorously enforced.
From rabies to the zika virus, and from bird flu (H5N1) to Sars – also a coronavirus thought to have originated in started in wet markets – most dangerous diseases have been traced back to animals taken from the wild.
The US-based Wildlife Conservation Society says handling or coming into close contact with wildlife, their body parts, and excreta poses the risk of spillover of the pathogens that animals naturally host.
The group says a billion cases of human illness and millions of deaths occur every year from zoonoses. “Some 60 per cent of emerging infectious diseases that are reported globally are zoonoses, and of the more than 30 new human pathogens detected in the past three decades, 75 per cent have originated in animals,” WCS claims.
Aysha Akhtar, a neurologist and public health specialist at the US Food and Drug Administration, says the production of animals for food – as well as the global trade in wildlife – fuels the rise of new infectious diseases.
“As our demand for animals for food, skins, and entertainment increases, so do our risks of infectious diseases,” she wrote in HuffPost.
“We likely got HIV and Ebola through the bushmeat trade. And though we do not know exactly how humans first contracted Zika, we do know that Zika was first discovered in a rhesus monkey.”
She adds: “For every human on this planet, there are about 10 land animals raised and killed for food at any one time … the intensive confinement of animals for food is directly responsible for the explosion of deadly new strains of bird and swine flus.”
Animal agriculture is a major driver of deforestation and climate change, which exacerbate human overpopulation, more urbanisation, international travel and habitat loss, all of which increase disease, she argues.
Meanwhile, experts agree that closing down the wildlife trade across China, Asia and other parts of the world, would reduce risks significantly.
Professor Andrew Cunningham, of the Zoological Society of London, said: “The highest priority for the protection of human health is to ban “wet” markets and to carefully regulate any future legal wildlife trade.”
And he warned against a cull of bats, adding: “It is imperative that these species are not culled through misguided ‘disease control’ measures.”
According to World Animal Protection: “Wild animals belong in the wild. A permanent ban on wildlife trade by China, and the rest of the world, is the only solution – keeping wild animals wild.”
But there are fears that the next ticking timebomb could be antibiotic resistance.
Many farmers routinely use antibiotics on their farm animals to prevent disease, rather than treat it.
The World Health Organization says the high volume of antibiotics in food-producing animals contributes to the development of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria, which can be transmitted from animals to humans.
Back in 2017, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organisation, warned. “A lack of effective antibiotics is as serious a security threat as a sudden and deadly disease outbreak.”
Original source: https://www.independent.co.uk/
The USDA is set to keep slaughterhouses open and functional despite deadly coronavirus outbreak that has send many into self-isolation. Add to that that the hog virus Hog futures were sharply lower, sinking to their lowest since October 2018 on concerns about the virus shutting slaughterhouses and causing an economic slowdown that could reduce pork demand.
Livestock markets have been hit hard as the spread of the virus threatens workers that companies rely on to process and inspect meat.
Prices for cattle and hogs could fall further if coronavirus cases force companies like Tyson Foods Inc or WH Group’s Smithfield Foods to close slaughterhouses. Shutdowns would remove markets for farmers to sell their animals and could temporarily tighten meat supplies.
The USDA said it would use its authority and “all administrative means and flexibilities to address staffing considerations” during the outbreak.
Agency officials told the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association that the USDA will ensure it has replacement inspectors ready to staff slaughterhouses if necessary, said Colin Woodall, chief executive of the trade group. Farmers and industry groups said there were no confirmed shutdowns.
“We need to make sure that we’re keeping the beef flowing,” Woodall said.
American shoppers have picked grocery store shelves clean on products ranging from beef and chicken to disinfectants due to the outbreak.
Poultry producer Sanderson Farms said it can process more chickens for retail customers if needed and that none of its employees or farmers have reported cases of the virus. The USDA said an agency employee tested positive.
The United States Cattlemen’s Association has asked whether the agency could ease staffing requirements for meat inspectors to avoid supply disruptions if coronavirus threatens operations, said Jess Peterson, senior policy adviser for the trade group. The association wants meat to be produced safely, he said.
“We’re just looking for flexibility so that nothing gets shut down,” Peterson said.
Hog futures were sharply lower, sinking to their lowest since October 2018 on concerns about the virus shutting slaughterhouses and causing an economic slowdown that could reduce pork demand.
The USDA is examining the markets for possible anti-competitive behaviour, said Peterson, who said he spoke with USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach.
Farmers said coronavirus has the potential to wreak even more havoc if it shuts multiple slaughterhouses.
“That’s my worst nightmare,” said Peterson.
Original source: https://thepigsite.com/
Bird flu and Swine flu preceded Coronavirus. A testimony that our treatment of animals will determine the health of our society.
Our civilization is on a precipice and we have only ourselves to blame. As the coronavirus sweeps the globe, closes our borders, destroys our economies and livelihoods, and kills our most vulnerable, we need to come to terms with our reality: zoonotic diseases are borne of and exacerbated by the consequences of our dominant attitudes and interactions with animals. We’ve experienced this before with SARS, MERS, Swine Flu, Avian Flu, and on, but our present-day global death knell of COVID-19 is the wake-up call for a civilization that has gone completely astray.
From Hubei’s wet markets to America’s factory farms, the global nightmare of animal agriculture is destroying our planet, threatening our own health, and causing untold suffering to billions of animals living in extreme confinement in disease-ridden conditions. From the feces-covered processing lines of slaughterhouses, the suffocating chambers of ammonia-ridden farms, to the parasitic cesspools of fish cages – the entire animal agriculture system is one of the greatest existential threats to our own species’ survival. Today it’s Wuhan, tomorrow’s patient zero will be anywhere.
The exploitation of animals has brought us to our present-day pandemic, while the global blight of industrial animal agriculture has hastened the effects of climate change and is pushing our planet to the brink of environmental collapse. We have not heeded the repetitive warnings of experts and ethicists who advise us that what we are doing is dangerous, that what we are doing is wrong. The coronavirus is our final warning. We must act decisively to change how we view and treat animals, or we face our own peril.
From the Eastern precept of Ahimsa to Bentham’s questioning of reason as grounds for moral consideration, the great progress in ethical thought regarding the treatment of animals has been entirely eviscerated by the systematic exploitation of sentient beings in our agricultural system. We have created horrific dystopian institutions, the terrors of which only the most unfortunate of humans can relate – those who have experienced torture, neglect, and enslavement at the hands of a callous oppressor. Animals live their entire lives in pain and fear – from their ill-fated births into factory farms, to their final moments of violence in slaughterhouses: suffocating in gas chambers, burning to death in scalding pools, and bleeding out while still conscious. The outbreak of African Swine Fever in 2019 has resulted in the cull of a quarter of the world’s population of pigs, where rivers of blood and mass graves for animals buried alive by the thousands are chilling examples that show how far we have strayed from our core humanity. This highly contagious disease will inevitably spread across the world and result in the horrific culling of innumerable more diseased animals. And all for what? Taste? Pleasure?
We are at a point in our history where eating meat and animal-derived products is not necessary for the health of individuals, in fact it is the opposite. Continuing on the path we are on will bring us ruin. The most effective action we can take as individuals, as communities and nations, and as a species is to reject this mode of agricultural production in its entirety.
Antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest threats to global human health – this is being accelerated due to the extraordinary volume of antibiotics that are given to animals in the food system and ultimately make their way into our own bodies. We know that consumption of animal products leads to numerous preventable human diseases and cancers, yet we continue to harm ourselves every time we sit down to eat.
Our food agencies regularly warn of foodborne outbreaks stemming from animals that were raised, slaughtered, and processed in unsanitary conditions – where diseased and feces-contaminated carcasses wind up on grocery store shelves. We have an overwhelming body of evidence that urges us to abandon this food system for the sake of our health, the health of our global community, and for the survival of our own species on this fragile planet. Yet all anthropocentric concerns aside, morality and justice demand an end to this cruel agricultural system that animals are forced into.
We are a species at risk. COVID-19 is a terrifying reminder of how humanity has failed animals and the consequences that that has for our own species. Zoonotic diseases are preventable – at their core is the attitudes that humans have towards animals and how we feel entitled to use them as means to our own ends. We need to treat animals with dignity – for their sake, and for our own. This begins with not eating them, and ends with the abolition of animal agriculture.
Original source: https://factoryfarmcollective.ca/
As well as being brutal and horrific towards animals, industrial farming is bad for our health, causes dead zones in the oceans, pollutes waterways and has the potential to spread dangerous diseases.
In 1865, German chancellor Otto von Bismarck challenged one of his critics to a duel. It was left to the critic, a pathologist with an understanding of the disease links between humans and farmed animals, to select the arms. His weapon of choice? Meat—two pork sausages, identical except that one was infested with the potentially lethal parasite Trichinella. Bismarck could choose which sausage to eat, and his opponent would eat the other. The pathologist won by default. Bismarck recognized the power of the weapon wielded against him, and declined the contest.
Bismarck is not the only one to have been defeated by meat. Last month the Chinese government, finally aware that the wildlife trade’s exorbitant costs have far exceeded its profits, has likewise opted to back away from potentially lethal meat by issuing a permanent ban on the consumption and trade of wild animals. Unfortunately, the ban has come too late. The novel coronavirus, with its suspected source in bats, via pangolins, is believed to have emerged at one of China’s wild animal markets. COVID-19, the acute respiratory disease caused by the virus, has spread around the globe, killing thousands, infecting hundreds of thousands, and costing the global economy trillions.
China’s wild animal markets have long been identified as optimal sites for the emergence of zoonotic viruses with pandemic potential. Stressed animals, immunologically compromised and crowded together in unhygienic conditions, create ideal conditions for the propagation of disease. Activities related to the captivity, handling, transport, slaughter, and consumption of those animals enable diseases to jump to humans. That is precisely what transpired with the 2003 SARS epidemic that infected over 8,000 people, killed 774, and cost the global economy an estimated $40 billion. Civet cats at a wildlife market in Guangdong were identified as the likely vector for transmission of the SARS virus to humans. COVID-19 has already far exceeded the toll of the 2003 SARS outbreak, in both lives and dollars.
SARS and COVID-19 are but two of a series of infectious diseases that have emerged in the human pursuit of meat. Ebola, which has claimed over 13,000 human lives since 2014, has been traced to fruit bats and primates butchered for food. In 1998, the Nipah virus jumped to humans from fruit bats via intensively farmed pigs in Malaysia and killed over half of the humans infected. Measles, responsible for the deaths of millions since its emergence in antiquity, is believed to have originated from a virus in sheep and goats that spilled over to the human population through the process of domestication. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was first identified in chimpanzees in West Africa in 1989, and jumped to humans likely through the hunting, butchering, and/or consumption of HIV-infected primates. AIDS, to date, has killed over 32 million people.
The pattern is sobering: the human quest for meat functions as a key driver of the emergence of deadly infectious diseases that kill countless human and nonhuman animals.
Considering the toll, and the ongoing threat to lives and livelihoods posed by COVID-19, it’s worth asking whether the conditions that led to its emergence exist elsewhere. The answer is a resounding yes: conditions conducive to the emergence and spread of virulent pathogens exist in industrialized animal farming operations. Ninety-nine percent of farmed animals in the U.S. come from factory farms. Globally, the figure is 90 percent. The vast majority of meat, dairy, and eggs consumed today come from operations in which billions of cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, goats, sheep, and other immunologically-compromised animals are confined in cramped, unhygienic conditions, and often transported long distances. These operations have been identified as hot spots for the cross-infection of diseases and the mutation of viruses, some with pandemic potential.
Avian influenza, or “bird flu,” is another case in point. Humans have more in common with chickens than most realize, namely a susceptibility to infection with similar viruses. Human pandemics can arise when a strain of the avian influenza virus is transmitted from its source in wild aquatic birds to farmed chickens. A strain of avian influenza caused the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic that killed 50 to 100 million humans. Tens of thousands of wounded WWI soldiers had gathered in crowded, unhygienic army camps on the Western Front, in close proximity to pig farms and duck, geese, and chicken markets; the circumstances resulted in cross-species transmission of the virus. The demobilization of troops at the end of the war served as the means of dispersing the virus around the globe. Those same pandemic-producing conditions currently exist in industrialized animal farming operations, the main difference being that in 1918, the soldiers functioned as the warehoused chickens through which the virus simmered and then propagated.
Avian influenza viruses are especially dangerous because some strains infect not only birds but also other mammals. When two or more strains of the virus infect the same cell in, say, a pig, a chicken, or a human, the animal or human host acts as a “mixing vessel”—like a cocktail shaker—in which the different strains undergo a process of “reassortment.” The various strains combine to create “novel”—new—strains of infectious disease with pandemic potential. When an avian influenza virus infected farmed pigs, it evolved to produce the H1N1 strain of swine flu, itself a combination of four different viruses from three different species—pigs, birds, and humans. The resulting 1957 Asian Flu pandemic and the 1968 Hong Kong Flu pandemic each caused between one and four million human deaths; the 2009 H1N1 Swine Flu epidemic killed almost 300,000 people. These figures do not include the numbers of animal deaths, which far exceed the human toll. The African Swine Fever virus currently ravaging pig farming operations in China, for example, has led to the death of millions of pigs, many culled by brutal means. The same virus has led to the culling of almost six million pigs in Vietnam in the past year alone. The mandatory killing of farmed animals wherever contagions emerge—whether the animals are infected or not—is not limited to Asia. More than 6.5 million cows, pigs, and sheep were culled in Britain in 2001 during the foot-and-mouth disease epidemic. The repeated, worldwide, infection-induced, mass culling of farmed animals should itself serve as a grave warning sign of a dangerously unhealthy industry, whether one is concerned solely for the wellbeing of one’s own species or for that of others. The viruses that periodically trigger such mass killings continue to combine and mutate, creating novel, potentially lethal diseases to which no one is immune.
Numerous studies demonstrate how intensive animal farming increases the risk of pandemics. Research shows that confined animal feeding operations amplify novel influenza strains and that large-scale commercial animal farms increase the risk of outbreaks and transmission of zoonotic disease, function to maintain and disperse highly virulent strains of influenza and increase the frequency and scale of highly pathogenic outbreaks. It also shows that factory farm-induced deforestation and rampant antibiotic use heighten risk of the emergence of novel diseases. Intensive animal farming unquestionably poses a grave, pandemic-level threat to human and animal health. A 2017 study found that the speed with which new strains of influenza are emerging has increased since 2000, raising the likelihood of pandemics. In the present, grim context of yet another global pandemic precipitated by the human demand for meat, we’ve largely chosen to remain willfully ignorant of the dangers posed by the source of the vast majority of that meat: factory farms.
Evolutionary ecologist Rob Wallace, author of Big Farms Make Big Flu, argues that a factory farm-spawned pandemic is not just possible; it’s probable. “Agribusiness,” he writes, “backed by state power at home and abroad, is now working as much with influenza as against it.” Dr. Michael Greger, author of How Not to Die and Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching, calls factory farming a “perfect storm environment” for “super-strains” of infectious diseases. “If you actually want to create global pandemics,” he says, “then build factory farms.” Some may consider such perspectives to be extreme, but they are echoed by mainstream voices. In 2008, the Pew Commission, in its report on industrial farm animal production in America, warned of the “unacceptable” public health risks posed by industrialized animal agriculture. Public health professionals have long been aware of the dangers. In 2003, an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health advocated for an end to factory farming, explicitly acknowledging that killing animals for food—especially via intensive animal agriculture—increases the likelihood of epidemics. The author of that prescient article, Dr. David Benatar, wrote: “Those who consume animals not only harm those animals and endanger themselves, but they also threaten the well-being of other humans who currently or will later inhabit the planet…It is time for humans to remove their heads from the sand and recognize the risk to themselves that can arise from their maltreatment of other species.”
In China, before the COVID-19 outbreak led authorities to close down wildlife markets, the wildlife industry was valued at over $74 billion. Critics, aware of the trade’s potential to unleash virulent infectious diseases, have for years complained that government policy has been hijacked by commercial interests. It took an epidemic and near-shutdown of the Chinese economy to precipitate a permanent ban on the consumption and trade of wildlife. The conditions that triggered the emergence of COVID-19 exist in plain sight on factory farms. Shouldn’t governments take action before the emergence of another, possibly deadlier, epidemic, rather than after? The economic interests of intensive animal farming operations—not to mention our own appetites for flesh—continue to eclipse the imperatives of public health. If policymakers are serious about preventing pandemics rather than reacting to the carnage after the fact, then it’s time to do with factory farms what China did with wildlife markets—shut them down altogether.
Original source: https://sentientmedia.org/
The COVID-19 pandemic originated from China’s lucrative wild-life industry. Now that we are aware of its impact on social health, what will we do about it?
There will be few positives to take from coronavirus. But the global pandemic may yet prove to be an important moment in the attempts to address the illegal wildlife trade.
The media has generally concentrated on effects rather than causes, in particular the global implications for public health and economies. But it is also vital to unravel the timeline of the pandemic and categorically determine its initial cause.
What we do know to date is that the epicentre of the disease was in the Chinese city of Wuhan, an important hub in the lucrative trade in wildlife – both legal and illegal. The outbreak is believed to have originated in a market in which a variety of animal-derived products and meats are widely available, including peacocks, porcupines, bats and rats. It’s also a market where regulatory and welfare standards are rudimentary at best.
Some of this trade is legal under Chinese domestic law but the existence of a parallel illegal trade – often within the very same market or stall – allows some traders to launder illicit wildlife products into the system. This situation is very difficult to regulate and control.
We are also reasonably certain that the spill-over event involved the crossover of the virus from animals to humans, similar to the situation with previous contagions like the Ebola and SARs viruses. In each of these cases, the existence of large, unsanitary and poorly-regulated wildlife markets provided an ideal environment for diseases to cross over between species. In a country like China, where wildlife consumption is so deeply embedded in culture, such contamination can, and did, spread rapidly.
The Chinese government has long advocated a “sustainable utilisation” approach to the country’s wildlife. It nonetheless responded to the current crisis by enacting a temporary ban on such markets, effectively closing down a significant sector of its domestic wildlife trade.
Biosecurity, public health and economic impact
In the longer term, the pandemic may provide the impetus to properly address the issue. This is because, while the illegal wildlife trade was once criticised almost purely in terms of conservation, it is now also being considered in relation to broader themes of biosecurity, public health and economic impact.
It is only in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak that the full scale of China’s industry is emerging, with the temporary ban covering some 20,000 captive breeding enterprises and 54 different species allowed to be traded domestically. A report by the Chinese Academy of Engineering estimates the wildlife farming industry is worth around US$57 billion annually. These breeding centres are allowed to operate under loopholes in Chinese domestic law, arguably against the spirit of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
The parallel illegal trade is less easy to quantify, but globally it is valued by the UN at around US$23 billion. Given the resulting pandemic could cost as much as US$2.7 trillion, even on purely economic grounds there is a strong case for increased regulation.
There are compelling arguments for dismantling the trade anyway: animals are kept in abject conditions, and the trade hastens their demise in the wild. But in China the temporary ban remains just that – temporary. Critics argue that we have been there before with SARS and once the dust settled on that particular outbreak, China resumed business as usual.
What would seriously tackling the wildlife trade actually mean in practice? First, breeding centres for endangered species like tigers or pangolins would be permanently closed. This would make it much harder for their products to be laundered through legal channels and sold as more valuable “wild-caught”. Enforcement agencies currently need to monitor these centres closely to check against laundering, and shutting them down would free up resources to disrupt the supply of illegal products entering China from outside.
Such a move would also help reduce demand. Public education campaigns tell people about how the wildlife trade (both legal and illegal) harms endangered species, but the message is mixed: the presence of a parallel legal market still provides such products with legitimacy and sends a message that it is OK to purchase them, thereby increasing rather than decreasing demand.
In any case the new Chinese ban excludes products such as tiger bones that are used in traditional medicines. Some conservationists and activists are concerned that this exemption will lead to legalised trade under the assumption that better regulation will protect against future outbreaks. This argument is extremely difficult to validate and most conservationists continue to favour blanket trade bans.
Another worry is that, given humans have short memories, once the danger has passed public concern will turn to the next big problem. COVID-19 clearly represents an unparalleled opportunity to combat the wildlife trade, and ensure that animal-borne diseases do not mutate and cross over to humans. But only time will tell whether this opportunity will be taken or put off once again until the emergence of the next – perhaps even more virulent – pandemic poses an even graver global threat.
Original source: https://theconversation.com/
According to Bloomberg.com, San Francisco food manufacturing company, JUST, producer of the vegan JUST Egg, is fielding increased inquiries from Chinese state-backed companies seeking animal-free protein sources amidst the coronavirus outbreak.
“Some of the biggest companies, larger food manufacturers, including some that are backed by the state government, are proactively reaching out to me personally, our executive team, our board, and the team in China, about now wanting to partner,” he said in an interview. “China’s producers are viewing the current climate as a time for more quality-controlled food.”Though JUST CEO Josh Tetrick declined to name the companies, he said that authorities are trying to think about how to reduce the risk of future outbreaks by curbing China’s reliance on meat from confined animals. The country’s wet markets, where freshly slaughtered, unpackaged meat is sold, have been identified as a possible source of the deadly outbreak that’s claimed more than 3,169 lives in China and disrupted businesses worldwide.
Prior to the outbreak, China was already experiencing protein shortages caused by the spread of African swine fever and its impact on pork supplies. The country is viewed as a major growth market for plant-based protein producers, including Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat.
Beyond Meat still hopes to enter production in Asia by the end of the year, Chief Executive Ethan Brown said in late February, though its plans have been slowed by the virus’ spread.A spokeswoman for Impossible Foods reiterated the company’s goal to be in China as soon as possible, saying that it had already started the approval process with China’s Food and Drug Administration for its products. Impossible Foods’ plan to expand into China is unrelated to the virus outbreak, which is “the latest public health crisis due to use of animals in the food chain,” the spokeswoman said.
David Yeung, the founder of Green Monday, a Hong Kong-based maker of imitation pork products and seller of other plant-based foods, echoed the view that the virus will drive consumers toward his products.
“The triple threat of coronavirus, ASF, and Avian flu fully expose the vulnerability of the protein/food supply chain,” Yeung said in an email to Bloomberg. “From a consumer standpoint, demand for safe, reliable healthy food will absolutely skyrocket.”
For JUST, Tetrick has long viewed China as a similar growth play and already sells its v-eggs in stores and online there.
Original source: https://vegconomist.com/
The deadly virus that has spread throughout the world and claimed the lives of many has a lesson to teach us about our position as humans on earth.
Historically, tragedies such as the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic have sometimes led to important changes. The probable source of the new coronavirus – so-called wet markets, at which live animals are sold and slaughtered before customers’ eyes – should be banned not only in China, but worldwide.
The apocalyptic images of the locked-down Chinese city of Wuhan have reached us all. The world is holding its breath over the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, and governments are taking or preparing drastic measures that will necessarily sacrifice individual rights and freedoms for the general good.
Some focus their anger on China’s initial lack of transparency about the outbreak. The philosopher Slavoj Žižek has spoken of “the racist paranoia” at work in the obsession with COVID-19 when there are many worse infectious diseases from which thousands die every day. Those prone to conspiracy theories believe that the virus is a biological weapon aimed at China’s economy. Few mention, let alone confront, the underlying cause of the epidemic.
Both the 2003 SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic and the current one can be traced to China’s “wet markets” – open-air markets where animals are bought live and then slaughtered on the spot for the customers. Until late December 2019, everyone affected by the virus had some link to Wuhan’s Huanan Market.
At China’s wet markets, many different animals are sold and killed to be eaten: wolf cubs, snakes, turtles, guinea pigs, rats, otters, badgers, and civets. Similar markets exist in many Asian countries, including Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
In tropical and subtropical areas of the planet, wet markets sell live mammals, poultry, fish, and reptiles, crammed together and sharing their breath, their blood, and their excrement. As US National Public Radio journalist Jason Beaubien recently reported: “Live fish in open tubs splash water all over the floor. The countertops of the stalls are red with blood as fish are gutted and filleted right in front of the customers’ eyes. Live turtles and crustaceans climb over each other in boxes. Melting ice adds to the slush on the floor. There’s lots of water, blood, fish scales, and chicken guts.” Wet markets, indeed.
Scientists tell us that keeping different animals in close, prolonged proximity with one another and with people creates an unhealthy environment that is the probable source of the mutation that enabled COVID-19 to infect humans. More precisely, in such an environment, a coronavirus long present in some animals underwent rapid mutation as it changed from nonhuman host to nonhuman host, and ultimately gained the ability to bind to human cell receptors, thus adapting to the human host.
This evidence prompted China, on January 26, to impose a temporary ban on wildlife animal trade. It is not the first time that such a measure has been introduced in response to an epidemic. Following the SARS outbreak China prohibited the breeding, transport, and sale of civets and other wild animals, but the ban was lifted six months later.
Today, many voices are calling for a permanent shutdown of “wildlife markets.” Zhou Jinfeng, head of China’s Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, has urged that “illegal wildlife trafficking” be banned indefinitely and has indicated that the National People’s Congress is discussing a bill to outlaw trade in protected species. Focusing on protected species, however, is a ploy to divert public attention away from the appalling circumstances in which animals in wet markets are forced to live and die. What the world really needs is a permanent ban on wet markets.
For the animals, wet markets are hell on earth. Thousands of sentient, palpitating beings endure hours of suffering and anguish before being brutally butchered. This is just one small part of the suffering that humans systematically inflict on animals in every country – in factory farms, laboratories, and the entertainment industry.
If we stop to reflect on what we are doing – and mostly we do not – we are prone to justify it by appealing to the alleged superiority of our species, in much the same way that white people used to appeal to the alleged superiority of their race to justify their subjection of “inferior” humans. But at this moment, when vital human interests so clearly run parallel to the interests of nonhuman animals, this small part of the suffering we inflict on animals offers us the opportunity for a change of attitudes toward members of non-human species.
To achieve a ban on wet markets, we will have to overcome some specific cultural preferences, as well as resistance linked to the fact that a ban would cause economic hardship to those who make their living from the markets. But, even without giving nonhuman animals the moral consideration they deserve, these localized concerns are decisively outweighed by the calamitous impact that ever more frequent global epidemics (and perhaps pandemics) will have.
Martin Williams, a Hong Kong-based writer specializing in conservation and the environment, puts it well: “As long as such markets exist, the likelihood of other new diseases emerging will remain. Surely, it is time for China to close down these markets. In one fell swoop, it would be making progress on animal rights and nature conservation, while reducing the risk of a ‘made in China’ disease harming people worldwide.”
But we would go further. Historically, tragedies have sometimes led to important changes. Markets at which live animals are sold and slaughtered should be banned not only in China, but all over the world.
Original source: https://www.project-syndicate.org/
Outspoken vegan John Joseph, the ex frontman of the band “Cro Mags”, asks to address the “real issue” when it comes to coronavirus – meat consumption.
He says that “no one is addressing the real issue” with the burgeoning coronavirus pandemic around the world — that eating animals is bad for human health.
Joseph, who is also an author, Ironman triathlete and proponent of a vegan, clean-living lifestyle, made his comment in response to reports that the virus may have initially spread from a wholesale market in Wuhan, China, where vendors legally sold live animals from stalls in close quarters with hundreds of others.
Earlier today, John took to his Twitter to share a Wired.com article headlined “Modernizing Meat Production Will Help Us Avoid Pandemics” and he included the following message: “100% – and while everybody’s quarantined and they develop a vaccine no one is addressing the real issue – if we keep eating animals it’s only gonna get worse” He added: “And someone called the carnivore doctor is telling people to improve their immune systems during this by eating more meat can you fucking believe that one – these fucking Jabronies never give up and caused this shit”
Last year, Joseph, who is the author of the book “Meat Is For Pussies”, which attacks the myth that men need meat to be fit and strong, told GQ.com that his plant-based diet is “second nature at this point.” He explained: “You know, we look at everything that we put into our cars, we’re obsessed with the fine details of all those sorts of things. But when it comes to what we put in our bodies, man, if you read the label and you can’t pronounce this shit, you shouldn’t be eating it. Our body is our only vehicle to get through life.”
The new coronavirus originated from one of Wuhan’s many “wet markets” — so called because animals are often slaughtered directly in front of customers. These markets put people and live and dead animals — dogs, chickens, pigs, snakes, civets, and more — in constant close contact.
Last month, animal rights organization PETA was criticized by some social media users for implying that eating meat may cause coronavirus.
The controversial tweet from PETA consisted of the message: “Carnivorous is an anagram of coronavirus. Coincidence? We think NOT!
“Scientists have a hunch that contact with live animals or their dead flesh may be the source of the deadly virus,” PETA wrote.
The European Food Safety Association has released an article that says there is no scientific proof so far that coronavirus can spread through food. In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) has suggested that it is always best to thoroughly cook meats and eggs before consuming them.
Joseph and drummer Mackie Jayson recently reached a settlement with Harley Flanagan regarding ownership of the CRO-MAGS name. Flanagan is now performing under the name CRO-MAGS while Joseph and Jayson are performing as CRO-MAGS “JM”.
Original source: https://www.blabbermouth.net/
Farmers are worried we will open our doors to an invasion of fast-farmed, cheap US food. America is the birthplace of megafarms or ‘concentrated animal feeding operations. ’There are major worries about animal welfare of poultry reared on factory farms. Conditions can be so filthy that their faeces-covered bodies teem with bacteria
Pigs fattened by asthma drugs, cows pumped with steroids and chlorinated chicken to name just aw few of the practices that are considered acceptable in American meat industry and which Donald Trump wants to sell to the UK post Brexit. It is also the industry that gave us intensive factory farms.
In 1970, on the fashionable Fulham Road in Chelsea, West London, the UK’s first New York-style burger joint opened for business. The restaurant named itself The Great American Disaster – an ironic nod to the impact the newly imported and irresistible junk food might have on the waistlines of Britons.
Many in the British agricultural industry are deeply concerned that we are facing The Great American Disaster Part II.
There are major worries about animal welfare: for poultry reared on megafarms, conditions can be so filthy that their faeces-covered bodies teem with bacteria [File photo]
The phrase – hated by Washington – has come to epitomise the vastly different agricultural standards on either side of the Atlantic.
America is the birthplace of the megafarm – or ‘concentrated animal feeding operation’, as they’re officially, if euphemistically, known.
In vast, hangar-like facilities, thousands of ‘units’ of cattle, pigs and poultry are fattened for slaughter, with many never seeing a blade of grass or even daylight. They are pumped full of hormones and treated liberally with drugs.
These high-yield farms assure cheap prices for customers, with a factory-farmed chicken as cheap as £3 in supermarkets – around 50p less than a comparable bird in the UK. The downsides, however, may be immense.
The health danger from chlorinated chicken doesn’t come from the chlorine itself, which is in concentrations so low as to cause no harm to humans.
Experts also warn there are far greater dangers in other American agricultural produce, thanks to lax laws on growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and labelling
After their throats are slit, their carcasses are machine-plucked and washed in chlorine or other chemicals, such as disinfectant acid, to rid their bodies of infectious microbes.
In contrast, the EU prefers to impose higher standards on the whole process, rather than relying on cleaning up at the end – and now some British scientists are expressing fears that importing US poultry may pose a serious food-poisoning hazard.
Experts also warn there are far greater dangers in other American agricultural produce, thanks to lax laws on growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and labeling.
Yet with the Trump administration keen to do all it can to appease a farming lobby so powerful it has been bailed out with almost $20 billion in the past couple of years to compensate for the impact of the President’s trade war with China, just how worried should we be? The truth could surprise you.
Chlorine washing is no magic bullet
Professor Bill Keevil, head microbiologist at the University of Southampton, says his tests on chlorine washing show it may not be an effective way to beat food poisoning.
He has found that dangerous bacteria such as listeria and salmonella can evade the chemical by effectively becoming dormant.
Not only does this mean that they aren’t killed by the chemical washes, but also they cannot be detected through normal testing.
Because chlorine washing is considered a ‘process’ rather than an ‘ingredient’, it does not have to be listed on the label [File photo]
Around 14 per cent of Americans suffer food poisoning each year – ten times the number of estimated cases in the UK.
If our poisoning levels matched America’s, they could result in about 5,000 deaths from food bugs a year, compared to the current figure of 500.
Avoiding chlorinated chicken could also prove tough, as imported poultry might not be clearly labelled to show if it had been treated this way.
Because chlorine washing is considered a ‘process’ rather than an ‘ingredient’, it does not have to be listed on the label.
Has your meat been beefed up by steroids?
Experts fear that greater threats to our health lie in the drugs that Americans use to boost growth rates in pigs, sheep and cattle, and to fend off virulent infections that can thrive on megafarms.
The use of steroid hormones to speed growth in cattle was banned across the EU in 1989 amid fierce scientific debate about whether it was harmful to human health.
But the practice is permitted by the US regulators, the Food and Drug Administration, with steroids typically administered via implants inserted beneath the skin behind animals’ ears.
The use of steroid hormones to speed growth in cattle was banned across the EU in 1989 amid fierce scientific debate about whether it was harmful to human health [File photo]
Rob Percival, head of policy at the Soil Association, warns that one of the six hormones routinely used on US farms has been categorised by European scientists as a known carcinogen.
In 1999, independent scientific advisers concluded that the hormone, called 17-beta-estradiol, is a ‘complete carcinogen’ – one that both causes cancerous tumours and then promotes their growth.
Their report declared that no level of the hormone could be considered safe.
‘Obviously there are serious concerns about consuming meat containing this hormone,’ says Mr Percival.
‘Of the other five hormones used in American beef farms, which include the sex hormones testosterone and progesterone, scientific panels say there is inadequate data to guarantee they are safe.’
Banned asthma drug pumped into pigs
Nearly three-quarters of US pork is estimated to be fed with a growth hormone called ractopamine, which has been banned in the meat industries in the EU, China and Russia.
The hormone belongs to a class of drugs originally developed to treat people with asthma, but its potential to build up muscle in livestock was discovered during testing, when researchers found the drug made mice more muscular.
Data from the European Food Safety Authority indicates that ractopamine, when taken by humans, can cause an elevated heart rate and palpitations.
But the US Food and Drug Administration approved ‘safe’ levels of ractopamine in pork after only one human health study involving just six healthy men, aged 19 to 26.
Although five suffered no adverse effects, one was withdrawn from the study because his heart began racing abnormally.
Chinese authorities have blamed pork containing ractopamine for causing sickness in around 1,700 people, and now only allow ractopamine-free pork imports from the US.
Nearly three-quarters of US pork is estimated to be fed with a growth hormone called ractopamine, which has been banned in the meat industries in the EU, China and Russia
Bovine somatotropin on your cornflakes?
Yet another chemical worry is the use of a growth hormone called recombinant bovine somatotropin given to dairy cows to increase their milk production.
It is approved in the US, but banned in the EU, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Israel and Argentina.
Maeve Hanan, a dietician who runs the blog dieteticallyspeaking.com, says: ‘The main reason is that good quality studies have linked its use to harming animals – causing lameness, decreased fertility, lactation problems and udder infections.’
Milk from these cows also contains higher than normal levels of growth hormones, according to studies.
Some research suggests that people who drink hormone-treated milk are at greater risk of breast and prostate cancer. But according to the American Cancer Society: ‘The evidence for potential harm to humans is inconclusive.’
Aiding the rise of killer superbugs
The routine use of antibiotics on American farms presents another serious concern.
Experts have long warned the practice threatens to boost rates of antibiotic-resistant superbugs that can affect humans.
Livestock raised for food in the US are dosed with five times as much antibiotic medicine as farm animals in the UK, according to the British pressure group Alliance To Save Our Antibiotics.
The different dosage rates rise to at least nine times as much for beef cattle. It’s three times higher in chickens than it is in the UK, double for pigs, and five times higher for turkeys, they said.
Coilin Nunan, the alliance’s scientific adviser, says American farmers use antibiotics routinely to prevent infections before an outbreak of disease, rather than keeping them as a last-resort strategy for curing illness, which is the approach recommended by the World Health Organisation.
This is often because animals are farmed intensively in crowded conditions where infections can spread rapidly.
‘American practice frequently involves antibiotics that also promote faster growth in the animals – even though this type of use is banned in Europe,’ Nunan explains. ‘The dose is low, called “sub-therapeutic”, which means bacteria can survive and develop resistance to the antibiotics.’
In the EU and the UK, routine preventative dosing has been steadily reduced, although not prohibited. In the EU, it will be banned within two years.
But preventative dosing is rising in use in the US, where authorities reject the idea of a ban.
Nunan adds: ‘If we import currently-banned US products, they will be much cheaper than British farmed products. American meat will contain much more antibiotic-resistant bacteria.’
Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest public health challenges of our time, with at least 2.8 million Americans getting an antibiotic-resistant infection each year, and more than 35,000 people dying.
The latest UK figures suggest 2,985 deaths in England in 2018, a number that would rise to more than 5,500 if we had the same rate as America.
Fruit literally doused in antibiotics
Nearly three-quarters of antiiotics use worldwide is thought to be on animals rather than humans.
But American farmers spray citrus crops, too, such as oranges, tangerines and grapefruits in Florida and California.
Last month, the US Environmental Protection Agency approved ‘emergency’ use in farms of the antibiotic streptomycin – for the fifth year in a row.
Under the emergency system, pesticide safety reviews are sidestepped so that a bacterial infection called citrus greening disease can be tackled.
The World Health Organisation has called for an end to the over-use of streptomycin, which could lead to disease becoming resistant to the drug. This is currently ‘critically’ important to treating human diseases, including tuberculosis.
And environmental campaigners are trying to take the US government to court, as they are concerned about the creation of new superbugs.
From a European perspective, American pesticide safety is perilously lax, too.
Numerous pesticides are used in US farming that are banned in the UK and the EU. Inevitably, residues find their way into food for human consumption.
Since 2018, EU imports of American citrus products have plummeted as a result of tit-for-tat trade tariff battles.
But, post-Brexit, the UK may see a surge in imports of fruit from Florida and California.
…And don’t expect the label to help
None of these dangers may be apparent in the first few months of a post-Brexit trade deal – but there may be a more immediate difference in terms of imported products’ labels.
As the Soil Association’s Rob Percival points out, the use of nutritional labeling, such as ‘traffic light labels’, have been an important requirement in supporting UK public health.
However, President Trump’s trade negotiators are clear they consider nutrition labelling to be a ‘barrier to trade’ and have been locked in a dispute with Brussels over their use.
Imported US food currently enjoys a voluntary concession to UK labelling requirements, and any London-Washington trade deal is likely to weaken consumer labelling further.
With American beef, for example, labels may not tell shoppers that the meat was factory-farmed in awful conditions.
‘As well as being an animal-welfare concern, the animals’ meat is nutritionally different, because the cattle are fed on grain, not grass,’ says Percival.
None of these dangers may be apparent in the first few months of a post-Brexit trade deal – but there may be a more immediate difference in terms of imported products’ labels
Indeed, studies have shown that grain-fed beef is lower in omega-3 and other ‘heart-healthy’ fats.
‘You wouldn’t know this from the labelling,’ he adds.
To preserve the hard-won high health standards of the food on our plates, campaigners are fighting a desperate rearguard action.
Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers’ Union, is calling on the Government to add protections into law to prevent imports that ‘fail to meet our food safety, animal welfare and environmental standards’.
‘If the Government doesn’t do this, it will not only fail our farmers but the public, too, who rightly demand and expect these standards from our own farmers,’ she says.
Certainly, farmers have public support. In a recent Institute for Public Policy Research poll, 82 per cent of Britons said the UK should not lower food safety standards to secure a trade deal with the US.
However, the big fear is that British trade negotiators may consider UK food quality a comparatively small sacrifice to make – in which case, chlorinated chicken may prove the least of our food safety problems.
Original Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/
The pro’s outweigh the con’s when it comes to switching to a vegan lifestyle from vegetarian.
The rise of ‘plant-based’ diets seems like a win for those who decry eating meat. But some vegan groups claim the halfway step of vegetarianism is ineffectual if you really care about animal cruelty, climate change, or your own personal health.
An article in the Guardian last year asked “Why do people hate vegans?”, suggesting that the recent popularity of the looser term “plant-based” is because it avoids the perceived rigidity and high-mindedness of veganism. After all, who wants to be told by some hippy know-it-all that your wine was actually fined using fish bladder or the connective tissue of cows? The same spirit lay behind Paul McCartney’s campaign for everyone to try “meat-free Mondays” which saw any decrease in meat-eating as a step in the right direction.
Yet many animal rights groups argue that halfway steps aren’t enough and that full veganism is the only justifiable stance. For example, a recent article on the PETA website questioned whether eating cheese might actually be worse than eating meat, and SAFE encourages members to go dairy-free. Even if you’re simply going “plant-based” for health or environmental reasons, there are questions about the efficacy of vegetarianism.
The primary difference between vegans and vegetarians is whether or not they eat eggs and dairy products. Both of these commodities require only the female of the species (the cow or the hen). So what happens to all those young males?
In the dairy industry, young bulls make up the majority of the “bobby calves” and are separated from their mothers at birth then killed for their meat. Of the 4.6 million calves born in New Zealand each year, around 40% are bobby calves. This wasteful slaughter has led local researchers to investigate allowing bobby calves to survive longer or using them for producing wagyu meat.
The position of animal rights activists on this issue was captured well by Joaquin Phoenix in his recent Oscars speech:
“We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable. Then we take her milk that’s intended for her calf and we put it in our coffee and our cereal.”
The situation for male chicks in the egg industry is similar to their bull counterparts – they are killed soon after hatching. What’s more, the quality of life for the hens that survive is probably worse than for cows (at least, the grass-fed cows primarily grown in New Zealand). Despite our country moving away from the tiny battery cages of old, the “colony cages” widely in use are still very crammed.
The response to these criticisms is usually to point out that life in nature isn’t all that cruelty-free either. If cows and chickens lived in the wild, they would be hunted by other animals, catch diseases, and die young. Perhaps their deaths should not distress us as long as they are quick and their lives in the interim are relatively painless? Yet even if the morality of factory farming is put aside, there are other issues with dairy and egg production that affect us directly.
Cattle farming is widely acknowledged as having a large contribution towards climate change – primarily through the methane that cows burp out as they feed, but also the emissions associated with growing cow feed, transport, deforestation for farmland etc. While this may provide a reason for non meat-eaters to feel smug, vegetarians may find they are throwing rocks from within a glasshouse. Research by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in 2011 found that cheese can also be a high-emission food.
The problem with cheese is that you need a lot of milk to create it – four litres per kilogram for a soft cheese (paneer) and upwards of eight litres for a hard cheese (eg parmesan, which also requires a long ageing time). However, the EWG results have been seen as biased (they are an activist/lobbying group) and a summary of more recent studies has suggested that a) emissions vary widely depending on how a commodity is produced and that b) cheese causes fewer emissions than any variety of meat (when you consider serving size rather than per kg).
Dairy milk itself has its own problems in a New Zealand context, since Fonterra is the second-largest user of coal in the country (the company uses it in its milk-drying facilities, though is gradually moving to wood pellets). However, vegans might find the replacement milk products they use have their own problems – for example, almond milk is often made from Californian nuts (they provide 80% of the world market), but it is hugely water-intensive for such a drought-affected state and also requires the use of 60% of US commercial bees (often resulting in massive die-offs).
The Guardian’s investigation into this area suggested oat milk was the best alternative (with soy milk a close second).
Did you know that Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton and both Serena and Venus Williams are vegan? The idea that high-performance athletes function best without animal products was boosted by the documentary The Game Changers, though some have argued it’s a biased work since its main producer, James Cameron, has a heavy investment in plant-based faux meats and fake cheeses.
There are now a glut of Netflix documentaries that promote veganism – for example the Joaquin Phoenix-produced What The Health, Forks Over Knives and Cowspiracy. Unfortunately these films also share a fair amount of pseudoscience. What The Health claims drinking milk causes cancer (there is no evidence for this) and that “eating just one an egg a day can be as bad as smoking five cigarettes for life expectancy” (a huge exaggeration). It also posits a conspiracy by the global dairy industry to question the unhealthiness of the saturated fat in butter and cheese (less clear, though it’s that true many scientists have fought back against pro-saturated-fat claims).
There is some evidence that both vegan and vegetarian diets do reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, but current evidence puts them at a similar level of healthiness to the Mediterranean and “New Nordic” diets. In fact, the vegetarian diet is often judged to be better since it provides easier access to essential nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D and B12 (being low in the latter in particular is a risk for vegans unless they take supplements or ingest enough foods fortified with B12).
All in all, the best health advice remains similar to what we’ve been told for decades – eat more vegetables and fruit, while reducing your intake of processed food. Vegetarians do seem to have a healthy diet that is relatively easy to sustain and they come close to vegans in terms of their impact on the environment. There is nonetheless a strong case for veganism, especially in terms of animal welfare – just as long as you don’t believe everything you see on Netflix.
Original source: https://thespinoff.co.nz/
What does a large rise in veganism among New Zealanders mean for the country that is reliant on animal agriculture for its economy.
New Zealanders are embracing plant-based diets with more people than ever choosing to go meat-free – and the signs are that it’s no passing fad.
But while the move towards “meatless” is driven by many factors – such as price, preference and moral stances – a major change in our appetites will have a massive impact on our farming sector and what they produce in the future.
In 2019, the amount of New Zealanders eating “meat free” jumped to 15 per cent, according to the latest Colmar Brunton Better Futures report.
In 2018, that number was 10 per cent, and the year before, just 7 per cent.
Celebrity chef and co-founder of My Food Bag Nadia Lim said she noticed a major shift in consumer behaviour 18 months ago.
“It was a very noticeable change.”
Lim said at that time people were becoming more aware than ever about all aspects of food production.
“Our world of food is really complex to navigate and people were looking for answers, and were questioning where their food comes from.”
People were craving simplicity because of confusing messages about food, and so were drawn to wholesome foods such as fruit and vegetables.
Lim, who describes herself as a “selective omnivore”, said the three strands of environment, ethics and health underpinned much modern thinking about food.
“What I believe will happen is that more people will embrace vegetables and plant-based diets, it’s not a fad.
“It’s a real food movement, I can feel it.
Primary Industries Minister Damien O’Connor agrees and says it poses both risks and opportunities for New Zealand.
“It’s a real trend we have to analyse and understand. I’ve been promoting that discussion at every opportunity: we are niche players in terms of global protein production and fibre. We can differentiate ourselves and there will always be a market for our high quality output, but connecting what we produce with the right customers is the challenge. We will struggle to produce the really high volumes of plant protein that South America America and the US and other countries can produce. But there are many opportunities in terms of cropping and I’m sure of the raw materials of plant-based protein alternative. “
But meat was still a big part of our exporting future.
“There is a huge market for pasture fed, high quality, hormone free meat that’s raised in an ethical way and that’s where we need to be positioning ourselves.”
Wellington woman Veronica Gasanova stopped eating all meat, dairy and eggs in 2018, and said she was “blessed” to live in a day and age where being vegan was an easy choice.
“We have an abundance and variety of food… and we have information and research around going vegan,” she said.
Animal agriculture contributes to 49 per cent of greenhouse gases in New Zealand, China Agricultural University former lecturer in environmental management Michael Morris said.
“This is how much our emissions will be reduced if we stop producing or consuming meat.”
Research at the University of Otago recently found that if every adult in New Zealand adopted a vegan diet, and minimised food waste, the emissions saved would equal about 60 per cent of the emissions from cars and vans.
The Dunedin researchers said if New Zealanders ate more “plant based” foods, and less meat, the health system could save billions of dollars and there would be sizeable reductions in climate change-causing greenhouse gases.
But Morris said animal agriculture was responsible for a great deal more environmental destruction than just climate change.
In New Zealand, dairying was responsible for water pollution, high faecal coliform levels were making rivers too dangerous to swim in, and high nitrates were causing algal blooms, Morris said.
“Animal agriculture is causing present and historical habitat destruction… most lowland kahikatea forests and wetlands have been destroyed for animal agriculture.”
The entire landscape could be transformed, he said.
“Waterways would be swimmable. Habitat loss could be reversed through restoration. Freshwater fish and saltwater fish would thrive again. The Maui’s dolphin would be saved.
“We could have no problem meeting our Paris Accord agreements. We would be considered world leaders and go down in history for saving the climate.”
OraTaiao, the New Zealand Climate and Health Council, agree a shift from an agriculture sector from red meat and dairy to one focused on sustainable plant production would improve freshwater quality, reduce contaminants in the environment and slash waterborne illnesses.
“New Zealand could live up to its reputation as a ‘clean green’ producer by shifting to low input sustainable plant-based agriculture systems, and lead sustainable and healthy dietary shifts.”
In 2018, when Air New Zealand announced it would serve the Impossible Burger, a plant-based product that mimics beef, much of the nation gave a collective cry of horror.
At the time, Beef + Lamb New Zealand said farmers were justified if they felt upset and let down.
But Morris said people no longer have a choice.
“Market forces and technology means that plant products from precision fermentation will soon be cheaper than animal protein.”
Vegan Society NZ spokeswoman Claire Insley said people wouldn’t even have to give up flying, or petrol cars, if everyone gave up meat and dairy.
“New Zealand’s emissions are among the highest per capita in the world. We are ideally placed to reduce them by giving up animal agriculture.”
Farmers could grow plants instead, she said.
“We have now changed our environment so much that we have to adapt to it again. That means making big changes… had we acted 30 years ago, all this would have been different,” she said.
“We have all the solutions to climate change and the difficulties that we currently face, but they are not being implemented.”
Beef + Lamb NZ chief insights officer Jeremy Baker said their research showed the country’s farmers need not fear veganism.
“We were encouraged that there will always be a market for high-quality, grass-fed beef.”
Alternative meats had their place, but Baker warned all new food production came at a cost to the environment – not just farming.
Federated Farmers Wairarapa president William Beetham said cutting out meat could lead the country to import more food – increasing emissions.
The hole left by the $4 billion export earnings from beef and lamb would need to be filled somehow, and a new industry would bring with it more emissions, he said.
He said much of the country’s land was unfit for anything except sheep, cattle and plantation forestry, anyway.
“Only 8 per cent of New Zealand’s sheep and beef land is flat,” he said.
“Blanketing productive farmland in pines would gut rural communities and employment, as apart from planting and harvest time, and occasional pruning, there is much less employing activity compared to year-round livestock farming.
“There are also fire risk, disease risk and fuel load considerations with blanket pine forests and climate change.”
People cutting out meat from their diet would be a concern for farmers, he said.
“The potential nutritional issues that could occur especially for young New Zealanders could be serious.”
Young peoples’ brains needed “nutrient dense” foods and protein, he said.
However, associate professor in environmental health Dr Alexandra Macmillan said moving towards a “fully plant-based” diet would be good for most people.
“Big savings would come from reductions in obesity, heart disease and cancer,” she said.
“We found that a healthy plant-based diet adopted by all adults in the NZ population would come with savings in the tens of billions of dollars over the lives of those adults.”
Claire Insley’s typical day:
Breakfast: An Organ “Easy Egg” omelette with garlic and spinach on wholemeal toast with Olivani and Marmite.
Lunch: Mushroom soup.
Dinner: A curry with vegetables, cannelloni beans and brown rice.
Snacks: Dark chocolate, fruit, bhuja mix or chips, dates, nuts and vegan Gingernuts (only one or two options a day).
But what about protein?
“All vegetables, grains, many fruits, mushrooms, pulses, seeds and nuts all contain protein,” Insley said.
“Many people on a Western Standard diet consume too much protein… a wholefood plant-based diet is fully able to provide humans of all ages all the nutrients they require.”
Original Source: https://www.stuff.co.nz/
The Karmic interconnectedness between humans and animals which is at the heart of diseases like coronavirus
The COVID-19 coronavirus has killed thousands of people around the world, including 14 in the U.S., and its origin in animals and global spread should remind us how inextricably linked we are with other life on Earth.
We share the same planet and breathe the same air, and we also exchange microbes including germs. Now, with our burgeoning human population and global economy, we face new threats from a wider distribution of diseases like this new strain of coronavirus.
For some background, the World Health Organization (WHO) explains: “Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV)… Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people.” COVID-19 was thought to have come from a live animal market where animals are often sold as food in Wuhan, China in December 2019, and so far it has been confirmed in nearly 80 countries and declared a “public health emergency of international concern” by the World Health Organization.
No one yet knows how many people will be infected or die from COVID-19, but it has characteristics similar to the bird flu, known as the “Spanish Flu,” which killed millions during World War One.
SARS, MERS, and COVID-19 are contagious diseases that jump from animals to humans, and more needs to be done to curtail these, including banning live animal markets. But, other potentially fatal zoonoses also warrant attention.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns: “…3 out of every 4 new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals.” These include viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites, and they infect millions of U.S. citizens every year.
In the U.S., almost ten billion animals are exploited and slaughtered every year. Most live short miserable lives in overcrowded factory farms, which are a breeding ground for disease, including emerging pathogens and virulent strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
In addition to foodborne illness and environmental pollution, animal agriculture can also incite global pandemics like H1N1, which was initially called “swine flu” because it was linked to a similar disease in pigs, but its connection to animal agriculture has since been largely obscured.
The H1N1 pandemic killed hundreds of thousands of people around the globe, including over ten thousand in the U.S., according to CDC: “From April 12, 2009, to April 10, 2010, CDC estimated there were 60.8 million cases (range: 43.3-89.3 million), 274,304 hospitalizations (range: 195,086-402,719), and 12,469 deaths (range: 8868-18,306) in the United States due to the (H1N1)pdm09 virus… Additionally, CDC estimated that 151,700-575,400 people worldwide died from (H1N1)pdm09 virus infection during the first year the virus circulated.”
While animal-borne illnesses continue to threaten human health, agribusiness has a vested interest in preventing consumers from thinking about it — under the oversight of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Since the 1980s, Farm Sanctuary has investigated farms, stockyards and slaughterhouses and worked to prevent irresponsible agricultural practices, such as the transport and slaughter of downed animals, animals too sick even to stand.
The USDA defended the practice for decades, dismissing our concerns about diseased animals entering the food supply. Finally, after confirming mad cow disease in the U.S., the agency agreed that downed cows should not be slaughtered for human consumption. Unfortunately, however, other diseased and debilitated animals are still entering the U.S. food supply, including half a million downed pigs every year.
We continue challenging this inhumane and risky practice, and we are also challenging a new USDA policy to remove limits on slaughterhouse line speeds, and give the industry more authority to police itself. The USDA and other government officials need to protect the public, instead of serving the short-sighted financial interests of agribusiness.
Government programs should encourage diverse organic farms that build soil and create ecological sustainability and resilience, instead of chemically dependent mono-crops and factory farm confinement, which denude and despoil the earth.
We should invest in plant-based agriculture and grow crops to feed people instead of farm animals, which would feed more people with less land and fewer resources, allowing rainforests and other vital ecosystems to be preserved, along with biodiversity and the earth’s natural capacity for regulating greenhouse gasses and other environmental threats. We all benefit when our common home, the earth, is healthier.
Transitioning agriculture and government policies will take time, but each of us can make daily choices to help the planet and ourselves. Eating nutritious, plant-based foods can help fortify our immune systems, thereby enhancing our ability to withstand various threats, including from contagious viruses like COVID-19.
Our disrespectful treatment of other animals and the earth has consequences, and when they are harmed, ultimately, so are we. All life on Earth is connected, and it’s in our interest to act accordingly.
Gene Baur is the president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, a national farm animal rescue and advocacy organization.
Original Source: https://thehill.com/