June 22, 2020
Nowadays, we can see that the COVID 19 pandemic has had an immediate impact on people’s food buying, and it’s clear that folks are now making the connection between intensive factory farming and public health concerns. Yes, the world we know is changing, and increasing pieces of evidence show that, worldwide, we are ready to change our consumption practices.
More doctors are calling for the end of factory farming to prevent future pandemics like COVID 19, as it is not uncommon for them to find themselves treating patients with new bacterial infections for which they have no effective antibiotics. In Europe we can see countries like Greece establishing its first fully vegan hotel, Berlin is called “the most vegan-friendly metropolis within the world” boasting around six hundred veggie restaurants spherical the capital, today Italians say they are ready to decrease their red meat consumption while Bristol in the UK wants to be the new “international-extensive vegan capital.” In Asia, 82% of Southeast Asian Gen Z claim they prefer products from sustainable or ethical brands, and 58% of Chinese Millennials are willing to pay more for ethical brands.
Could our BBQ chicken wings or Chop Suey be the next big health risk?
More than 90 percent of the meat we consume today is produced in industrial-scale factory farms, which provide the perfect conditions for the generation of new infections with epidemic and pandemic potential. Factory farming also uses antibiotics that contributed to a dramatic rise in the number of antibiotic-resistant infections affecting humans. Zoonotic diseases, like Covid-19, are those that can spread between animals and humans and worldwide these zoonotic diseases have been the cause of many historic outbreaks like H1N1 and Ebola.
But does eating less meat reduce the occurrence of deadly disease outbreaks?
According to the UN Environment Program, the most important factor is the increasing amount of close contact between humans and animals like pigs, bats, or birds allowing pathogens to jump between species. Some commentators are blaming Asia and China for Covid-19, but they forgot to mention that for all of the recent major disease outbreaks the causes are coming first from tampering with animals and their habitats and today’s Industrial-scale factory farms all over the world are like a ticking time bomb.
In April 2020 in Vietnam, the Foreign Agricultural service from USDA (United States Department of agriculture) reported: “Vietnam first detected African Swine Fever (ASF) in early 2019, with the disease spreading to all 63 provinces throughout the year. By December 2019, over 5.9 million pigs were killed, accounting for about 23 percent of the entire swineherd. According to Vietnam Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD): the ASF outbreak was starting to be controlled. To date, 44 of 63 provinces had gone more than 30 days without an ASF cases. While the speed of the ASF spread and the pace of the herd decline have appeared to slow down, concerns remain over the risks of ASF outbreaks and hog price hikes”…
Last March 2020 according to the report of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam, currently 37 outbreaks of avian influenza, including 32 caused by the A / H5N6 strain and five by the A / H5N1 strain have been reported in 11 cities and provinces of the country. At least 137,180 poultry have been slaughtered.
Today Asia and, more specifically China, are among the world’s major exporters of poultry, but its poultry industry is not wholly Chinese-owned. After the recession of 2008, for example, American-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.
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. Europe and the US – the largest global exporters of pigs – are also the largest exporters of swine flu. Today nine countries in the EU continue to be affected.
The evidence is now strong that the way meat is produced – and not just in Asia – contributes to pandemics. Knowing that, will this change our habits, our notions about this ‘Foggy Notion Farm’, the agricultural production, land use, and conservation?