A new Food and Pandemics report from ProVeg International explores the connections between COVID-19 and our global animal-based food system. Analyzing the relationship between animal farming and past global disease outbreaks, as well as the role of animal exploitation in the current crisis, the report unequivocally concludes that “using animals for food is the most risky human behaviour in relation to pandemics, and one of the most risky behaviours in relation to the long-term survival of human society.”
Part I of the report lays out how our food choices create the necessary conditions for zoonotic pandemics via three mutually reinforcing practices:
(2) The use of wild animals for food
(3) The use of farmed animals for food
Analyzing each of these drivers, the report demonstrates how the risk of future zoonotic outbreaks (as well as the severity of their impacts) unavoidably increases in response to demand for meat, dairy, and eggs, and the globalization of these industries. The report strongly urges a shift toward plant-based diets in order to prevent future pandemics.
“Transforming the global food system by replacing animal-based products with plant-based and cultured alternatives provides a multiproblem solution – preventing not only future pandemics but also helping to mitigate major parallel crises such as climate change, world hunger, and antibiotics resistance.”
The ProVeg publication coincides with a new report from the United Nations, Preventing the Next Pandemic, which identifies animal farming as one of the top drivers of zoonotic disease outbreaks:
“’The primary risks for future spillover of zoonotic diseases are deforestation of tropical environments [of which animal agriculture is the number one driver] and large-scale industrial farming of animals, specifically pigs and chickens at high density,” says disease ecologist Thomas Gillespie, one of the reviewers of the report. “We are at a crisis point. If we don’t radically change our attitudes toward the natural world, things are going to get much, much worse. What we are experiencing now will seem mild by comparison.”