Many of us in animal and environmental activism have seen the writing on the wall for years. Animal agriculture, in all of its manifestations — from intensive pig and chicken farming to the enormously lucrative trade of hunting, breeding and slaughtering wildlife — is a ticking time bomb. Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, we are therefore stunned by the lack of reporting on the source of the problem. Finally, after weeks of sparse coverage, we are beginning to see the issue come to light through figures that have captured the world’s attention, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who told Fox & Friends, “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,” he said. “I don’t know what else has to happen to get us to appreciate that.”
Yet the difference in “wet markets” in China and here is one of species. Otherwise the conditions are equally gruesome in the same kind of markets here. Calling for a shutdown there and ignoring what’s in our own backyards is folly. Any serious attempt to tackle the problem of future pandemics requires a comprehensive shutdown of the entire slaughter industry which serves as an incubator of suffering and pathogens, both of the viral and antibiotic-resistant bacterial kind.
Since the pandemic began, we have been compiling sources and statements from experts on this connection between animal agriculture and disease outbreaks. We hope you find the following useful.
What the experts say…
“The greatest risk for the emergence of new pandemic strains comes when poultry, pigs and humans are in close proximity, as occurs in intensive farms and livestock markets in the Far East.” — Dr. Noel JC Snell (2004) Novel and re-emerging respiratory infections, Expert Review of Anti-infective Therapy, 2:3, 405-412
“…pigs and humans have very similar immune systems, making it easy for viruses to cross between the two species, as happened with the Nipah virus outbreak in Malaysia in 1998. Indeed, just three years before the Covid-19 outbreak began, tens of thousands of pigs in four factory farms in Qingyuan county in Guangdong, less than 100 km from the site where the SARS outbreak originated in 2003, died from an outbreak of a new, lethal coronavirus strain (SADS) that turned out to be 98 percent identical to a coronavirus found in horseshoe bats in a nearby cave11 . Luckily transmission to humans did not occur, but subsequent laboratory tests demonstrated that such transmission could have been possible.” (GRAIN) — New research suggests industrial livestock, not wet markets, might be origin of Covid-19
“You’re talking about HIV, Nipah [virus], Marburg virus, Ebola virus, influenzas, these are all what we call zoonosis — these are infectious agents that originated in wild animals and moved into people. “If you take wild animals and you put them into a market with domestic animals or other animals, where there’s an opportunity for a virus to jump species, to adapt from a bat to a small mammal-like a rodent or a ferret, and then jump into humans, you are creating a highway — a superhighway for viruses…” “We can’t do this anymore. We can’t tolerate this anymore.” (CBS News)— Dr. Ian Lipkin, epidemiologist at Columbia University
“Zoonotic viruses almost always leap to humans directly from our livestock or from wildlife, the slaughter and hunting of which bring susceptible human hosts in particularly close contact with live animals and their infected tissues and fluids. Both farmed and caged wild animals create the perfect breeding ground for zoonotic diseases.” (Wired) — Liz Specht, PhD, associate director of science and technology at the Good Food Institute.
“Our objective was to quantify the impact of LPM [live poultry market] closure in reducing bird-to-human transmission of avian influenza A(H7N9) virus.” “There were 85 confirmed influenza A(H7N9) cases in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Huzhou and Nanjing out of a total of 130 confirmed cases in mainland China by 7 June 2013. Closure of LPMs in those four cities reduced the risk of human infections by 97%–99% (range 68%–100%) in each city.” — Impact of live poultry market closure in reducing bird-to-human transmission of avian influenza A(H7N9) virus: an ecological study (Lancet)
“Disease ecologists argue that viruses and other pathogens are also likely to move from animals to humans in the many informal markets that have sprung up to provide fresh meat to fast-growing urban populations around the world. Here, animals are slaughtered, cut up and sold on the spot.” (Guardian) — John Vidal, the Guardian’s environment editor
“We invade tropical forests and other wild landscapes, which harbor so many species of animals and plants — and within those creatures, so many unknown viruses. We cut the trees; we kill the animals or cage them and send them to markets. We disrupt ecosystems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it.” (New York Times) — David Quammen, science writer and author of “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic.”
“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.” (Guardian) — Laura Spinney, science journalist, novelist and author. Her latest book is Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World
“If we want to forestall the evolution of ever-newer, and possibly deadlier, human-adapted viruses, live animal markets must be permanently shut down. Until the Chinese government outlaws these markets, until factory farms housing millions of animals are eliminated, until we take the inevitable logic of disease evolution into account, novel, and potentially deadly, human diseases will continue to arise. Again. And again. And again.” — Wendy Orent, an anthropologist specializing in health and pandemics, author of author of “Plague: The Mysterious Past and Terrifying Future of the World’s Most Dangerous Disease” and “Ticked: The Battle Over Lyme Disease in the South.”
“The origin of the new coronavirus is the wildlife sold illegally in a Wuhan seafood market,” said Gao Fu, director of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, at a press briefing in January. (Newsweek)
“…zoonotic EIDs represent an increasing and very significant threat to global health. It also highlights the importance of understanding the factors that increase contact between wildlife and humans in developing predictive approaches to disease emergence. (Nature)— Kate Jones, chair of Ecology and Biodiversity at UCL who led a team of researchers to identify 335 diseases that emerged between 1960 and 2004, at least 60% of which came from animals.
“We have created densely packed populations where alongside us are bats and rodents and birds, pets and other living things. That creates intense interaction and opportunities for things to move from species to species.” — Eric Fevre, chair of Veterinary Infectious Diseases at the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Infection and Global Health
“It’s [viral pandemics] about the way we are pushing into the last wild spaces on our planet. When we burn and plow into the Amazon rainforest so that we can have cheap land for ranching, when the last of the African bush gets converted to farms, when wild animals in China are hunted to extinction, human beings come into contact with wildlife populations that they have never come into contact with before…” “So as long as we keep making our remote places less remote, the outbreaks are going to keep coming.” (TED) — global health expert Alanna Shaikh
“We fully expect the arrival of pandemic influenza; we can expect large-scale human mortalities; we can expect other pathogens with other impacts. A disease like Ebola is not easily spread. But something with a mortality rate of Ebola spread by something like measles would be catastrophic.“ — Thomas Gillespie, associate professor in Emory University’s Department of Environmental Sciences
“It was not a surprise at all. And I think it was not a surprise to many scientists.” — Peter Li, Associate Professor, University of Houston-Downtown and expert on China’s animal trade, speaking to VOX about the Coronavirus connection to live animal markets
Journalist goes undercover at “wet markets”, where the Coronavirus started, 60 Minutes Australia
Senator Booker Is Right about Factory Farming, National Review
One Root Cause of Pandemics Few People Think About, Scientific American
Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching (book), Michael Greger, M.D.