Experiencing a global pandemic like COVID-19 has left us with similar feelings of fear, disbelief and despair. The world is actively going through the pandemic and trying to heal from it at the same time. But imagine right after we’re through, another global pandemic comes in. According to a report published by Proveg, a leading food awareness organisation, experts expect outbreaks to be more frequent in the future.
As horrible as COVID-19 has been for the world, it still is a disease with a low death percentage. Future outbreaks, however, might not. Remember the swine flu with its 60 percent death rate. A future outbreak with swine flu’s death rate and COVID-19 spread rate might be the end of the world as we know it.
What swine flu and COVID-19 have in common is that they are both zoonotic diseases, meaning they are transmitted to humans through animals. Whether it’s from domestic animals as in the case of swine flu or wild ones like COVID-19, zoonotic diseases are a huge concern for humankind.
Currently, the world is naturally focused on a cure for COVID-19 and ways to relieve the negative effects of the crisis on the global population. However, we need to also think about how we can avoid a future crisis like this. Because when it comes to crises, pandemics, and natural disasters, prevention is often cheaper and more effective than relief.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20, it’s easy to talk about how we could have prevented this crisis. Hindsight is also unproductive if we don’t think about how we can use what we’ve learned from one crisis to prevent future ones.
Here’s what we’ve learned so far from COVID-19 and past epidemics, there are three ways animals as food lead to the spread of infectious diseases
- Destruction of ecosystems and loss of biodiversity due to animal agriculture.
Animal agriculture is a major contributor to environmental destruction, pushing wild animals out of their habitats and closer to humans. Wild animals getting more and more contact with humans means more opportunities for viruses to spread, causing the development of pandemics.
- Eating wild animals
COVID-19 is assumed to have originated from bats and pangolins but not from a natural run-in with one of these animals. The contact that lead to the spread of the disease is assumed to be through food markets where wild animals are sold. Every year, millions of wild animals are taken from their habitats or are bred in unnatural settings to be sold in these markets. The production, sale and consumption of these animals create conditions for the viruses in animals to jump through species. Some of the viruses that have been transmitted to humans from wild animals include HIV, Ebola, SARS and, of course, COVID-19
- Eating farmed animals
Although COVID-19 didn't come from farmed animals. The horrible conditions these animals are bred in also create ideal environments for viruses to emerge and spread to humans. Diseases like smallpox, influenza and measles have all originated through contact with domesticated animals
We have to seriously start thinking about our food choices. Occurrence and spread of diseases are only one of the destructive effects of how we raise, sell and consume animals as food. According to Proveg, "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."
If you'd like to support Proveg in their effort to prevent future pandemics, halt climate change, mitigate world hunger and antibiotics resistance through food awareness you can donate to them below in a few simple steps.