Meat Kills: Lessons from Covid19

Covid19 has been met with frantic efforts to slow down the disease, turning the world upside down. But should we also learn from it, so that something similar or significantly worse does not take place in the future?

 

The Meaty Virus

HIV, Ebola, SARS, swine-flu, bird-flu. As many have pointed out, these are examples of viruses that most likely entered the human body via meat, be it that of a chimpanzee, a bat, a civet, a pig or a chicken. Now the new Coronavirus can be added on to the list, as it most likely made its way into the veins of the global human population through the consumption of animal flesh. As a result, China has banned – at least for now – the selling of wild animals for food. Shenzhen – a large Chinese city – also banned the consumption of dog and cat meat. These are steps in the right direction. However, they are only baby steps when considering the risks lurking in all animal industries.

Kiinatori

In the Western psyche, it is easy to assume that pandemic diseases can only come from exotic animals, less familiar to the palates of beef-consuming Americans or Europeans. Yet, the risk is present in all farming and meat-production. As swine-flu and bird-flu exemplify, also “ordinary” animal agriculture is a potential nesting place of lethal diseases.

Let’s pause for a while. A huge amount of stressed animals with weak immune-systems are forced to live in overcrowded barns whilst they are fed oceans of antibiotics, thus allowing bacteria to build up resistance. Can you hear the alarm bells, not simply sounding, but banging?

Indeed, animal agriculture is an ideal breeding-spot for new, more deadly bacteria and viruses to mutate, fester and grow. The sizes of animal farms have increased enormously, and one single farm can house hundreds of thousands of animals. As a consequence of this, density has sky-rocketed, as staggeringly large amounts of animals have to be fitted to already cramped conditions. High density means that the animals are evermore stressed, frustrated and anxious, trying to survive in what can only be termed a hellishly unnatural environment, which again compromises their immune-systems and makes them prone to disease. As a final piece in this deadly puzzle, (depending on the country) the animals are routinely fed large quantities of antibiotics in order to combat stress-induced illnesses and secure growth.

Korona 3
Image: Oikeutta eläimille

Let’s pause for a while. A huge amount of stressed animals with weak immune-systems are forced to live in overcrowded barns whilst they are fed oceans of antibiotics, thus allowing bacteria to build up resistance. Can you hear the alarm bells, not simply sounding, but banging?

Unsurprisingly, industrial animal agriculture has been named a potential source of future epidemics and pandemics. Eerily, just in 2017 over 200 relevant experts signed a letter directed at the World Health Organization, warning of the immanent danger of zoonotic pandemics caused by animal agriculture. One of these experts, Scott Weathers, writes: “Just as WHO has bravely confronted tobacco and soda companies, it must seek to reduce the growth of factory farming as an industry and discourage high rates of meat consumption”. It is only a matter of time, when another pandemic floods human societies – perhaps with even more lethal potency than Covid19.

 

Meat Kills

We know that animal industries are a major cause behind climate change, and thereby a substantial threat to, not only the nonhuman world, but also Homo Sapiens. It has stolen enormous areas of land from wild animals and spews huge quantities of methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, thereby heating up our planet. From the perspective of the environment, large-scale animal industries and meat-eating are simply destructive, and thereby they are destructive also for human beings – we will not survive on a sweltering planet ravished by droughts and fires.

It is enormously frustrating to acknowledge that as a result of someone wanting to dine on animal flesh, possibly millions of people will die and many more fall into the grips of economic despair caused by the virus.

Eating meat is therefore damaging for the life of this planet. It is also damaging for human health on a more immediate level. We have known for a long time that large quantities of animal products will block your veins, increase cancer-rates and diabetes, and lead to untimely deaths. Covid19 reminds us that eating meat can also destroy the health of by-standers. It is enormously frustrating to acknowledge that as a result of someone wanting to dine on animal flesh, possibly millions of people will die and many more fall into the grips of economic despair caused by the virus.

Covid

This is the last chance to learn that animal farming and meat-consumption can lead to pandemics, which cause mass misery and death. Yet, due to ideological reasons (for the majority, meat-eating is part of their worldview and identity), many refuse to recognize these risks. Indeed, comments pointing toward the same conclusion as this blog have all too frequently been met with anger, as if it was somehow wrong to discuss the source of the current health crisis. One can but hope that more people will be able to take off their ideological lenses and finally acknowledge that meat kills – not only nonhuman but also human animals.

Many think that meat-eating is “a personal choice”. Yet, this is a concretely catastrophic error. Eating meat is not a personal choice, when you consider the treatment and moral value of those animals, who are being eaten – causing suffering and death to tens of billions of animals each year is not a matter of “personal choice”. In the recent decades, climate change has added to this case by showing that, considered also from the perspective of the environment, meat-eating is not a personal choice. Covid19 pushes another very real nail through the coffin and makes it painful clear that meat-eating is far from a personal choice already, because it kills other humans.

 

Before It’s too Late

We are at war against our own selfishness and the violent ignorance, with which we have treated other species. Only winning that war will ultimately save us.

If we want to ensure the survival of ourselves and others species, it is not enough to minimize the destruction triggered by Covid19. In order to make sure that we do not fall into an even more powerful spiral of mass illness and death, we have to also eradicate the causes of such pandemics. Instead of merely minimising symptoms, we have to get rid of the disease behind the disease – animal industries based on human egoism and greed. Bringing such industries to an end would be an enormous gift to the environment, other animals, and the good of our own species.

The French President Emmanuel Macron stated during the early stages of the European outbreak that we are “at war with an invisible enemy”, namely the virus. This claim is mistaken. The real enemy are the greedy and destructive habits of human beings, which allowed this virus to become a pandemic in the first place. We are at war against our own selfishness and the violent ignorance, with which we have treated other species. Only winning that war will ultimately save us.

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