Our relationship with animals is at a tipping point. The dysfunctional and abusive nature in which we treat animals for human gain has manifested itself in COVID-19. Now is the time to listen, to react, and to make a change, because when #TheySufferWeSuffer.
For years, scientists across the world have warned us that the way in which we treat animals is a serious risk factor in the outbreak of zoonotic diseases. When animals are kept in cramped cages to suffer a life of endless cruelty, they become sick, weakened and vulnerable. This vulnerability creates the perfect conditions for disease to spread between animals. The exchange of pathogens between animals encourages mutation, and that mutation allows the virus to grow and spread into humans, creating a potential pandemic.
- To feed our growing demand for meat, eggs and dairy, we create megafarms that hold up to 125,000 chickens, surrounded by faeces and dying members of the flock.
- To feed our egos, we trade wild animals across the globe to be petted, skinned, kept as pets or hung on a wall as a trophy.
- To perpetuate an unwanted and dying industry, cats and dogs are stolen from families and taken from the streets for consumption.
- And to feed our love of fashion, we fuel the fur trade by importing £90 million worth of fur from intensively farmed mink, foxes and raccoon dogs to the UK every year.
We cannot hide from the truth and if we carry on acting with disregard to animals, future pandemics are inevitable . The connection between animal welfare and pandemic risk is clear, with animals now paying the price for our greed. Since the coronavirus outbreak we have seen over 400 mink farms across Europe, the USA and Canada experience outbreaks. In Denmark’s fur farms alone, 17 million mink, both infected and non-infected, were culled to prevent further outbreak. This virus has been a wake up call for us on a global scale, that the cruel treatment of animals isn’t something we can outrun.
As of today, there have been over 3 million human deaths due to COVID-19 - a dangerous symptom of an unjust and cruel relationship with animals. If we don’t tackle the root causes of the problem, it is a question of when, not if, the next pandemic will arise.