The newly released report from the UN Environment Programme and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) reassures what scientists have repeatedly conjectured: the risk of epidemics is linked to animal welfare and ecological factors.
It is now time to take the global COVID-19 pandemic as a starting point to reset outdated systems. FOUR PAWS therefore demands to end factory farming, to reduce global production and consumption of animal products by 50%, to end all agricultural subsidies that harm animals and the environment, to ensure that trade agreements only allow commercial exchanges that don’t have negative impacts on humans, animals and the environment. Additionally, we advocate for a ban of the trade of wild animals for private keeping, human consumption as well as use in traditional medicines and for the end of fur farming.
According to the scientific magazine Nature, 60 per cent of newly emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, 70 per cent of which probably originate from wild animals. The recent epidemics SARS-CoV 1, where pathogens jumped from bats to civet cats and then to humans, and MERS-CoV, which was transmitted from camels to humans, as well as Ebola and HIV are all zoonotic diseases.
Humans stress animals so much that they increasingly pass viruses on to humans. The stress is caused in different ways: On the one hand, wild animals are reared, kept and traded under completely unsanitary and cruel conditions. Photos from live animal markets and mink farms shared around the globe in the past weeks speak volumes. The World Health Organisation (WHO) now has the unique opportunity to ban these markets for good, and forever. But the responsibility also lies with governments worldwide which need to act. The Dutch government, for example, have already started to take appropriate steps to bring an end to fur farming, potentially by the end of this year.
Additionally, humans put stress on wild animals by interfering with their habitat. We need to stop deforesting vast areas of land because by destroying entire ecosystems we ultimately obliterate biodiversity. Researchers say, the less biodiversity there is, the greater the likelihood that viruses will be transmitted from animals to humans. Hence, it is more important than ever to protect and conserve species and their habitats.
However, not only wild animals can pass on zoonotic diseases. Factory farming is not only cruel, it is also a huge source of danger, as the most recent examples from slaughterhouses in Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States have shown. Farm animals in particular transmit a particularly high number of viruses to humans, with swine and bird flu just being two examples. So besides improving the protection of wildlife, we need an agricultural turnaround that again focuses on the dignity of animals and humans, a system change towards public support for animal welfare and fairness.
You can read more about the report, here.