Updated: Nov 7, 2020
COVID-19. Swine flu. Bird flu. They have something in common besides being deadly diseases: their origin. All three are zoonotic, meaning they originated in animals. Specifically, animals intended for human consumption.
While some have been quick to condemn Chinese wet markets, this is hypocritical if we are unwilling to take a look at our own animal agriculture industry in the United States and other Western countries. Cows, chickens, and pigs on today’s farms are raised in horrifically overcrowded and filthy conditions, crammed in pens by the thousand. This creates a perfect breeding ground for disease, the diseases then transferred to the humans who eat the animals, resulting in pandemics like COVID-19.
It gets worse.
Because most animals intended for human consumption are administered antibiotics excessively and indiscriminately, another threat has emerged: antibiotic resistance. Due to antibiotic overuse by the animal agriculture industry, bacteria are becoming resistant to the antibiotics that once treated them. Over 700,000 people die from antibiotic resistance annually and if we continue on this trajectory, the number will only grow. Things like UTIs and STDs could become fatal. Surgeries like hip and knee replacements and dental work have the potential to become dangerous. Essentially, this results in medical advancement regressing by a century.
Still, there are solutions. While the world going plant-based overnight may be unlikely, the government can take many preventative measures. These measures include desubsidizing the animal agriculture industry (which relies heavily on government subsidies), subsidizing plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, and grains, reevaluating national nutritional recommendations (as Canada has already done), and mandating plant-based options be available in all public institutions (as Portugal has done).
This is just a start, but for all those hurt by this pandemic, who never want to experience another again, I encourage you: reevaluate your diet. The ‘personal choice’ to eat meat is not personal at all; every individual choice impacts every human being on the planet.