What the Cluck? What could this all be about? Maybe an independent butcher who works for Tesco, my growing excitement which arose when KFC reopened, or some spontaneous trip to a farm where I came across a load of chickens. Wrong! Though ironically all three of these points are indirectly relevant to this. But instead this is going to be a little more sinister, as instead I am intending to cover why there have been certain (cough) outbreaks of this (cough) virus in places which cater for those who like to might like eating fried chicken and the like.
Short disclaimer- I am not having a bash at those who choose to eat meat, but rather the barbaric (and dangerous) practices of the meat industry. Because not only is it immensely cruel to the poor animals who involuntarily suffer as a consequence but less obviously, these practices pose a threat to the wellbeing of humans, due to a number of reasons. This post is going to be focused on how this exploitation might lead to outbreaks of various epidemics, the most recent being Covid-19. Now there is clearly evidence in favour of the claim that the exploitation of animals is leading to further outbreaks of covid-19, and while it’s quite possible that the evidence isn’t that clear cut to what I am claiming, there is too much evidence to dismiss this as being just coincidental therefore the meat industry ought to get….. well another roasting (sigh).
Where would be a better place to begin, than starting from the origins off this virus? As it is widely known that Covid-19 originated from a “Wet Market” in Wuhan. Brutal is it’s name “Wet market”, which is attributed to it from the blood that soaks the stalls’ floors after live animals are killed once purchased.” Now the “Oxford learner dictionaries” definition of this is “a market selling fresh meat, fish and vegetables” where “traditional wet markets” sell meat which has been “freshly slaughtered.” The case in Wuhan, alike numerous ones, was just this- with live animals kept alive(in very cruel conditions) before being ready to be killed, or “freshly slaughtered”. And while this all sounds grotesque, how did this actually become the bathing zone for a global pandemic?
Now according to experts, in this particular market there was “cross contamination” which “allowed coronavirus to spread from animals to humans easily”. This is where in Countries including China, India and Vietnam, “animals such as deer, raccoons, crocodiles, and dogs are shown living in filthy conditions, suffering from dehydration, starvation and disease.” This barbaric practice not only leads to a “living hell” for these animals, but the close cross contamination creates the “perfect breeding ground for zoonotic diseases like COVID-19.” Now you may think this is still coincidental, but a report conducted from zoonotic diseases showed that 3 out of every 4 new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals.” Now this includes the outbreak of the influenza pandemic (commonly known as the Spanish flu) in 1918 which killed an estimated 50 million people which was more than any other illness in recorded history in the short time frame. This sparked “new viruses coming from it” which “became common in pigs” where the virus would sometimes spread from pigs to humans.” Then HIV has been traced back to a chimp version “which was when they hunted these animals for meat, getting exposed to their infected blood.” Meanwhile SARS, another type of coronavirus, is been known to have “originated by half a dozen animal species, including pigs.” This suggests that animals being so close to each other, treated in these inhumane ways, could well be behind many pandemics which have occurred.
You are absolutely correct to think that these practices are beyond disgusting, however many of us are unaware of the extent of these cruel practices elsewhere, for instance take the western world. Take the USA, where to start with, there are still 3 states where animal cruelty isn’t even a crime! However the states where this is allegedly illegal are really far from free of inhumane practices. Factory farms are dotted around all over the USA, wheere I couldn’t think of a more crude way of how animals could be treated, compared to how they are treated inside these. Just as an example, take the breeding of pork: where within just over a week of a piglet being born; their teeth are removed without any pain relief, they’re castrated and they have their tails cut off. Then these are kept in heavily overcrowded conditions, increasing the risks of transmission of certain viruses. And these are animals with the equilivent intelligence to a three year old. However if you were to take a stroll near a village in remote Western England and be confronted by the impressive amount of cows and sheep happily grazing and chanting to one another, you might think that the UK doesn’t have a problem concerning meat production. However what you don’t see is the “8000 livestock mega-farms” where millions and millions of animals (mainly poultry) are kept in the most crowded conditions, before being killed for food. And this doesn’t look as if it is getting any better either, with “a 26% rise in intensive factory farming in six years.” Therefore it would be arrogant to solely blame China for the hygiene issues associated with the meat industry, simply because- most western countries are guilty too… Moreover the assumption that most Chinese people are fond of eating dog meat and the like is an absolute myth! When in-fact the thought of eating dog meat “upsets many Chinese nationals”; with 70% saying they have NEVER eaten it, while with over half believing that the trade should be banned.
Not only are these practices barbaric and to me unjustifiable, but they are a potential outbreak zone for diseases which can clearly make humans become ill. “A chicken plant in Wales” had to stop production after there was an outbreak seeing 175 employees contracting the virus. Meanwhile lockdown measures had to be tightened in a German county after “a large increase of covid-19 cases linked to the virus” where over 1500 workers contracted it. This suggests that there might be a strong link between the produce of meat and Covid-19. This is explained partly due to the difficulty of social distancing in these plants, as well as how “Many employers are refusing to provide any financial support for those presenting with symptoms.” While Professor Rowland Kao, a professor of veterinary epidemiology and data science at the University of Edinburgh says “low temperatures have also been shown to result in higher rates of transmission of influenza in experimental studies, and to improve the survival of other coronaviruses such as MERS-CoV. While this is not proven for Covid-19, similar mechanisms may apply.”
But while this might well be part of it, I believe there is a much greater underlining reason as to why so many of these animal places have been linked to outbreaks of Coronavirus. We already know that most diseases which become transmissible in humans come from animals. And this is fairly logical, thinking that most species on the earth aren’t actually human. It is said that Ebola originated from monkeys, while MERS was linked to Camels. Furthermore experts have warned that human activity could lead to more of these zoodic diseases. For example Inger Andersen, UNEP executive director, states “the science is clear that if we keep exploiting wildlife…then we can expect to see a steady stream of these diseases jumping from animals to humans in the years ahead.” So by looking at it this way, we can see that the way to prevent further epidemics is by reducing or better still stopping the practice of factory farming as well as taking action to prevent further effects of other human activity which can cause further disease which is also linked to climate change- take the bubonic plague in Madagascar which is “spread by rodents fleeting wildfires.”
Finally this has really only delved into one issue with these brutal practices, nevertheless as touched upon a moment back, there are many concerns relating to the exploitation of animals as well as links to outbreaks of epidemics. From issues relating to climate change, food security, growing immunity to antibiotics not to mention links to the Coronavirus, hopefully you can see why the problems with the meat industry need to be further adressed.