The planet is in a global health emergency exacting enormous medical and economic tolls. It is imperative for us as asociety and species to focus and reflect deeply upon what this and other related human health crises are telling us about our role in these increasingly frequent events and about what we can do to prevent them in the future.
Cause: It is human behavior that is responsible for the vast majority of zoonotic diseases that jump the species barrier from animals to humans: (1) hunting, capture, and sale of wild animals for human consumption, particularly in live-animal markets; (2) massive overcrowding of animals for human consumption in stressful and unhygienic industrial “factory farm” environments; (3) large-scale close confinement of animals for human consumption, a major direct cause of mounting antibiotic resistance; (4) vast numbers of wildlife species threatened with extinction from habitat incursion and destruction.
Action: Intensive confinement of animals in factory farm operations should be discontinued worldwide for the sake of animals, humans, and the environment, and we should rapidly evolve to eating other forms of protein that are safer for humans, including plant-based meat alternatives and meat produced by culturing animal cells. Additional investment in plant-based agriculture to grow crops to feed humans rather than livestock for human consumption will feed more people while utilizing far less land and water, allowing for the preservation of vital ecosystems for innumerable species.
Rather than simply attempting to react to crises like COVID-19 after death and destruction are already upon us, we need to address the fundamental underlying causes and act now to prevent the numerous disasters that are literally waiting to happen.
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