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David Wiebers and Valery Feigin, What the COVID-19 crisis is telling humanity


Wiebers & Feigin’s (W&F’s) target article warns of the zoonotic threat to human health from factory farming and urges phasing out meat production and consumption, for the benefit of both human and nonhuman animals. This commentary focuses on the physical and emotional suffering of farmed animals. This varies by species, production system and geographic location, but suffering is there throughout all stages of production — breeding, housing, transport, usage and slaughter. Ubiquitous monitoring of all facilities where farmed animals are kept, with surveillance cameras recording all phases of production would help reduce some forms of suffering. Other forms are caused by accidents, disease outbreaks and all the “collateral damage” from factory farming. Nor can efforts to improve the welfare of farmed animals be confined to “merely” minimizing their suffering. Their lives need to be made not just bearable but worth living too. It is unrealistic to imagine, however, that all the suffering inflicted on farmed animals by industrial practices and human callousness can be eliminated by efforts to improve their welfare: Welfare measures urgently need to be undertaken and promoted, but they must not be regarded complacently, as if they were a panacea. A panacea would be to phase out animal production, as W&F have proposed, under the imminent zoonotic threat of COVID-19 and its successors.

Author Biography

Jean-Jacques Kona-Boun taught applied research on large and small animals in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Montreal and is now chief of anesthesiology at DMV Veterinary Center in Montreal. His research and publications are on pain and analgesia. Website