By: George Kurzom
Abusing farm animals
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons (Afaq magazine):
It seems that everything that can be said about the Corona virus has already been said, and everything that can be written and analyzed has been done, to the last and finest details. Perhaps this is the reason why most people ignore the eco-biological issue associated with the deadly virus, which causes alarm and concern. We continue to be human beings who love luxury and have greed for food opulence, so much so that we are not bothered by the fact that the global pandemic is closely related to the patterns of our behavior towards animals and the way we tackle and consume them. Nevertheless, we do not ask ourselves for a moment whether the nature of the diets that we eat may contribute to the destruction of the planet, or even to the killing of its inhabitants.
It is striking that the infant mortality rate from the Corona virus is close to zero, while the death rate from bird flu (H5N1) is 50%. This means that we are a few steps away from a scant genetic mutation that could lead to an unimaginable tragedy. Here it is important to realize the following: according to the American Center for Disease Control (CDC), 75% of infectious diseases — specifically those with an increasing incidence rate — originate from animals. In general, 60% of infectious diseases came to us from animals that we have consumed or traded with, aka zoonotic diseases. Among these diseases, we find many types of influenza (bird flu, Spanish flu, and Hong Kong flu), in addition to mad cow disease, SARS, SERS, Ebola, Corona, and even AIDS.
Currently, researchers estimate that about two hundred or the other infectious diseases that have been documented over the past three decades are of animal origin. These figures indicate an unprecedented global animal reality by all standards: huge animal establishments and farms proliferate with animals (chickens, cows, etc.); huge numbers are cramped in high compactness in very narrow areas; and more than a hundred billion animals are slaughtered annually. Among the different sectors of dietary on animals, the poultry sector has emerged as the largest reservoir for dangerous diseases to humans. Of the 16 strains of influenza known to be “widespread bane”, 11 of them come from industrial poultry farms.
Two years ago, scientists studied 39 genetic mutations that allowed the virus to transform from one that only harms animals to one that also infects humans. The results were clear: 37 of these genetic mutations occurred in poultry farms. While the death rate from the Corona epidemic is about 4% (global) and is close to zero among children (according to the worldometer.info), the death rate from bird flu is 50% among children. Many epidemiologists believe that we are a few steps away from a scant genetic mutation that could lead to an accelerated and large outbreak of bird flu, but this time the tragedy will be on a scale that is difficult to even imagine. Is eating chicken breast for dinner worth risking losing one child (out of every two) to bird flu?
Huge Amount of Misleading and Soporific Propagandas
It is striking that in the last two decades, mankind has been under constant attack from dangerous infectious diseases, including “bird flu” (H5N1), “mad cow disease”, “SARS”, “swine flu” (H1N1), “Ebola” and finally Corona. As it is known, all those are viral diseases. “Mad cow disease" (or "Krotsfeld-Jacob disease") is damage to the nervous system caused by impaired proteins accumulating in the brain. With the exception of the SARS disease (which translates as “acute respiratory crisis”), the names of these diseases indicate their origins. Indeed, they have a common denominator in the animal husbandry patterns, where animals (chickens, cows, etc.) are cramped in high compactness in very narrow areas, and about a hundred billion are slaughtered annually.
The origins of these diseases are due to the patterns of animal husbandry on farms, just as in the case with "bird flu" that spread due to the so-called industrial poultry breeding, which is less costly and effortless. Surprisingly, the National Chicken Council in the United States determined the "vital space" for a single chicken to be 550 cm2, i.e. less than the area of an A4 paper sheet (which is about 620 cm2). In this tiny area, the chicken grows until it occupies all the space and become unable to move, thus be driven to the slaughter.
Research has shown that viruses carried by wild or cultivated poultry are not potent. However, when these (harmless) viruses are transferred to crowded industrial farms, they develop mutations and turn into virulent and infectious viruses. As confirmed by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), the immunity of poultry and birds raised by provincial and traditional methods, in small non-dense farms, is stronger than that of poultry and birds raised in very small and dense areas. We should also keep in mind that the natural diversity of provincial chickens constitutes protection from diseases, and prevents the virus from turning into a virulent state.
In order to serve the huge animal production sector and animal food industries in many western countries, especially the United States of America, the relevant ministries and government agencies are working to flood the market with misleading and soporific advertisements about fresh and processed meat, the importance and benefits, with the aim of influencing people's consumption patterns and their lives, and thus dragging them to consume as much meat and animal foods as possible (meat, eggs, dairy, and cheeses). Of course, they are supported by the huge advertising and information machine that works for the benefit of the major food industries. So, it is not surprising that the United States ranks first in the world in the consumption of animal products, and therefore it also ranks first in the number of infections and deaths from the Corona virus. It worth mentioning that estimates are about 10 billion animals is slaughtered annually in the United States. Consequently, the profits of this sector are constantly increasing, and with it the accompanying environmental and health tragedies, such as the significant increase in the amount of wastewater that contains medicine residues that reach water resources and crops.
The lessons are clear: Beyond the necessity of banning wet markets, international treaties banning the trade of exotic animals must be enforced, and all of the world's remaining forests should be declared nature reserves that should not be destroyed. In addition, one simple thing each of us can do is to keep our meat, milk, and eggs consumption to a minimum. This practice is not as extreme as claimed by vested interests and gluttonous consumerists who always like to make this claim. All we have to do is think about our next meal: should we be eating this dish now, or is there another, less risky cooking option? Reducing the consumption of animals and their products, and not necessarily completely stopping, is an important and beneficial action.
After achieving the reduction of consumption of meat products on the individual level, which is the easy part, the next step is for the masses to demand a change in the structure of our economy and our food policy, as part of people's demands to improve public health.
In terms of health, reducing meat consumption and switching to vegetarian alternatives does not cause any harm to the amount of protein required for humans, and greatly reduces the consumption of saturated fats, which are an important cause of heart diseases. We can be satisfied with eating meat once a week at most, which will not only improve our health conditions, especially the state of the veins, blood vessels, and heart, but also contribute to improving our local and global climatic conditions (methane gas produced in the digestive system of cows and others in animal farms, is responsible for not less than 18% of the amount of greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere that causes Global Warming). The more plant-based and less animal-based food we eat the greater our contribution to protecting the environment. In addition, diets relying primarily on plant-based foods areplant-based foods ixt meal: S a necessary first step to reduce the increasingly large expenditures on health and environmental disasters.
The fundamental issue that many are ignorant of is that even if we assume that a person's environmental behavior was ideal in all respects, the mere fact that his or her meals contain a large amount of animal products leads to an increase in his or her ecological footprint by 75%.
Translated by: Carol Khoury