Meat Is Mayhem
Until the COVID-19 pandemic, politicians largely ignored scientists’ health warnings about the meat industry. We must use the knowledge we already have to transform our agricultural and food systems, or face the prospect of a prolonged epoch of contagion, fear, and economic stagnation.
BERLIN – The industrial meat system is out of control. Not only does it contribute to the destruction of the climate, biodiversity, soil, and forests, but it also poses a direct threat to human health. Until the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization’s warnings about zoonotic diseases – caused by pathogens that are transmitted from animals to humans – were largely ignored. The same is true of antibiotic resistance – another global health threat closely connected to meat production.
The World Organization for Animal Health estimates that 60% of all infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic. According to research published last year in Nature, this number will continue to increase as the world population rises and consumption patterns change. Changes in land use, such as deforestation and conversion to farmland, are also key factors influencing the transmission of zoonotic diseases to humans.
Human activity now affects 75% of the Earth’s land surface, with agricultural land – fields, pastures, or meadows – covering more than a third of the planet, and these numbers are growing rapidly. By intervening in and unbalancing natural ecosystems and shrinking wildlife habitats, we are disrupting the symbiotic relationship that has existed between humans and nature for thousands of years.