How Eating Animals Puts Us All at Risk

April 28, 2020

COVID-19 is the disease caused by coronavirus, a type of virus that first originated in other species. Recent catastrophic viruses and diseases like SARS, MERS, bird flu, swine flu, Ebola, and HIV also started as infections in animals that moved to humans. 

According to the CDC, about 60% of all human diseases and 75% of all emerging infectious diseases from the last 50 years are zoonotic, meaning they originated in other species. Most of these zoonoses come from animals we eat - pigs, chickens, cows, goats, sheep and camels. 

The cause of the zoonotic diseases is contact with animals; contact that is intensified with deforestation and urbanization of wild areas, contaminated food or water, and eating animals. Coronavirus is thought to have first been transmitted from an animal to a human in a wet market in Wuhan, China. Researchers believe the virus mutated from a strain that's common in animals. 

What makes these markets dangerous is that they are a breeding ground for viruses to mutate and transmit from one species to another. The stress of captivity weakens the animals' immune systems, and that combined with the physical proximity and open slaughter; the opportunity is created for viruses to mutate and jump hosts. When that happens, a new strain of a virus is created, and without immunity or a vaccine to the novel virus, it can lead us to a pandemic. 

Although this strain of coronavirus likely originated in a wet market in China, its important to note that China is not the only country with live slaughter markets. These markets can be found in most countries, including the United States.

Increasing demand for meat and more varieties of meat for human consumption globally has introduced more risks. Most emerging diseases have been transmitted from animal to human, and most typically, from humans eating animals. Animals can carry bacteria, viruses, and pathogens that are minimally dangerous to their own species but can wreak havoc if transferred to humans. There are several other known coronaviruses present in animals that have not yet been transferred to humans, but could pose a threat in the future. 

Lifelong anthropologist Jane Goodall writes that these problems will continue if we do not change our relationship with nature. “Our too-close relationship with wild animals in the markets, or when we use them for entertainment, has unleashed the terror and misery of new viruses. Viruses that exist in animals without harming them but mutate into other forms to infect us with new diseases like Ebola, SARS, MERS, and now, the coronavirus,” she said.

“We have amazing brains. We’re capable of love and compassion for each other. Let us also show love and compassion for the animals who are with us on this planet. Let us all live in peace and harmony together.”

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V-dog is a vegan owned and operated family business serving up wholesome kibble and treats since 2005. Our nutritious products are a huge hit with our doggie customers, and of course our farmed animal friends. Learn more about vegan diets for dogs here.

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