COVID-19 has been a miserable, even tragic, experience.
Another killer pandemic? It’s certainly not something we want to experience again anytime soon, or ever.
But here’s the good news. If we’re serious about greatly reducing the chances of a second, quite possibly worse, pandemic, the solution is simple and comes with wonderful side effects.
A transition to plant-based diets on the individual level, and away from animal agriculture on the societal level, will not only help prevent another pandemic – it will improve your health, spare animals from suffering, reduce environmental degradation, and even lessen world hunger.
A little history is in order.
Throughout most of human history, there were no epidemic diseases.
“No one got the flu, not even the common cold, until about 10,000 years ago,” said Dr. Michael Greger, author of Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching.
What happened 10,000 years ago? We began domesticating animals.
“When we brought domesticated animals to the barnyard, they brought their diseases with them,” Greger said.
Measles, for instance, has killed 200 million people over the course of history. It entered into the human population from cattle, in the form of the rinderpest virus.
The flu, which takes the form of many viruses, originally came from domesticated ducks.
Even the common cold came from horses.
In the mid-20th century, scientists developed vaccines to slow and even stop the spread of some of the worst infectious diseases. Measles. Polio. Smallpox.
But in the last 35 years or so, humanity has been visited by an unprecedented variety of frightening virus outbreaks.
AIDS. Ebola. Mad cow disease. SARS. MERS. The swine flu. And now COVID-19.
In addition to their lethality, these viral outbreaks have something else in common. All of these diseases are zoonotic, meaning they spilled over from animals into the human population.
In fact, all of them have come about because of the confinement, slaughter and consumption of animals. Yes, even AIDS.
HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, made the jump from animals to people when someone slaughtered a chimpanzee for meat. The chimpanzee was carrying the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV).
Fortunately, we have the power to greatly reduce our chances of creating another pandemic.
“To prevent future outbreaks like COVID-19 or worse, we have to treat planetary, animal and human health as inseparable,” Viveca Morris, executive director of the Law, Ethics & Animals Program at Yale Law School, wrote recently in The Los Angeles Times. “This will require … changes to business as usual.
“To date, we’ve operated under the fallacies that medicine and ecology can be understood independently and that the conditions that impact the animal kingdom are separate from those that impact humans.”
Preventing future outbreaks will require some dietary modifications. Positive ones. Eating plants, not animals.
In the words of University of Oxford zoologist Cynthia Schuck, “Our purchasing and dietary choices can build a safer future for generations to come.”
For more information on the connection between pandemics and meat-eating, and for free resources on transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, visit JewishVeg.org/pandemic