The ravages of Covid-19 are with us daily. Worldwide there are over 2.5 million cases, with the U.S. in the lead. Soon 1 million Americans will be sick with Covid-19. The impacts on people, the economy and business are terrible and shock us. The inadequate response to this pandemic is obvious. Some say Covid-19 was unprecedented, but experts have been warning about it for a long time.
The root cause of Covid-19 is never mentioned in the media: eating meat. Eating pangolins or bats from wet markets in China caused this one. There have been very close calls recently with extremely lethal viruses from factory-farmed chickens and pigs. And there is always Ebola. The total value of the U.S. meat industry (about $1 trillion per year) is less than the bailout package. The economics alone say we must take a hard look at meat-caused deaths. It’s simply not worth propping up the meat industry at all costs. Current meat-eating practices make Covid-19 the first of a series of diseases likely to jump to people; look for another within a few years.
Is this a unique event with singular circumstances that will not be seen again, or is it the new normal? It is comforting, but untrue, to say our meat is clean and safe, unlike China’s. Some animal infections that attack people (zoonotic) are new and others—like anthrax—have been around, and some have started here in the U.S. Ebola jumped to people in Africa, where eating wild animals—“bush meat”—is common. Robust international responses have so far contained every Ebola outbreak.
When or if Covid-19 is finished it’s very unlikely that everything will return to how it was before. Hopefully China will eliminate “wet markets,” where animals are slaughtered on the spot, hopefully our agriculture will eliminate extravagant use of antibiotics, hopefully unhealthy conditions for food animals will be improved and, most importantly, hopefully everyone will reduce or eliminate meat-eating. This will fix the root cause of novel and traditional zoonotic diseases and keep them from sickening and killing people.
John W Cruz, PhD is a physicist who turned to software, retired and now lives in Sebastopol.