Wednesday, June 16

How a plant-based diet could be critical to preventing the next pandemic



Slowly the pandemic caused by the Covid-19 virus is subsiding and the world resumes its activities. However, it is important not to forget the lessons learned and think ahead. It is well known that viruses such as Covid-19, SARS, bovine spongiform, swine flu, and bird flu have something in common: they all come from animals, described by scientists as zoonotic diseases. However, it is important to know that in reality these diseases do not come from animals and it is important to change the approach, after all it is not a conspiracy of animals against humans. When specialists say that this pandemic “comes from animals,” they rather mean that these diseases arise from the way society raises, harvests and eats animals.

Experts have recently spoken out on the matter and declared that a comprehensive political strategy to prevent the next pandemic it should include reducing the demand for animal products. Which makes sense with the recent hard-hitting current recommendations on benefits of following a plant-based dietIt is a scheme that significantly benefits health and the environment. Fortunately, an effective approach does not necessarily imply that the government tells people what to eat and what not to eat, however they are valuable recommendations for modern society.

What is known about zoonosis and food production:

Today there are policies that strengthen animal health, and that promote greater monitoring and regulation in food production. There is no doubt that with this type of action the risk of zoonotic diseases can be reduced, finally the fact that a growing list of pandemics originate exclusively in the animal and agricultural sectors it is nothing new to a small but growing group of independent scientists. However, it is time to act, in fact the World Organization of the United Nations (UN) has also spoken about it, with a rather similar concern. In his most recent report, entitled: Prevention of the next pandemic: zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission, the UN laid out some of the things necessary to improve the health of mankind in relation to food production.

While policy-related alternatives have come to light, including expanding scientific research on the environmental dimensions of zoonotic diseases, and developing and implementing stronger biosecurity measures. Policies are urgently required to strengthen animal health and, above all, a greater capacity to monitor and regulate food production. Among the data that draws the most attention to the report created by the UN, it is worth mentioning that they also recommend that states find ways to decrease the demand for animal protein. That is, while reducing the demand for meat is not something we often hear about as a possible policy option. It’s part of the solution! It is also true that people do not associate the current pandemic with the Western diet or with the agricultural sector, and the reality is that it has everything to do with it.

On the origins of a pandemic:

It is nothing new to say that the first cases of Covid-19 were related to markets in China where wild animals were sold and, based on this, pangolins and bats were identified as possible sources of infection. Reality? None of them are on the average global consumer’s shopping list. Therefore it is true that the deepest roots of this pandemic are much more complex.

The truth is that many previous viruses have originated in the livestock industrial production chain. In the 1980s, UK livestock production began to see outbreaks of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) and its equivalent human variant, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Years later, in 1997, bird flu (H5N1) was traced to chicken factories in China. In 2009, swine flu (H1N1) originated in pig farms in Mexico and North Carolina in the United States. And more recently, a possible new strain of COVID-19 has been found on farms in Denmark, where minks are raised for fur coats.

Science today is very clear that the origins of these pandemics are under no circumstances limited to certain countries or practices. In fact, for some researchers, such as the Swedish doctor and professor specializing in infectious diseases Björn Olsen, stopping the growing demand for meat and dairy is a necessary part of reducing our risk of pandemics.

This is how Olsen, who has positioned himself as one of the first critics of his government’s response to the pandemic, has issued a new alert. In a recent interview in Swedish, Olsen notes that pandemic viruses have arisen where animals and humans meet.

Finally: not a single pandemic in human history has been attributed to plantsIn such a way that creating effective political strategies and promoting that societies replace food sources of animal origin with plant products, also reduces the risk of future pandemics. Undoubtedly, a realistic and accurate approach that invites governments to create new dietary guidelines and above all to focus their efforts on plant-based foods are more accessible, even for rural residents and low-income people.

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