When it comes to pandemics, there is a bigger and much more frightening risk than wet markets - animal agribusiness. Diseases do not respect species boundaries, and we are quickly learning that social distancing only works when everyone is able to practice it - including animals.
Animal agribusiness operations all over the country have thousands of animals living in cramped confinement and squalor. Pigs, chickens, ducks, turkeys and other animals are often forced to live in their own waste, and the built-up excrement from thousands of other animals. In these conditions, they become the perfect vectors for disease. In fact, the living environments are so revolting, these animals are regularly fed antibiotics just to keep them alive. This regular antibiotic use can cause superbugs, and also causes human antibiotic-resistance.
The coronavirus is suspected to have come from wet markets, where animals are held in filthy and stressful conditions. But it is not the first zoonotic disease to come from animals forced to live in filthy conditions. Previous pandemics including swine flu and bird flu both emerged from animal agribusiness. And with farming becoming more intensive, the threat of more deadly animal borne diseases is on the rise.
Chicken factory farms are especially dangerous. With tens of thousands of birds crammed into a windowless shed, they have frequently produced viruses that mutate from a form found only in animals into a “novel” form that can be deadly to humans. In fact, of the 16 strains of “novel” influenza viruses currently identified by the Centre For Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, 14 of these had emerged from chicken factory farms.
Despite a growing body of evidence, here in Australia our governments are not only happy to sit on this ticking time bomb, they are actively helping to grow the risk. Public resources are being poured into propping up animal agribusiness, instead of supporting farmers to move toward healthy, sustainable plant-based farming.
That is why I am taking action. The NSW Government must recognise that we can’t go back to ‘business as usual’ after this pandemic. This was a wake up call.
I am calling on the NSW Government to protect animals and the health of our communities by supporting a transition away from animal agribusiness and toward plant-based farming.
The animal agribusiness industry is the biggest risk for future pandemic disease outbreaks. Together we can create change by putting pressure on the NSW government to take the first step in transitioning away from this cruel and dangerous industry.