COVID-19 as Zoonosis
Updated: Feb 6
As a second, more contagious variant of COVID-19 appears in Ontario, and BC considers closing its borders to interprovincial travel, I take the opportunity to reflect on our current situation. It's true, COVID-19 has made an indelible mark on our society. But through it, we have an opportunity to learn from this shared experience. I believe our biggest learning is this: modern animal agriculture greatly increases the likelihood of zoonosis.
A "zoonosis" or zoonotic disease is a pathogen that jumps from non-human to human animals. Ebola, malaria, salmonella, mad cow disease, swine flue, MERS, and SARS are all examples of zoonosis. Mad cow disease originated from feeding slaughtered cows to other cows. COVID-19 is believed to have jumped from a bat, to a pangolin, to a human. While zoonosis cannot be prevented entirely, there are steps we can take to reduce it.
Social distancing is an effective way to prevent transmission of COVID-19. However, as ~7,800,000,000 humans social distance, most of our ~70,000,000,000 farmed land animals do not. There is no coincidence that COVID-19 breakouts are more prevalent in slaughterhouses and on mink farms. This zoonotic disease is highly contagious and appears to easily transfer between human and non-human animals. When we consider the cause and spread of COVID-19, we must consider all our systems. Animal agriculture, as a system, is playing a significant role throughout this pandemic.
COVID-19 originated from animals humans eat. It continues to be spread by animals we eat and wear. It is time for us to question our dependency on animal agriculture. Just because something has been done for many years, does not make it right today. We have a collective opportunity to evolve and transform our current agricultural systems. I intend to embrace that opportunity, and I look forward to engaging in discussion around this topic as we strive for meaningful solutions together.