Factory farms provide the perfect breeding ground for disease. Animals are raised in closed, filthy, stressful and crowded, industrial facilities with little or no natural light. Their immunity is low as they have been bred for fast growth. It’s the perfect setting for viruses and bacteria to mutate and spread. In fact, you would be hard pushed to provide a more ideal environment than a modern factory farm.
As the insatiable global demand for meat and dairy increases, so does the scale of animal agriculture, with the number of factory farms – and the number of animals confined in them – rising at ever-increasing levels. Alongside that, infectious diseases are emerging globally at an unprecedented rate.1Rohr JR, Barrett CB, Civitello DJ et al., 2019. Emerging human infectious diseases and the links to global food production. Nature Sustainability. 2 (6) 445-456. The rise in factory farms and diseases are directly connected: “Agricultural intensification has been proposed as a major underlying cause of pathogen emergence from wildlife and domestic animal populations into human populations.”2Pulliam JR, Epstein JH, Dushoff J et al. 2012. Agricultural intensification, priming for persistence and the emergence of Nipah virus: a lethal bat-borne zoonosis. Journal of the Royal Society. Interface. 9 (66) 89-101.
Scientists have been warning us for years that the next pandemic could come from a factory farm. We’ve already seen BSE, bovine TB, foot and mouth, avian influenza (bird flu), swine flu, Campylobacter, Salmonella, antibiotic-resistant superbugs and more coming from factory farms. The next serious outbreak of an infectious disease leading to a pandemic may be a bird or swine flu virus or another coronavirus. It may be an antibiotic resistant superbug or some other previously unseen infectious disease. We are playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette and factory farming lies at the heart of it.
Factory farms play a critical role not only in the spread of diseases from animals to humans but also in the amplification of diseases. In other words, factory farms act as a Petri dish, providing an ideal environment for bacteria and viruses to mutate and develop into something more sinister – this has already happened and continues to do so all over the world.
The 2009 swine flu pandemic arose from a pig farm and antibiotic-resistant superbugs may kill more people than cancer by 2050 unless we stop factory farming now. There is no time to waste, three in four new infectious diseases come from animals and the frequency of their emergence is increasing. Viva!’s ground-breaking Zoonoses report investigates some of these zoonotic diseases, such as Covid-19, that have jumped from animals to humans. It includes measles, Ebola, AIDS, SARS, MERS, bird flu and antibiotic resistant superbugs. Find out where they came from and what role wet markets and factory farms play and we could avert another pandemic.
We have an opportunity to change the way we eat, the way we treat animals and the way we treat the planet. Going vegan is the only way to remove the reservoir for disease. It would benefit our health, the environment and the animals too. A truly One Health approach for the planet!