People Willfully Ignore the Pandemic Risk of Animal Agriculture
A Meat and Dairy Industries Article from

FROM Marc Bekoff, Psychology Today/Animal Emotions
May 2021

The narrow focus on reactionary measures against COVID-19 seems to hinder direct conversations about disease risk generally and misses the overarching problem: The connection between zoonotic disease and the human treatment of animals. As Jonathan Safran Foer and Aaron S Gross candidly described it : “We are preoccupied with the production of face masks, but we appear unconcerned with the farms.

COVID-19 virus

A week ago, Dr. Dhont wrote to me after he'd read an essay titled "What the COVID-19 Crisis Is Telling Humanity," noting that I might be interested in new research on the public understanding of zoonotic disease risk and whether people recognize the risks from animal agriculture. He was referring to a piece called "The role of meat appetite in willfully disregarding factory farming as a pandemic catalyst risk," published by himself, Jared Piazza, and Gordon Hodson in the journal Appetite. 1,2 We agreed to write an essay about this seminal research.

COVID-19 is a once-in-a-century pandemic that has killed scores of people, incapacitated economies, education, and travel, plus severely disrupted social life globally. Although scientists forewarned about the imminence of global pandemics such as COVID-19, humanity collectively failed to dodge its arrival. Sensibly, governments deployed a range of tactics to curb the further spread of the disease, saving human lives. Yet, with the dominant focus on how to be prepared and respond once pandemics hit, surprisingly few conversations seriously discuss prevention tactics.

  • The forced confinement of large numbers of animals is a key risk factor for zoonotic diseases.
  • However, many people seem more interested in reactionary measures than in addressing factory farming as a root cause of disease.
  • An appetite for meat poses a stumbling block to mobilize public recognition of disease risk from animal agriculture....



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