Monkeypox – Another Example of Animal Exploitation’s Devastating Impact on Public Health – Hope Wetherall, Campaigner

Monkeypox – Another Example of Animal Exploitation’s Devastating Impact on Public Health – Hope Wetherall, Campaigner

Over recent months, you’ve probably read dozens of headlines warning about the spread of Monkeypox. A contagious viral infection characterised by rashes, fevers, muscle aches, headaches and exhaustion… it’s not particularly pleasant to think about.

Before recently, you might have heard of the disease, but not really been concerned. Originating in West and Central Africa, it has felt pretty far away until now. It won’t affect us, right?

With 98% of cases reported since May coming from Europe, Monkeypox is now on our doorstep. According to government data, there are now 1,076 cases in the UK. Experts at the UK Health Security agency expect this number to carry on rising, expressing concern about its impact on public health.

The NHS are urging the public to be vigilant with hygiene when handling animal products, and to cook it at high temperatures to kill Monkeypox pathogens. This is because the virus originates from animals and can be caught from consuming their infected flesh.

Surely the NHS ought to recommend that we STOP eating animals?

When we have an abundance of vegan options that don’t come with the risk of zoonotic contamination, why on earth would we choose to eat flesh? We’re not the only ones who are safer in a vegan world. Sentient animals aren’t exploited and killed when we choose plant-based options. Everyone wins!

Credit: NIAID

Preventing pandemics starts on our plate…

We need to realise that in our globalised world, zoonoses have the potential to infect people across the planet. Passing from host to host via personal travel and trade routes, pathogens can travel across continents within days of emerging, putting us all at risk, especially if little is known about the novel infection.

Before Covid-19 even existed, top epidemiologists already warned of ‘the next big one’ when discussing the potential for pandemics. Due to the unpredictable nature of viruses which originate from animals, we simply do not know when the next life-threatening outbreak will occur. We can, however, expect the emergence of more of them if our exploitation of animals continues to grow at its current rate.

Zoonotic diseases like Monkeypox are especially dangerous because they take advantage of animal hosts. Over time, human societies have become more at risk of becoming infected by these. This is the result of our increasingly exploitative interactions with animals. Whilst Monkeypox originated in primates and has largely been spread by infected rodents, the main driver of zoonotic outbreaks is animal agriculture.

Despite growing concerns about animal welfare, global warming and antibiotic resistance, people all over the world are killing and eating more animals than ever. The UN Food and Agricultural Association claims that meat consumption increased by a massive 500% between 1961 and 2018. Sadly, this is only predicted to carry on rising.

Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur

So why should we reject animal agriculture?

Well, with over 75 billion land animals and trillions of aquatic individuals killed every year, humans come into contact with more potential carriers of zoonoses than ever. The biomass of farmed species is actually larger than all free-living animals combined. Farmed animals can act as reservoirs for pathogens that could cause the next pandemic at any moment. Diseases can go undetected in species that present as asymptomatic, but can still pass them on.

Intensification of animal farming has emerged due to a demand for cheap meat, largely due to lower labour costs and higher output. High stocking densities on farms do not only cause unbearable stress to animals who are crammed together in barns and sheds, they create breeding grounds for disease. The hot temperatures and dirty conditions of these indoor systems encourage harmful viral bacteria to multiply. Pathogens spread easily between animals who have become immunocompromised because of constant stress and non-existent veterinary care. Zoonoses can easily begin here when farm workers coming into contact with them transfer zoonotic pathogens to their own human communities. It is not just intensive farms, either, spread from non-human to human can happen on any farm, free-range and organic, included. 

Animal agriculture trades, transports, and kills sick animals before selling their infected corpses for human consumption. It’s no wonder we’ve seen an explosion of zoonotic outbreaks originating from this industry.

Credit: Kyle Mackie

Monkeypox isn’t a one off!

Zoonotic outbreaks keep happening and we don’t know how deadly each one will be until it hits.

Covid-19 has devastated lives and killed millions. Epidemiologists claim it was likely to have spread to humans from contaminated corpses bought from wet markets for human consumption.

We’ve seen it happen when Swine flu spread across the world, originating on intensive pig farms and transferred to humans through contaminated pig flesh.

We’re dealing with Avian Influenza outbreaks right now. According to WHO, over 450 people have died of the H5N1 strain since 2003. The disease was fatal to one person in the UK earlier this year, despite lockdown-esque restrictions on British poultry farms to attempt to slow the spread.

Humans aren’t the only ones that animal agriculture puts at risk. Over one million birds have been killed on UK farms as a preventative measure to control bird flu. Over 38 million have been killed for this same reason in the US. The virus has even infected free-living birds such as gulls, geese and swans, and has potential to cause serious ecological damage.

Credit: RSPB

These outbreaks CAN be prevented.

There is no reason to put billions of humans and animals at risk of zoonotic diseases when we have the choice to act in ways that don’t encourage outbreaks.

Crop farms aren’t breeding grounds for viruses. Animal farms are.

Factories handling vegan food aren’t the perfect place for disease to spread. Slaughterhouses, contaminated with blood and other bodily fluids, are.

Fruits and vegetables don’t act as hosts to contagious viral pathogens. Animal victims whose corpses are consumed do.

Take a look at our Exposed campaign to learn more about animals and pandemics…

Farming animals harms them AND us… it’s time to stop!

WHO encourages a ‘One Health’ approach, which recognises that human and animal health are connected. If we farm animals, we harm humans.

We can protect human and animal health simply through what we eat! For the sake of all beings on this planet, choose the kinder, safer vegan option. Encourage those around you to do the same.

We need to hold ourselves accountable and reject animal agriculture as a system that not only harms animals to an unimaginable extent, but also puts the health of humans at risk too.

It’s time for a plant-based food system – to end the suffering of animals and humans!

As always,

For the animals.

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Monkeypox – Another Example of Animal Exploitation’s Devastating Impact on Public Health – Hope Wetherall, Campaigner

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