What about the next pandemic?
Food Hazards in Animal Flesh and By-products from All-Creatures.org Vegan Health Articles

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From Zahava Katz-Perlish, i'm an animal too
June 2021

All the steps that we take to battle COVID, including masks, social distancing and vaccines, are band aids. We tackle the symptoms but not the root cause. Our thoughtless abuse of nonhuman animals and nature is the fundamental issue at stake.

pandemic animals
Photo collage by Marc Perlish

A recent United Nations report, Preventing the Next Pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission, warns us of the rise in emergence of animal-borne diseases due to exploitation of wildlife and habitat destruction, a result of our increased demand for animal protein. The report recommends to reduce this demand.

At the time of writing this, the COVID-19 pandemic has killed 3.57 million people and over 172 million have been infected with the virus. It has disrupted the economic, social, and many other aspects of life. We discuss it constantly, everything from masks and vaccines to its massive impact on our lives. Yet, isn’t it bizarre that there is no thorough, consistent and constructive conversation about the root cause of most pandemics and how to prevent the next one?

Scientists estimate that three out of four emerging infectious diseases originate in nonhuman animals.[1] Those infections caused by pathogens that jumped from animals to humans are called zoonotic. Excluding COVID-19, they’re responsible for an estimated 2.5 billion cases of illness and 2.7 million deaths worldwide each year.[2] Zoonotic diseases include avian flu, Ebola, HIV/AIDS, Mad Cow Disease, MERS, SARS, swine flu, Zika, and now COVID-19.

What is the reason for deadly zoonotic disease outbreaks? Researchers have determined that the destruction of wildlife ecosystems and their conversion to animal farms and to animal feed croplands, have led to the emergence of those infections. Pandemics are also the result of exploitation of wild species, as HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 demonstrated. Wild animals harbor different pathogens that may not affect their health, but when human society encroaches upon their environment and gets too close to them, it’s inevitable that life threatening germs will spillover.

“Pathogens do not respect species boundaries,” said disease ecologist Thomas Gillespie, an associate professor in Emory University’s Department of Environmental Sciences who studies how germs jump between wild animals, domesticated animals and people, and how shrinking natural habitats and changing behavior add to the risks of diseases spilling over from animals to humans. “I am not at all surprised about the coronavirus outbreak,” he says. “The majority of pathogens are still to be discovered. We are at the very tip of the iceberg.”

Not only conversion of natural habitats to animal farms, and croplands to feed animals, is the reason for zoonotic outbreaks, farmed animals themselves serve as an epidemiological bridge between wild animals and humans, the UN report notes. Crowded and often sick animals create perfect conditions for the emergence of epidemics due to the physical and genetic proximity of the billions of animals.[3] “The meat that we eat today overwhelmingly comes from genetically uniform, immunocompromised, and regularly drugged animals lodged by the tens of thousands into buildings or stacked cages – no matter how the meat is labeled” noted the Guardian. It’s no wonder that deadly animal-borne pandemics, such as avian flu and swine flu, originated in animal farms.

According to the UN report, the expansion and intensification of agriculture, the resulted increased proximity between humans, wildlife and farmed animals, all are getting us too close to the zoonotic pathogens. To add insult to injury, both the encroachment on wildlife and their abuse cause a chronic stress to the animals and lowers their immunity, making them more susceptible to deadly pathogens.[4]

What’s more, all those threats are amplified by global warming to which all animal agriculture contributes greatly. In fact, animal based products account for an estimated 82 percent of a typical American diet emissions comparing to 18 percent from a plant-based diet. Those include products originated in small and big animal farms, as well as those labeled “local”, “grass fed”, “organic” or the oxymoron “humane”. They were all created on pristine habitat where wild animals used to live. They took away the home of its natural inhabitants–the wild species, and polluted our water, air and land.

Just one heartbreaking example, a new study finds that air pollution from animal agriculture is responsible for the vast majority of more than 17,000 deaths in the U.S. annually. This is mostly due to the toxic ammonia in the huge amounts of manure that all animal farms produce.

You’d think that animal farming, a source of deadly pandemics, global warming and pollution, would provide us with worthwhile and healthy nutrition. Quite the opposite, animal agriculture is extremely wasteful and inefficient. A study, published in the journal Science, states: “meat, aquaculture, eggs, and dairy use 83% of the world’s farmland . . . despite providing only 37% of our protein and 18% of our calories.” Not to mention the high price animal sourced foods have on our personal health.

The increased appetite for animal based food, and the resulting stresses on the ecosystem–dwindling habitat, pressures on wildlife and climate change—will lead to more zoonotic spillovers. As the executive director of the UN’s Environment Programme, Inger Andersen, said: “The science is clear that if we keep exploiting wildlife and destroying our ecosystems, then we can expect to see a steady stream of these diseases jumping from animals to humans in the years ahead”.

“The science is clear that if we keep exploiting wildlife and destroying our ecosystems, then we can expect to see a steady stream of these diseases jumping from animals to humans in the years ahead.”

All the steps that we take to battle COVID, including masks, social distancing and vaccines, are band aids. We tackle the symptoms but not the root cause. Our thoughtless abuse of nonhuman animals and nature is the fundamental issue at stake.

The rise in pandemics is driven by the demand for animal protein and the utilization of animals for a wide range of products we don’t really need. If we stop for a moment to heed the experts and scientists, we’ll find that we risk our lives and the lives of future generations by consuming unhealthy and unnecessary animal products for no good reason.

So what can we each do to prevent the next pandemic? The best single action that each one of us can take is to stop consuming animal based products–flesh, milk and eggs. Switching to a plant based diet would help in curbing the next outbreak, reduce global warming and environmental pollution. It also will improve your personal health, as science tells us, there is nothing more healthy for your body than a plant-based diet!

Millions of people have switched to a plant-based diet and businesses have taken steps in the right direction. One of New York’s top fine dining restaurants, Eleven Madison Park, is switching to plant-based because the current food system is “simply not sustainable”. The popular and award-winning foodie website, Epicurious, announced it would not publish new beef recipes, due to beef’s role in climate change. They cited the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations that said 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from farmed animals.

We consider ourselves the most intelligent species. If we are, shouldn’t we ensure our future and coexistence with all animals on our shared earth? You have the power to change course, stop our decline and destruction by ditching all animal products. For yourself, your family and all earthlings, go vegan.


  1. CDC (2017): Zoonotic Diseases. [Accessed: 5.31.2021]
  2. CDC (2019): Prioritizing and Preventing Deadly Zoonotic Diseases. [Accessed: 5.31.2021]
  3. Espinosa, Romain, Damian Tago, and Nicolas Treich. “Infectious diseases and meat production.” Environmental and Resource Economics 76.4 (2020): 1019-1044.
  4. Seltmann, Anne, et al. “Habitat disturbance results in chronic stress and impaired health status in forest-dwelling paleotropical bats.” Conservation physiology 5.1 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1093/conphys/cox020

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We began this archive as a means of assisting our visitors in answering many of their health and diet questions, and in encouraging them to take a pro-active part in their own health. We believe the articles and information contained herein are true, but are not presenting them as advice. We, personally, have found that a whole food vegan diet has helped our own health, and simply wish to share with others the things we have found. Each of us must make our own decisions, for it's our own body. If you have a health problem, see your own physician.