What Changes in Policies and Practices May Result From COVID-19?
Food Hazards in Animal Flesh and By-products from All-Creatures.org Vegan Health Articles

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From Ken Shapiro, Institute for Animals and Society
June 2020

Will we return to business as usual or will covid-19 force a reexamination of how we share this planet with the other millions of forms of life?


Although we are still in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic and it is unknown when it will cease being a threat, it is not too early to think about a post-pandemic world. What changes in policies and practices will result from this tragic experience? Will we return to business as usual or will covid-19 force a reexamination of how we share this planet with the other millions of forms of life?

One possible change is in the current form of production of protein for human consumption -- factory farming. Two prominent thinkers with access to the mainstream media, Fareed Zakaria and Jonathan Safran Foer, both make the case that the conditions inherent in factory farming make the future transmission of diseases from animals to humans (zoonosis) inescapable. See Fareed Zakaria, "The real scandal isn’t what China did to us. It’s what we did to ourselves," Washington Post and Jonathan Safran Foer. “Meat is not essential. Why are we killing for it?" Washington Post.

Although one cannot overstate the enormity of the human suffering resulting from the pandemic, even this global cloud may have its silver lining. (It is important to note that animals are suffering as well as the closing and downsizing of meat processing plants have forced farmers to slaughter hundreds of thousands of animals. See "With Closure of Meat Plants, Pig Farmers Face a Wrenching Task.," New York Times, May 15).

While only emerging as the dominant form of production since World War II, factory farming has had major impact on domesticated and wild animals alike, as habitat for the latter has shrunk with use of arable land to feed the former.

It may be that at least in the medium term a number of developments will combine to make its history a brief one:

  1. The pandemic has made the problem of “zoonosis” common knowledge;
  2. The availability of plant-based protein;
  3. The development of technology that will produce cultured meat;
  4. Studies showing dramatic decline in wildlife.
Hopefully these developments will force all of us to reexamine how we share our lives with animals and people alike within our communities and beyond.

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