Preventing the Next Pandemic

Even those of us who have avoided falling ill are feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic — social distancing, wearing masks, and staying home have come to define most aspects of our lives.Meanwhile, across the country, communities are grappling with how to slow the spread of the disease, care for the sick, and mitigate its severe impact on the economy. But, now that we have seen the destruction that can be wrought by a pandemic disease, we must also understand its cause and source. Because we have an opportunity to use that knowledge to prevent the next pandemic.Virtually all pandemics, and most infectious diseases, are zoonotic, meaning they originate in animals. COVID-19 likely originated in wildlife, as did AIDS, SARS, and Ebola. But other diseases, notably influenza, including the deadlier pandemic versions that have swept the world periodically, typically come from chickens, turkeys, and pigs. The common denominator is animal exploitation, confinement, and cruelty. Changing the way we treat animals is essential to preventing pandemics.The Animal Legal Defense Fund, as experts in animal law and policy, has published the first in a series of white papers providing background and recommendations to lawmakers to reduce our risk of zoonotic diseases. The paper — COVID-19 and Animals — documents the alarming rate of zoonotic disease produced by industrial animal agriculture in the U.S. Some of these diseases have already caused outbreaks in people, including the 1997 Bird Flu (H5N1) and the 2009 Swine Flu (H1N1). In April 2020, a highly pathogenic strain of Bird Flu (H7N3) — a strain which has caused illness in humans — was discovered in a turkey farm in South Carolina. Unless we bring an end to factory farming, it is simply a matter of time before another one of these diseases makes the jump to people, potentially with results far worse than COVID-19.COVID-19 and Animals identifies and quantifies the risks from specific industries. Further white papers, already in development, will offer in-depth legal analysis and policy recommendations for each industry. Ultimately, we will all need to lobby our elected officials to pass laws that prevent the conditions for animals that not only lead to horrific cruelty, but also put us all at unacceptable risk for pandemic diseases. Perhaps the most important lesson of COVID-19 is: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.You can read the full white paper here
For the animals,Stephen Wells, Executive Director
Stephen Wells
Executive Director

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