Persuading China to switch to ‘fake’ pork

By Sarah Treanor and Elizabeth HotsonBBC News

  • 1 July 2020
David Yeung
Image captionDavid Yeung is one of the new wave of environmentally concerned entrepreneurs

“Ma po tofu has to be a favourite,” says David Yeung, a smile evident in his voice. “It’s very spicy, a little bit numbing, and usually sprinkled with minced pork.”

Hong Kong-based Mr Yeung is the founder of OmniPork, part of the environmentally focused venture Green Monday. OmniPork is a plant-based meat alternative that is now on the menu in many of Hong Kong’s trendiest restaurants, hotels and bars.

A vegetarian of two decades, he’s explaining how substitute meat is not just a market for the North American brands like Impossible Foods, and Beyond Meat, which have become well known for their burgers. He says the Asian market is hungry for home grown meat alternatives.

“Almost everywhere in Asia – Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, especially mainland China – the number one meat is pork. The only exceptions are Muslim countries.”

A bowl of OmniPork ma po tofu
Image captionMeat-free spicy ma po tofu: “Very spicy, a little bit numbing,” says David Yeung

Indeed, China loves pork. The country of almost 1.4 billion consumes more pork per capita than any other nation.

Half of the world’s pork is eaten in China, and the acceleration has been rapid. In the 1960s China annually consumed less than 5kg per capita. By the late 1980s this was 20kg and has since tripled to over 60kg, according to UN figures.

But the mass-market meat industry has brought with it some very pressing problems, not least, disease. In 2019 African swine fever led to the mass slaughter of pigs in China, and prices rose 25-30%.

And this week, a new strain of flu with “pandemic potential” has also been identified in pigs within China.

This has thrown a sharp focus on meat supply chains and production, something the coronavirus pandemic has intensified.

Localised outbreaks of coronavirus have been appearing across the globe in meat-processing companies, even where infection rates in the general population are low. It’s not entirely clear as to why.

Covid-19, environmental issues and growing health concerns in a nation with increasingly high rates of obesity, have all encouraged a new wave of plant protein firms to develop new products.

For example, Beijing-based Zhenmeat is looking at 3D printing elements of its products to mimic bone or muscle.

Vincent Lu
Image captionZhenmeat is betting on hot pot

“We eat a lot of different parts of the pig. The Chinese consumer loves different parts for different dishes but we are focusing in on Szechuan hot pot,” says chief executive Vincent Lu.

Zhenmeat is throwing its marketing behind one product in particular, created with the Institute of Alternative Protein in Beijing, a meat-free alternative to pork tenderloin, which is popular in hot pot.

It is a very specific cut of pork and style of cooking. But Mr Lu says it’s all part of the firm’s strategy. “If you look at the US market, consumers love burgers. So what kind of product do consumers love in the Chinese market? Hot pot is the most loved dish.”

But none of this innovation comes cheaply.

Matilda Ho is the founder of Bits x Bites, China’s first food technology venture capital group. She has backed four different protein companies, from plant-based to cell-based.

Matilda Ho
Image caption”Taste will always be the driver for consumers to convert their behaviour,” says entrepreneur Matilda Ho

“We are just at the beginning,” she says. “But will the one-off purchase for the novelty value translate into repeat purchase and product loyalty? That’s the big question. In cities like Shanghai, Beijing and Chengdu, consumers are known to be eager experimenters when it comes to new food trends. But only a few will turn into behaviour change.”

Ms Ho also says it is easy to overstate climate worries as a reason for Chinese consumers to switch from animal protein.

“Taste will always be the driver for consumers to convert their behaviour. It won’t be environmental concerns.”

Shaun Rein, managing director of the China Market Research Group in Shanghai, says the market is still small but there is potential, given the open-minded nature of Chinese cookery and a willingness of shoppers to experiment.

“Chinese consumers are indeed always looking for alternative sources of protein. We think the market for plant-based meat is about $910m (£730m) and will grow about 20-25% annually. There’s a lot of excitement about these ‘fake’ meats, but the market is fairly small.”

Plant-based meat dishes are seen offered at a Starbucks store on April 22, 2020 in Shanghai, China. Starbucks has launched plant-based meat menus in China
Image captionStarbucks has just launched plant-based meat menus in China

But price is a big driver when it comes to long-term change, he adds. “When we interviewed blue-collar workers one of their main concerns was the price. The big winner could be ‘fake’ meat, or it could be seafood.”

Bruce Friedrich is the co-founder of the Good Food Institute, which researches and promotes meat alternatives. He is convinced the price issue will be solved. “While the plant-based meat costs a little bit more than regular meat it will be for people who are interested in looking at the way industrial animal meat is produced.

“But if you can make crops which mimic the way meat tastes and smells and looks, and scale that up, it will become cheaper than animal meat. Then it becomes not just for vegetarians and ‘flexitarians’ (those who cut meat consumption by going meat-free on certain days) but for everybody.”

Maria Lettini is executive director of FAIRR, a global network of investors concerned with issues surrounding intensive animal agriculture. She says with Covid-19, we are likely to have to pay more for our meat in the future.

“How are we going to make this system [of meat production] safe, how are we going to make it more resilient – without that coming at some kind of cost or investment?

“I don’t think meat at our grocery stores is being correctly valued. We probably need to be spending more to be able to consume it as much as we are.”

Fried spicy substitute pork patty
Image captionMeat-free alternatives are not just about consumer choice but the sustainability of the planet, argues David Yeung

David Yeung of OmniPork says that his product is comparable on price. It now appears on UK brand Pizza Express’s products in Hong Kong, and Taco Bell branches in Asia. These are big names, but will this new breed of protein pretenders become mainstream any time soon?

Mr Yeung doesn’t expect everyone to become vegan, but insists “we are on a ramp-up for the whole industry” and that Asia is leading this change.

“This isn’t just about consumer trends, it’s about climate change, the pandemic, swine fever. Governments will have to look at this, not just as consumer choice or a trend – but about sustainability of the planet.”

Why Are Cows Meat, Pigs Pork, Turkeys Turkey, and Tunas Tuna?

Marc Bekoff Ph.D.

Animal Emotions

A 12-year-old asked, after his mother told him animals don’t have feelings.

Posted Jun 24, 2020

Names and labels used for “food animals” are psychological ploys to distance people from their meals and reduce cognitive dissonance.

A few weeks ago I received an email from a 12-year-old boy (Erwin) who was concerned and confused about the names and labels that are used to refer to so-called “food animals.” He asked, “Why are cows meat, pigs pork, turkeys turkey, and tunas tuna?” The COVID-19 pandemic is calling attention to the lives and plight of a wide variety of nonhuman animals. He had read about the horrific conditions at pork-producing meatpacking plants and, while he knew that what we call pork had previously been a sentient pig, he hadn’t really thought much about it.I reminded him that the meat and pork industries are more appropriately called the cow and pig industries, that a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich is really a pig, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, and that the real question at hand is “Who’s for dinner?” rather than “What’s for dinner”? A few other email exchanges showed me he clearly understood what I was writing. 

Erwin also mentioned that when he asked his mother this same question, she casually told him that animals don’t really have emotions or feelings, and “These words are used are for marketing and people don’t want to come to terms with the fact they are eating a cow or a pig.” Erwin wondered, rightfully, why birds, fish, and invertebrates who are eaten usually called by name, for who they are—chicken, turkey, goose, tuna, halibut, lobster—and wanted to know more about the names and labels that are used to refer to nonhumans who are regular features on countless humans’ meal plans. He also wondered why lamb chops are a popular food item, and I couldn’t say much about it given that it’s well known that sheep are fully sentient beings just like cows, pigs, and other mammalian “food animals,” but I was pleased he asked. I once asked a hunter why deer meat is called venison, but people freely talk about elk steaks. He said something like, “Many people don’t want to face the fact they’re eating a cute deer like Bambi.” 

Why are cows meat, pigs pork, sausage or bacon, chimpanzees bushmeat, turkeys turkey, chickens chicken, tunas tuna, and lobsters lobster?

Of course, there are many other examples of misleading speciesist names and labels used to refer to “food animals.” Indeed, they have become global memes. In my emails to Erwin I mentioned a few things that are easy to summarize. I began by writing that his mother was right on the mark—most people don’t want to know they’re eating cows or pigs, but don’t really think about who they’re eating when birds, fish, or some invertebrates are on the menu. Numerous people think that animals whose species’ identities aren’t hidden or disguised aren’t really sentient or emotional and they’re all the same. This couldn’t be further from the truth, given what solid science has shown us about birds, fish, and numerous invertebrates.2,3 We also know that mammals, birds, and fish don’t like being caged and brutally abused in ways that defy any compassion or empathy at all, that birds and fish don’t necessarily suffer less than mammals, and that they have unique personalities. Animal sentience isn’t science fiction and animal suffering isn’t an enigma

 Tito White, with permission

Walter, a rescued turkey, at Luvin’ Arms Animal SanctuarySource: Tito White, with permission

I also mentioned that the words and labels that are used are very effective psychological ploys that distance people from their meals and reduce cognitive dissonance for those who fully know—or should know—who they’re consuming, but want to forget about it. He fully understood what I meant. Also, some people know the animals suffer and still can’t stop themselves from eating them—eating misery—and can’t resolve the “meat paradox” by not doing what they well know causes pain, suffering, and death. 

The 3 Ds that influence meal plans: How denying and distancing work to reduce dissonance.

I went on to tell Erwin that his mother was incorrect in saying that nonhumans don’t have emotions or feelings. I wondered if she really meant this or if it was her way of denying and distancing herself from who she was eating. As incredible as it sounds, there still are people who deny that nonhumans are sentient and emotional beings. They’re clearly stuck in the darkest of dark ages and maintain that we don’t really know if other animals have emotions. These denialists go on to falsely and inanely claim that there’s no science to support the idea that other animals are sentient and emotional beings, so therefore they’re not. I won’t belabor the crude logic here, but it really does exist. For example, recently, The Ontario Federation of Agriculture made this absurd claim, despite clear scientific evidence that numerous nonhumans have rich and deep emotional lives.I told Erwin that the real question at hand is why emotions have evolved, not if they have evolved, and that they matter very much to the individuals experiencing them. article continues after advertisement

I also explained to Erwin that the vast majority of “food animals” produced by massive industries are numbered, rather than named. This is another way for people to distance themselves from who the animals—each and every individual—truly are. Animals on sanctuaries, such as turkey Walter (above), are invariably named, and this helps to establish close and enduring relationships and recognize every single one as the unique individual they are. Of course, unnamed animals aren’t less sentient than named individuals. All should be referred to as “who,” rather than “it,” “which,” or “that.”

Finally, I mentioned to Erwin that many people who choose to unmind “food animals” and falsely rob them of their emotional lives don’t hesitate to attribute rich and active minds and a wide variety of emotions to companion animals with whom they share their homes. Uminding is a ruse by which some people claim certain animals such as cows, pigs, sheep, and others who wind up on humans’ plates are dumb and don’t have feelings, and this ploy allows them to eat and otherwise use and abuse them without a care in the world. While many people don’t like to admit it, in terms of harms, pain, suffering, and death, dogs and cats don’t really suffer more than individuals who find themselves on humans’ meal plans. When people ask me how can I work in China helping to rescue moon bears from the bear bile industry knowing that people there eat dogs and cats, I usually respond by politely saying something like, “Well, I live in the United States where people eat cows, pigs, sheep, and other fully sentient animals, and I dislike both practices. What’s the difference?”

While it may sound strange or heartless, there really isn’t a difference between eating traditional “food animals” and companion animals, because they’re all sentient and deeply suffer on the long and pain-filled journey on their way to peoples’ plates.Along these lines, in her book Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism, Melanie Joy “explores the many ways we numb ourselves and disconnect from our natural empathy for farmed animals.” She came up with the term carnism “to describe the belief system that has conditioned us to eat certain animals and not others.”

Youngsters offer hope and we must listen carefully to them.

I’m pleased that Erwin wrote to me. He raised a lot of issues, many of which he was unaware were so salient, current, and on the minds of numerous people. I’m also happy that he understood what I wrote to him, or came to understand it after a few exchanges. Along the way, his mother thanked me and said she was revising her ways of thinking about animal sentience and animal emotions. I was pleased that she and Erwin could have further conversations about who we eat, how they’re labeled, and why. I thanked her and noted it was a win-win for all.article continues after advertisement

I’ve written a number of other essays motivated by great questions from curious youngsters.6 These discussions give me hope. We really need to listen carefully to what they’re are saying and asking. We must do the very best we can to leave future generations a more compassionate and friendlier world in which humane education and peaceful coexistence are high on the agenda.

Revealed: Covid-19 outbreaks at meat-processing plants in US being kept quiet

Testing has found positive cases at North Carolina facilities, but officials refuse to release the information

Pilgrim’s Pride chicken processing plant in Marshville, N.C.

Pilgrim’s Pride chicken processing plant in Marshville, North Carolina. Photograph: Francisco Kjolseth/APAnimals farmed is supported byAbout this contentLewis Kendall in Durham, North CarolinaPublished onWed 1 Jul 2020 05.00 EDT


Achicken processing facility in western North Carolina reportedly underwent widespread testing for Covid-19 in early June.

Workers at the plant were scared. Several employees had already tested positive and the company, Case Farms – which has been repeatedly condemned for animal treatment and workers’ rights violations – was not providing proper protective equipment.

“We don’t have a lot of space at work. We are shoulder to shoulder,” said one worker, who declined to be identified, during a recent union call. “I’m afraid to go to work, but I have to go.”

The testing turned up 150 positive cases at the facility, the worker said.

On 8 June, the health department for Burke county, where the Case Farms facility is located, reported 136 new Covid cases, a 25% increase in its total caseload. Yet neither the company, county officials nor the North Carolina department of health and human services would confirm whether those cases were connected to Case Farms.

It is just one example of the currently taut relationship between public health and the economy in North Carolina, as the number of Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations rises.

North Carolina is one of the largest pork and poultry producing states in the US, exporting roughly $1.25bn in hogs, chickens and turkeys every year. Health departments in rural parts of the state, areas that often lean on large meatpacking or food processing facilities as primary sources of employment, have so far been tight-lipped about Covid-19 outbreaks in those plants.

In late April, while outbreaks began emerging at meat processing plants across the country, Donald Trump signed an executive order forcing the facilities to remain open. That same month, the US exported a record amount of pork to China, despite industry claims of a domestic shortage.

Workers wear protective masks and stand between a plastic dividers at a Tyson Foods poultry plant in Georgia.

Workers wear protective masks and stand between a plastic dividers at a Tyson Foods poultry plant in Georgia. Photograph: AP

Since the pandemic began, more than 36,000 meat processing and farm workers have tested positive for Covid-19 and at least 116 have died, according to a tally by the Food and Environment Reporting Network, though the true number is likely higher.

Through case interviews and contact tracing, the Burke county health department, where Case Farms is located, does have data about where people with positive cases work, but are choosing not to release it, said spokeswoman Lisa Moore.

“We know where they are, but we are not a county that can divulge every place where they are,” Moore said.

Case Farms requested the health department direct all questions regarding their facility to a company representative, Moore added.

In response to a series of detailed questions from the Guardian, a Case Farms spokesperson wrote that the company is “committed to continue producing food for our nation’s food supply, while taking additional safety measures to protect our employees, our company and our customers, in accordance with USDA regulations and CDC guidelines.”

Earlier this year, North Carolina’s health department had reported the names of farms with two or more positive cases, but in May replaced the names with addresses in order to “better reflect the location of the outbreak”, according to a department spokesperson.

“Why, when a nursing home has an outbreak, it’s in the paper, but when a meatpacking facility does, it’s not?” said Mac Legerton, a longtime grassroots policy advocate and co-director of the Robeson County Cooperative for Sustainable Development, and is among those who have criticized local and state governments’ approach to case reporting.

“The law needs to be that in a pandemic all outbreaks at public and private facilities are made public to protect the employees of the institutions and to inform the public.”

As of Thursday, there were 2,772 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in 28 meat processing plant “clusters” around the state, the department said, but would not specify further.

North Carolina as a whole has seen a marked increase in cases and hospitalizations over the past several weeks, prompting a “concerned” Governor Roy Cooper to announce last week that the state would pause in the second phase of its reopening plan.

Demonstrators protest working conditions at a Pilgrim’s Pride poultry processing facility in Minnesota.

Demonstrators protest working conditions at a Pilgrim’s Pride poultry processing facility in Minnesota. Photograph: Jeff Wheeler/APAdvertisement

The state requires only a few types of businesses to report outbreaks, which it defines as two or more cases, including congregate living facilities, daycare centers and schools. For all other businesses, local health departments and the state DHHS depend on companies volunteering their own data or tracking down clusters through case interviews.

But failure to disclose outbreaks demonstrates that officials and company executives are prioritizing economic interests over the wellbeing of marginalized workers and communities, Legerton said.

“That lack of information puts both employees and the public at risk,” he said.

In a letter to several of the largest meat companies last week, senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker called on the corporations to disclose infection figures in their plants.

Virginia also recently moved to create a set of safety rules to protect workers from Covid-19 – the first of its kind in the nation – following a petition from workers in the state’s poultry processing and meatpacking industries. The drafted rules, which include requiring employers to mandate social distancing and notify employees of potential exposure, would be enforceable through fines and closures.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has received nearly 350 Covid-related complaints from employees at North Carolina businesses. One business, Pilgrim’s Pride, a poultry processing plant in Sanford, was the subject of at least eight separate complaints, with workers alleging the company was not informing them of positive tests or mandating the wearing of some protective equipment. A worker there died in May.

In Robeson county – home to a large Campbell’s Soup facility, Mountaire Farms and Sanderson Farms poultry processing plants, as well as many factory farms – businesses have been generally forthcoming with the health department, according to Bill Smith, the county’s health department director.

Smith’s office received $600,000 in federal Covid funding, which it used to set up testing sites around the county and hire school nurses as contact tracers. Smith and his team have also been collaborating on daily calls with health departments from surrounding counties, as well as coordinating closely with the local Lumbee Tribe.

But companies can make this work difficult, muddying the waters for case reporting in communities where they are one of very few employers, Smith said.

“A lot of the packing places are your largest employers, therefore it’s an economic issue,” he said. “There may be pressures from them to stay out of the packing world, if you will.”

Companies also choose to weigh public health considerations alongside public relations in determining what information to release, Smith said, pointing to publicly traded giants like Sanderson Farms and Smithfield Foods, which have “a brand they’re trying to protect”.

“If you say something about Smithfield Foods, they’ll see an effect immediately: you’ll see someone not buy Smithfield in the grocery,” he said.

Still, the decision by state and county health departments to report some outbreaks and not others appears inconsistent with the need for transparency in a public health crisis, Smith noted.

“When you’re releasing nursing home names with two illnesses, yet another place that has 900 you refuse to give, there’s some disagreement there from a public health perspective,” he said.

A new swine-flu strain with ‘pandemic potential’ was just found circulating in Chinese pigs

HOLLY SECONJUN 30, 2020, 23:29 ISTLocal animal husbandry workers inject a pig to collect a blood sample at a pig farm in Zhangye, Gansu province, China on October 28, 2019.REUTERS/Stringer

  • study published on Monday describes a new strain of influenza found in pigs in Chinese slaughterhouses.
  • The strain is a combination of a bird-flu virus and the virus that caused the 2009 swine-flu pandemic, giving it “pandemic potential” in humans, the researchers wrote.
  • The flu strain was also found in a small number of farmers, but it doesn’t seem to spread human-to-human. The researchers said that could change, however.

A nearly decadelong study of Chinese pigs has found a potentially dangerous new type of influenza virus.

The study, published on Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, describes a flu strain that shares genes with the one that caused the 2009 swine-flu pandemic. The researchers behind the work warned that the flu strain has “pandemic potential.”They described the virus as a combination of three strains: one from European and Asian birds, the one that caused the 2009 pandemic, and one from North America that has genes from bird, human, and pig flu viruses.Advertisement

The new strain could pose a major threat if it’s able to circulate among humans, the researchers wrote. It doesn’t seem to do that yet, but antibodies to this type of virus were detected in 35 slaughterhouse workers, indicating that they may have been infected at some point in the past few years. The researchers said that because the strain contains parts of the 2009 swine-flu virus, it “may promote the virus adaptation” that leads to human-to-human transmission.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a Senate briefing Tuesday that this new virus was “not an immediate threat” but something to “keep your eye on.”Given the devastation the coronavirus pandemic has caused, the researchers behind the study said, it’s critical to take proactive measures now to protect people against this swine flu.Advertisement

A patient suffering from the coronavirus in the intensive care unit at the Circolo hospital in Varese, Italy, on April 9, 2020.REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

An emerging type of swine flu

Identifying new virus strains in pigs is crucial for preventing another pandemic. The 2009 H1N1 pandemic was caused by an influenza A virus that emerged from pigs. The animals can serve as a reservoir for infectious diseases, since they can be infected with bird, pig, and human influenza strains.Advertisement

When multiple strains of influenza infect the same pig, the viruses can swap genes in a process called reassortment, leading to the creation of a new disease.

The team of Chinese researchers that conducted the new study aimed to identify those types of potentially dangerous, never-before-seen viruses in pigs. From 2011 to 2018, they looked at nearly 30,000 swabs from pigs in slaughterhouses in 10 Chinese provinces and another 1,000 swabs from pigs with respiratory symptoms at a local veterinary teaching hospital.The researchers found 179 virus strains, but this one stood out.Advertisement

Thomas Suen/Reuters

The worrisome new strain, which the researchers named G4 EA H1N1, has emerged on a larger scale in pig populations since 2016, the study said — it was “the predominant genotype in circulation in pigs detected across at least 10 provinces,” they wrote.They added that the virus was “distinct from current human influenza vaccine strains, indicating that preexisting immunity derived from the present human seasonal influenza vaccines cannot provide protection.”Advertisement

The team tested the virus in a lab and found that it reproduced in animals’ respiratory systems. It can spread via airborne particles. The flu strain also transmits easily among ferrets, a species scientists frequently use as an indicator of how bad a virus may be in humans because they display human-like flu symptoms.

Whether or not the virus mutates to start spreading human-to-human will determine how dangerous it is.”Controlling the prevailing G4 EA H1N1 viruses in pigs and close monitoring in human populations, especially the workers in the swine industry, should be urgently implemented,” the researchers wrote.Advertisement

A researcher works on a vaccine for the coronavirus at the Copenhagen University research lab in Copenhagen, Denmark, on March 23, 2020.THIBAULT SAVARY/AFP via Getty Images

The threat of another swine-flu pandemic

H1N1, which emerged at the end of 2008, infected about 60.8 million people in the US through 2010. It was referred to as “swine flu” because it originally jumped to humans from pigs. Estimates of global H1N1 deaths range from 151,700 to 575,400. But H1N1 differed from other flu outbreaks in that 80% of the virus-related deaths were people younger than 65; in other flu outbreaks typically about 70% and 90% of deaths are people older than 65.Advertisement

Scientists think mammals and birds around the globe host about 1.7 million undiscovered types of viruses. Viruses in birds, bats, and pigs are especially risky for people.

Because China has the world’s largest pig population, scientists there monitor the animals to try to find emerging diseases before they spread.”Systematic surveillance of influenza viruses in pigs is essential for early warning and preparedness for the next potential pandemic,” the researchers behind the new study wrote.Advertisement

Pigs walk across a slatted floor at Fair Oaks Farms in Fair Oaks, Indiana on May 18, 2015.AP/M.L.Johnson

Their surveillance uncovered other concerning trends: The researchers found that the portion of pigs studied that had diseases increased over time, rising to 8.2% in 2018 from 1.4% in 2011, with a sharp increase after 2014.A similar surveillance system also exists for coronaviruses in bats. Scientists think that the novel coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2, jumped to people from bats, likely via an intermediary animal species.Advertisement

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the new flu strain had not yet been seen in humans. The story has been updated.

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

Ohio animal hospital offers free care for police horses injured during weekend protests


CINCINNATI, Ohio (WJW) — An Ohio animal hospital is looking to help horses that were injured during the police violence protests this weekend.

Demonstrators across the nation took to the streets in response to the death of George Floyd. He died Monday while in Minneapolis police custody.

The Animal Eye Institute, located in Cincinnati, is offering to treat police force horses that received eye injuries during the protests.

Our sister station in Columbus, WCMH, shared video on Twitter of protesters throwing objects at mounted officers during the downtown demonstration Saturday.

NBC4 Columbus


Tear gas fired after objects thrown at mounded officers during downtown protests. 

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While it is unclear from the video if any of the horses were injured, the Animal Eye Institute has extended their hand to officers located anywhere from Columbus to Lexington, Kentucky.

“We aren’t in any way going to get political here, but if any police horses have eye injuries from protests from Columbus down to Lexington, we will treat them for free,” the hospital wrote on Facebook. “Just call the office or send us an email. The big gentle giants don’t deserve to be hurt.”

While the Columbus protest turned violent, causing the Ohio governor to activate the National Guard and Columbus officials to issue a state of emergency and an indefinite city-wide curfew, most of the protesters in Lexington remained peaceful.

**Watch the video above for a look at the Columbus protests**

According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, protests erupted in Lexington for the second night in a row Saturday.

While some were seen turning over garbage cans, other protesters picked up the spilled trash. Some protesters confronted police, chanting “No Justice, No Peace!” and “I can’t breathe!”

Alex Slitz


Protesters confront police in front of the library on Main. @heraldleader @HLpublicsafety

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A third “socially distant, non-violent protest” has been planned for Sunday night at 8 p.m. at the Lexington courthouse.

In Cincinnati, where the Animal Eye Clinic is located, protests have been violent. FOX 19 reports several protesters threw bottles and rocks at police. An Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper’s helmet was even stuck by a bullet. The officer is ok.

Some protesters were seen throwing trash cans into the streets and starting fires. Some businesses were also vandalized.

Nationwide more than 1,400 people in 17 U.S. cities have been arrested since Thursday. While most protests being held in Floyd’s name have been peaceful, several have erupted in violence.

Fed with firecracker-filled pineapples, pregnant elephant dies in river in Kerala

Publish Date: Wed, 03 Jun 2020 10:36 AM IST
Fed with firecracker-filled pineapples, pregnant elephant dies in river in Kerala
Between 2014 and 2019, 510 elephants died all over India as a result of electrocution, train accidents, poaching and poisoning.

New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: A pregnant Elephant was fed with pineapples and firecrackers in Kerala’s Palakkad district’s Silent Valley, which exploded right in her mouth leading to fatal injuries and immediate death right after. A senior forest officer in Attappadi Reserve Forest told media about the incident on Tuesday.

“Her jaw was broken and she was unable to eat after she chewed the pineapple and it exploded in her mouth. It is certain that she was offered the pineapple filled with crackers to eliminate her,” Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden of Attappadi Reserve Forest, Surendra Kumar, was quoted as saying by the news agency PTI.

The incident was reported from the left wing fringe areas of the Silent Valley in Attappadi in Palakkad district. However, Surendrakumar told media that the Elephant died at Velliyar river in Malappuram district on May 27. Later on, the post mortem revealed that the female jumbo was pregnant.

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“I have directed the forest officials to nab the culprit. We will punish him for ‘hunting’ the elephant,” Surendrakumar said.

The incident came to light when Mohan Krishnan, a forest officer wrote a heartbreaking note on his Facebook wall, explaining the events which led to Elephant’s death in Northern Kerala.

Krishnan was the part of initial response team to help the injured creature He said on later that she didn’t trample homes as she ran through the village in excruciating agony.

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‘This is why I said, she is full of goodness,’ Krishnan said.

Officials brought two other elephants to the river in an attempt to entice her from the water but, according to Krishnan, she had come to the river to die.

“I think she had a sixth sense. She didn’t let us do anything,” Krishnan wrote on his Facebook wall.

Elaborating upon the moment when Elephant died, Krishnan wrote that to give her the farewell which she deserved, he and his colleagues took her inside the Reserve Forest in a lorry.

“She lay there on firewood, in the land she played and grew up. The doctor who did her post-mortem told me that she was not alone. I could sense his sadness though the expression on his face was not visible due to his mask. We cremated her in a pyre there. We bowed before her and paid our last respects,” the forest officer added.

According to an Indian Express report, between 2014 and 2019, 510 elephants died all over India as a result of electrocution, train accidents, poaching and poisoning.



The Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF) sent an urgent message to pork producers today, warning of animal welfare activists taking videos of hogs being euthanized on farms.

Direct Action Everywhere (DXE) has members on the ground in Iowa, says CSIF, and all farms and processing plants should be on high alert that they may be targeted in an attempt to capture video footage and cause a disruption to normal business activity.

Livestock farmers must be vigilant in monitoring the security of farms at all times, for the safety of people and livestock.

“Most people think they will never be the target, but no one can assume they are safe,” says CSIF executive director Brian Waddingham. “There are many preventive measures you can take to protect your farm and your livestock.”  For a complete list of ways to keep your farm out of the crosshairs, click here.

If you find a suspicious vehicle near your farm or discover criminals on your property, do not try to apprehend them, says Waddingham. Contact local law enforcement.

This is an extreme animal rights group that is taking advantage of a heart-wrenching, crisis situation some livestock farmers are faced with to advance their own agenda – which is to eliminate animal agriculture, he says.

For additional suggestions on preventive measures you can take to reduce your risk, as well as suggestions of what to do if you are the victim of a criminal act, visit our website.

On Pandemics, Pork Chops and Chicken Nuggets

I’ve wasted too much time lately combing the news for an answer to a crucial question about pandemics like Covid-19: Are they inevitable?

Newscasters and the scientists, doctors and politicians they interview rarely venture beyond daily counts of the stricken to explain why we have pandemics. I suspect it’s because the answer is harder to stomach than the horror of the pandemic itself.

Animals humans raise for food are typically the intermediary hosts of viruses between the wildlife in which they arise – e.g. bats and wild birds – and humans. Consequently, pandemics are a price we pay for eating animals and otherwise using them.

Comedian and political commentator Bill Maher came close to getting it right during the pithy New Rules segment of his April 10 show when arguing for naming Covid-19 the Chinese virus because it seemingly jumped to humans in China’s “wet markets” where live fish, poultry and mammals – including exotics like bats, raccoon dogs and civet cats – are slaughtered on site to satisfy the palate of some Chinese for fresh and exotic meats.

Maher was correct that Chinese wet markets might be culpable for a number of lethal human virus outbreaks, including SARS coronavirus in 2003 and H7N9 Avian flu in 2013.

However, Maher’s initial foray into the origin of pandemics overlooked the uncomfortable fact that Americans’ insatiable taste for animal meat was at the root of other killer virus outbreaks. The H1N1 swine flu of 2009 emerged from a pig confinement operation in North Carolina and was a mutated descendant of a swine flu virus that sprang from U.S. factory farms in 1998. And, even though Chinese chicken farms are credited with the deadly H5N1 bird flu outbreak of 1997 (which killed 60 percent of infected humans), just five years ago a similar bird flu broke out in U.S farms, prompting the slaughter of tens of millions of chickens and turkeys.

Recall also that the 1918 Spanish flu that killed over 50 million people worldwide sprang from farms in Kansas, possibly via pigs or sheep, before transmitting around the world via WWI U.S. soldiers.

To his credit, Maher subsequently course-corrected in an April 24 New Rules segment, proffering that “factory farming is just as despicable as a wet market and just as problematic for our health” and “torturing animals is what got us into this mess.”

U.S. factory farms provide 99% of Americans’ meat, dairy and eggs and are ideal breeding grounds for infectious diseases because of the crowded (and unspeakably inhumane) conditions in which animals are kept. Hence, an overwhelming preponderance of medically important antimicrobials sold nationally are used in food-producing animals.

A hard to swallow truth: Factory farms are America’s cultural equivalent of China’s wet markets.

Many virus pandemics have much to do with society’s dietary choices. Plants do indeed get viruses, but genetic studies provide no evidence that plant viruses are causative agents of disease in humans. A pandemic from eating lentils and broccoli seems highly unlikely.

Humans readily accept the suffering animals endure to satisfy our appetite for meat, and pandemics are just one of the painful costs to us. Others include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, antibiotic resistance, global warming, rainforest destruction and aquifer depletion.

For those who believe that only meat can provide adequate protein to fuel our brains and bodies, consider that Socrates was vegetarian and Patrik Baboumian, dubbed “strongest man on earth,” is vegan.

An athletics documentary available on Netflix, The Game Changers, is an eye-opening starter for doubters that a plant-based diet can sustain optimal health.

Historically, epidemics and pandemics have led to important advances in public health, like widespread understanding of the germ theory, improved sanitation, penicillin and vaccinations. What will Americans learn from Covid-19?

Will we rethink the decades-long erosion of the social safety net, including lack of universal healthcare and opposition to guaranteeing all workers a living wage? Will we reconsider the true value to society of so-called “unskilled” workers, like supermarket checkers, who put themselves at risk now every time they show up for work? And what does it say about our priorities that meat factories are being forced to continue to operate despite high rates of Covid-19 infections among the workers?

Both history and science tell us that, unless we do something different, the next pandemic is somewhere just around the corner. This is driven home by study findings just published in April of six new coronaviruses discovered in Myanmar bats.

My hope is that the global heartache and societal disruptions from Covid-19 will spur a conversation that reaches deeper than blaming pandemics on wet markets and factory farming, but rather confronts humanity with the very real connection between pandemics and eating animals.

COVID-19 Exposes Flaws in Animal Protein Production

 from Sentient Media

COVID-19 Exposes Flaws in Animal Protein Production
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Our food system is breaking due to COVID-19 closures, but this collapse has been looming for decades.

We were warned years ago that another deadly pandemic was inevitable—but we did not listen. Instead, humans have continued prioritizing low food prices and convenience over public safety and pandemic prevention.

Though there are many contributors to the current collapse—including a growing global population and deep-rooted cultural norms—big meat and dairy companies, farmers, producers, and consumers are all to blame for the system’s demise. Demand for animal protein and deep-seated industrialization of animal farming have created the perfect breeding grounds for disease.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many slaughterhouses across North America have been shut down or are working at limited capacity because of large outbreaks among farm and slaughterhouse workers. The closing of restaurants, schools, and hotels—responsible for significant amounts of meat and dairy consumption—has contributed to a drop in demand for animal products.

As a result, there are now major backlogs of animals on farms. Eggs are being crushed, milk is being dumped, and our animal protein production system appears to be crumbling before our eyes—a reality that demonstrates the dire need for reform within our animal-dependent food system.

“The system is breaking up,” says Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, professor of food distribution and policy in the Faculties of Management and Agriculture at Dalhousie University, in Canada. What we see happening today, he says, “is really showing the limits of our system,” and the cost “are the lives of animals that were produced for no reason.”

Meat Production Is Showing No Signs of Slowing Down
Though COVID-19 has threatened food supply chains, meat production in 2021 is forecast to rise nearly 4 percent higher than in 2020 due to recovery in all major types of meat.

From an economic perspective, “the problem remains in processing,” Charlebois explains. Our food system was transformed over a century ago from local abattoirs to massive corporate slaughter plants. A centralized food system, he adds, “makes the entire supply chain vulnerable.”

Adam Clark Estes—Deputy Editor of Recode at Vox—explains that “Meatpacking remains consolidated to a few dozen Midwestern processing plants, many of which are owned by a handful of huge corporations, like JBS and Smithfield.” That’s why, he says, “when a few of these processors get shut down, due to a pandemic or something else, the country’s entire meat supply suffers.”

Read the full story

Covering COVID-19
With the worst global pandemic we’ve seen in over a century, it’s more important than ever to make sure the truth is reported in its entirety, not just what’s convenient.