Their Wet Market Is Our Factory Farm

This is a follow-up to my March 27 essay about the roots of COVID-19 and other deadly viruses in the abuse, slaughter, and eating of animals.

The writing has been on the wall for years. Animal agriculture, in all of its manifestations — from the disembowelment of pigs to the bloodthirsty “sport” of hunting — is a ticking time bomb. Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, I continue to be stunned by the lack of serious reporting on the source of the problem. Finally, after weeks of sparse coverage, we are beginning to see the issue come to light through figures that have captured the world’s attention, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who stated that “It boggles my mind how when we have so many diseases that emanate out of that unusual human-animal interface, that we don’t just shut it down. I don’t know what else has to happen to get us to appreciate that.”

Since the pandemic began, experts have commented on this connection between animal agriculture and disease outbreaks. What do they say?

“Zoonotic viruses almost always leap to humans directly from our livestock or from wildlife, the slaughter and hunting of which bring susceptible human hosts in particularly close contact with live animals and their infected tissues and fluids. Both farmed and caged wild animals create the perfect breeding ground for zoonotic diseases.” – Liz Specht, PhD, associate director of science and technology at the Good Food Institute. (Wired)

“We invade tropical forests and other wild landscapes, which harbor so many species of animals and plants — and within those creatures, so many unknown viruses. We cut the trees; we kill the animals or cage them and send them to markets. We disrupt ecosystems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it.” — David Quammen, science writer and author of “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic.” (New York Times)

“If we want to forestall the evolution of ever-newer, and possibly deadlier, human-adapted viruses, live animal markets must be permanently shut down. Until the Chinese government outlaws these markets, until factory farms housing millions of animals are eliminated, until we take the inevitable logic of disease evolution into account, novel, and potentially deadly, human diseases will continue to arise. Again. And again. And again.”  — Wendy Orent, an anthropologist specializing in health and pandemics, author of author of “Plague: The Mysterious Past and Terrifying Future of the World’s Most Dangerous Disease” and “Ticked: The Battle Over Lyme Disease in the South.”

“It’s [viral pandemics] about the way we are pushing into the last wild spaces on our planet. When we burn and plow into the Amazon rainforest so that we can have cheap land for ranching, when the last of the African bush gets converted to farms, when wild animals in China are hunted to extinction, human beings come into contact with wildlife populations that they have never come into contact with before…. So as long as we keep making our remote places less remote, the outbreaks are going to keep coming.” – Global health expert Alanna Shaikh. (TED)

Those are just a few. If humans are to survive on this planet, consideration must be given to the roots of the pathogens that threaten to wipe us all out. They’re out there, and they will find their way here. Unless we change the way we live with animals, no amount of soap and hand sanitizer is going to save us.

Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!