Intergovernmental panel of experts links pandemic risk to meat consumption
An intergovernmental panel of experts has been to where most governments fear going, linking the growing risk of a pandemic to, among other causes, excessive meat consumption.
The report calls for transformative change to reduce “consumption, globalized agricultural expansion and trade” that the panel said is causing pandemics, including the COVID-19 coronavirus.
“This could include amending previous calls for taxes or levies on meat consumption, animal production or other forms of consumption at high risk of pandemic,” said the report, released last week, from the Intergovernmental science and policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services.
The report was prepared by 22 experts, most of them scientists appointed by governments and organizations.
Most governments and international organizations have avoided tinkering with human food. The Paris Agreement, for example, avoids tackling the consumption of meat directly despite the meat industry significant contribution greenhouse gas emissions.
In contrast, IPBES recommends not only less consumption of wild animals that harbor pathogens like COVD-19, but also less consumption of domestic livestock that can link these pathogens to humans. The livestock trade, he notes, also releases pathogens through deforestation.
About 70 percent of emerging diseases are zoonoses, caused by microbes of animal origin, including Ebola, Zika and Nipah encephalitis, the report notes, and almost all known pandemics are zoonoses, including influenza, HIV / AIDS and COVID-19.
“These microbes are ‘overflowing’ due to contact between wildlife, livestock and humans.”
Wildlife is not to blame for zoonotic pandemics, according to the report, but human activities are to be blamed for disrupting ecosystems where pathogens are naturally kept in balance.
The report concludes that societies can help prevent future pandemics by “promoting a transition to healthier, more sustainable and more diverse diets, including responsible consumption of meat.”
The report does not define responsible or excessive meat consumption. The panel also calls for habitat protection, changes in land use policy, incentives for companies to avoid activities and products that the panel believes pose a high risk of a pandemic.
“The risk of a pandemic could be significantly reduced by promoting responsible consumption and reducing unsustainable consumption of commodities from emerging disease outbreaks, and wildlife and wildlife products, as well as reducing the excessive consumption of meat from animal production. “