Eating Meat Isn't Just Unethical – It's Suicidal

The world is treating the symptoms of this coronavirus pandemic, but we're ignoring the root causes, Chas Newkey-Burden writes.

Imagine a world in which humans had never eaten meat. Then, one day, a big food company announces their new range: they’re going to sell animal flesh products.

The adverts say they’re going to kill 70 billion land animals every year – 90 per cent of them from intensive factory farms. They accept it will cause huge pollution and climate change, but dinners will be tastier.

They say it will cause occasional food poisoning and probably some pandemics, but there’s going to be a salty version of pigs called “bacon”, and we’ll love it.

Would any of this sound like a good deal to you? Would you buy the food and support the industry?

Think about it, because this is what you’re doing if you eat meat or dairy.

The meat and dairy industries already imprison and slaughter more than 70 billion land animals each year, and their greedy rackets are already destroying the environment and causing pandemics.

“The meat industry is killing 70 billion animals a year, causing deadly pandemics and destroying the planet. Is your bacon sandwich really worth it?”

A new UN report said the number of zoonotic epidemics – the ones that can be transmitted from animals to people – is rising, from Ebola to Sars to West Nile virus and Rift Valley fever. The authors warned that although the world is treating the health and economic symptoms of this coronavirus pandemic, governments are ignoring the root causes: humans’ destruction of nature and meat eating.

A white paper found that nearly every major zoonotic disease outbreak of the last 120 years is inextricably linked to animal exploitation, including meat consumption. The human cost is huge: even before Covid-19, two million people die from zoonotic diseases each year.

The connection between animal and human lives is becoming clearer to see. Only this month, a new strain of flu with the potential to become a pandemic was identified in China. Researchers said the infections started in people who were working in the pork industry — in blood soaked abattoirs. Professor James Wood, head of the department of veterinary medicine at the University of Cambridge, told the BBC that this news “comes as a salutary reminder” that human contact with farmed animals often acts as the source of pandemic viruses.

The wet markets of China are not the only link between animal exploitation and Covid-19. Around the world there are fresh outbreaks of the virus springing up in slaughterhouses – in England, Wales, the US, Canada, Ireland and Germany.

It’s frightening: at the time of writing, over half a million people have died from Covid-19 and it has caused widespread heartache, disruption and economic damage. Yet, for all the hours I’ve heard our leaders discussing what to do, barely a moment is focused on discussing a really important aspect of stopping this from happening again.

Some people hope the awkward fact will just go away if we don’t talk about it. Nonetheless, experts say the rate of pandemics will accelerate if mankind’s addiction to meat is not confronted.

Given the solid link between these deadly viruses and the deadly livestock industry, I think it’s time to update the vegan lobby’s oldest slogan: meat isn’t just murder – it’s suicide.

The top five meat and dairy companies are responsible for more emissions than ExxonMobil, Shell or BP. Animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the combined exhaust from transportation. It is also to blame for huge emissions of nitrous oxide, a gas that is 310 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere.

The meat industry is killing 70 billion animals a year, causing deadly pandemics and destroying the planet. Is your bacon sandwich really worth it? Delicious plant-based substitutes are now available for all meat products. We all love nice food, so if your burger or bacon sandwich is important to you, you can eat them without killing any animals, promoting pandemics, or trashing the planet. What’s stopping you?

The only people who benefit – in the short term at least – from you continuing to eat meat are the bosses who make a fortune from all this death and destruction. They hope you won’t think about animals suffering in factory farms. They’re counting on you not to notice the link between those animals taking their final breath in slaughterhouses and people taking their final breaths in hospital beds. They’ll keep laughing their way to the bank for as long as you ignore the environmental pillage they are causing.

As more people wake up, meat and dairy consumption is going down and veganism is growing. One day, a tipping point will arrive. Future generations will look back at slaughterhouses and factory farms and be amazed by how uncivilised and ignorant we were. It will seem absolutely awful that this happened and that so many kept quiet. People will wonder about their own ancestors. So, are you going to risk more death and destruction for the sake a bacon sandwich? Which side of history will you be on?

Chas Newkey-Burden is a writer, author and animal liberationist


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