Coronavirus and Meat: Myths and Facts

Posted by on March 25, 2020 | Permalink

What’s the link between meat and the coronavirus? As the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) grips the world, more and more people are self-isolating, being quarantined, and wondering just how we got here. PETA has long warned of the health risks associated with eating meat. After all, raising animals for food in filthy conditions creates a breeding ground for diseases that can be transmitted to humans.

PETA has answers to common questions about the link between eating meat and the coronavirus:

Is the meat industry responsible for the coronavirus?

We can’t ignore the link between eating animals and outbreaks of diseases like COVID-19. Humans’ insatiable demand for meat, eggs, and dairy means that huge numbers of animals are reared in intensive confinement in giant, filthy sheds.

Chickens, cows, pigs, and other animals are crammed together in small cages or faeces-ridden sheds. They’re transported in filthy lorries and slaughtered on killing floors soaked with blood, urine, and other bodily fluids.

Pathogens flourish in such conditions. Crowded farms are a breeding ground for new strains of dangerous bacteria and viruses.

Where did the coronavirus come from?

Public health experts believe COVID-19 originated at a “wet market” in China, where traders sell both live and dead animals for human consumption. COVID-19 is similar to the outbreaks of SARS and MERS: all three spread to humans from other animals.

Have other diseases come from eating meat?

According to Public Health England, “Many (60 to 80% [of]) emerging infections are derived from an animal source.” In a report, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations acknowledges that many new human diseases are directly linked to animals used for food.

Swine flu – which is linked to pigs – has killed thousands of people worldwide. Bird flu (or avian flu), of which there are at least 144 different strains, can spread easily on a crowded chicken farm. The H5N1 variety of the disease kills the most birds and is deadly to humans, killing about 60% of those who catch it.

This is just a small part of a long list of deadly diseases linked to killing and eating animals.

Kelly Guerin / We Animals

Wet market in Anhui. China, 2016.

Is it safe to eat meat during the coronavirus outbreak?

You should stay away from animal-derived foods at all times for many reasons! They include the following:

  • Cruelty to animals
  • The meat, egg, and dairy industries’ damage to the planet
  • The risk of suffering from heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other ailments
  • The significant risk of contracting foodborne pathogens such as E coli and salmonella
  • The rampant use of antibiotics in animals reared for food around the world, which contributes to the emergence of “superbugs” – new, aggressive pathogens – and antibiotic resistance in humans


What is the meat industry’s role in the emergence of superbugs?

“When you bring animals together in these unnatural situations, you have the risk of human diseases emerging.”

– Kevin Olival, disease ecologist and conservationist, EcoHealth Alliance

In addition to serving as breeding grounds for viruses, the crowded, filthy conditions on farms allow bacteria to spread quickly. Farmers feed animals a regimen of antibiotics to try to minimise sickness or to promote unnatural growth. Did you know that globally, animals on farms consume more antibiotics every year than humans do?

Bacteria become resistant to antibiotics as a result of overuse, and this contributes to the emergence of superbugs. Now, the drugs used to keep animals on farms alive are making humans sick.

According to a report commissioned by the UK government, the antibiotic-resistance crisis is predicted to kill one person every three seconds by 2050.


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