Coronavirus: Seizing the moment to save the future

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Credit: Derek J Walker

Protecting the health service by staying at home has been a key message throughout this crisis. And a key point of grateful celebration has been for those in the health service and other key workers.

What I think has been extraordinary and applaudable is how far governments have moved to protect people and their health, introducing life-changing measures across the board in moves normally only associated with wartime.

It shows how quickly changes can be made. In the face of an imminent threat, leaders have stepped up. Society has gone into battle with the virus, our invisible enemy.

Government action on Covid-19 stands in stark contrast to efforts on factory farming, climate change and the collapse of nature.

Short-term thinking

Even though the level of crisis from factory farming and climate breakdown is undeniable, few leaders of any persuasion are willing to do what it takes. Few want to act now, on their watch, to prevent crises on someone else’s. As one politician said of climate change, ‘I know what to do, I just don’t know how to get re-elected’. Businesses locked into quarterly or annual returns, obligated to show immediate profit for shareholders, are unwilling to turn their world upside down and risk their business, well, until the world turns upside down. And so, we are locked into a circle of short-term thinking. Where anything other than incremental change, a minor evolution of the status quo, seems radical and unrealistic.

Yet, the Coronavirus pandemic has shown how fragile society really is; that for the sake of a decent tomorrow, drastic measures are needed today.

Without urgent action to address the food system, climate and the collapse of nature, we could find ourselves again fighting an ‘invisible enemy’, only this time, in a war without end.

Image of deforestation and destruction in the Amazon : “Collectively, we are living beyond the supporting capability of this blue planet”, Falkenberg | Credit: Parichart Thongmee

Talking at Compassion in World Farming’s ‘Extinction’ conference in 2017, former European Commission director-general for the environment, Karl Falkenberg, pointed out how society rarely makes major changes without a bloody nose. Talking about food, climate and the environment, Falkenberg said, “Why with all the knowledge that we have, why can we still not get the right governance decisions? Why do we continuously do the wrong things that we know are wrong until the next disaster hits us? We do need bloody noses before collectively we start modifying systems.”

And boy, with Covid-19, did we get one hell of a bloody nose.

Running out of time

Whereas, with climate change, there is ‘still’ a decade or so to solve it, that bloody nose hasn’t kicked in yet. The same can be said for the collapse in nature, the decline in pollinating insects, bees and the like. As for the world’s oceans, they still have fish in them. Well, for another two to three decades anyway. And saving the world’s soils feels like a lifetime away before society hits the buffers. Let alone future pandemics from factory farming animals in conditions that provide the perfect breeding ground for disease.

As Falkenberg put it, “Collectively, we are living beyond the supporting capability of this blue planet. And we are doing it while we know that this is the only planet we have. It is a fundamental contradiction. It’s short termism in the worst form we can imagine”.

With Covid-19, the immediacy of the ‘attack’ from the invisible enemy – mounting death tolls and the prospect of much more – meant political leaders across the world did for the common good, things previously unimaginable. The effects were immediate. It wasn’t something politicians could put off for another day.

Nothing is more serious than Extinction

Perhaps the world’s response to Covid-19 will break the mould, establish a new way of looking at threats just over the immediate horizon. Perhaps, as a global society, we will now find it within ourselves to take the future seriously. The response to Covid-19 has arguably set the template for what could be done to stave off other threats facing society: climate change, the collapse of nature and the threat to future food supplies posed by factory farming.

Hens, doves and ducks enclosed in cages at a wet market in the streets of Shanghai, China | Credit: Monica Ninker

Whilst this pandemic has been linked to wildlife caught up in wet markets for food, the next one could come from an incarcerated pig or chicken. From sentient beings reduced to mere commodities. Either way, factory farms could be making victims of us all. Farmed animals, wildlife, people; our health and wellbeing is all interlinked.

In the war against invisible enemies, protecting people means protecting animals too.

Please join us in our fight for a fairer, more compassionate world for animals. It has never  been so important to come together and create great change for animals and for each other.

Compassion in World Farming is calling on the world’s most influential organisations, including The World Bank, the United Nations and the World Health Organisation, to replace factory farming with a food system that respects animals, nurtures our planet, and reduces the risk of pandemics. 

Please use this link to sign our petition and join the call for a future without factory farming

Thank you.

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