Council of the EU: Pandemic risk of industrial agriculture needs global action
Transformation of the Food System Essential for Sustainability
“Industrial agriculture increases the ‘risk of future pandemics and needs to be tackled”, according to the Council of the EU in Brussels, which calls for action to be taken on a global basis alongside other major issues including climate change and deforestation. The statement was made in the Council conclusions setting out the EU’s priorities for the coming year at the United Nations.
“Deforestation, industrial agriculture, illegal wildlife trade, pollution, climate change, water scarcity, inefficient sanitation and waste management and other types of environmental degradation increase the risk of future pandemics and need to be tackled,” said the Council of the EU’s conclusions in the run-up to the UN’s Food Systems Summit due to take place in July next year. Echoing calls that protecting people means protecting animals too, the Council insists that we “must be guided by the ‘one health’ principle to ensure both human and ecosystem health”.
Industrial animal agriculture, where pigs, chickens and cattle are caged, crammed or confined, provides the perfect breeding ground for new and more deadly disease. Mild strains of Avian Influenza entering an over-crowded chicken factory farm, for example, spreads very rapidly. As it goes through the flock replicating madly, differences can occur in the virus’ DNA, giving rise to new, more deadly strains. The 2009 Swine Flu pandemic originated in pig factory farms in Mexico and North America. The resulting pandemic went on to kill up to 575,000 people worldwide.
The Covid-19 crisis has “sharpened the focus on the inadequacy of the global response to the climate and biodiversity emergencies,” said the Council conclusions. Factory farming is not only a melting pot for future pandemics, it is also a major driver of wildlife declines. And the burgeoning livestock sector worldwide already contributes 14.5 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than the exhaust fumes from all the world’s planes, trains and cars put together.
A key theme in the Council of the EU document is the need for far-reaching reform of the food system, pledging to support efforts to scale-up action aimed at continuing the “transformation” of the current food system to one more healthy and sustainable.
To my mind, we are entering a crucial moment in history where the future viability of our society will be defined by our response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the changes we make to a global food system which has such a bearing on future sustainability.
In this age of pandemic, climate and biodiversity emergency, there is a pressing need for a wholesale move away from unsustainable industrial farming toward a future-fit food system based on regenerative agriculture. Farming that works in harmony with nature: putting back soil health, bringing pollinators and other wildlife swarming back, conserving water, being kind to animals and protecting the future for all.
Regenerative Food System
To avoid the nightmare of Covid-19 being repeated, urgent action is needed globally to move away from damaging industrial farming practices in favour of regenerative food; without factory farming and with much less dependence on resource-sapping intensive animal products.
It is hugely welcome to see the EU setting out clear priorities, including tackling industrial farming, deforestation and climate change, ahead of next year’s most crucial UN meetings; UNEA5, the Food Systems Summit, the Biodiversity Summit and the next Conference of the Parties on climate change.
I and my team here at Compassion in World Farming stand poised to do everything we can to support the EU and all nations of the UN in this endeavour.
We encourage those charged today with creating a viable tomorrow to agree a global action plan to ‘build back better’ by ending industrial agriculture and runaway meat production.
The future for us all relies on moving to a more humane and sustainable regenerative food system. One that builds on a central principle learned through the pandemic: that protecting people means protecting animals too.
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.