How do the scientists come to this conclusion?
Professor Andreas Michalsen: Infectious diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans have been increasing for decades. As early as 2004, the medical journal Lancet stated that all new infectious diseases in the last 20 years apparently originated from animals, and the massive spread threatens especially if the animals are domesticated and kept intensively. As long as there is only occasional contact with people, everything is fine. Tuberculosis came from goats and cattle, measles from sheep and goats, or smallpox from camels, whooping cough and influenza from pigs, typhus from chickens, influenza from ducks. And bacteria such as Helicobacter pylori also come from animals, from sheep’s milk. At the same time, the excessive use of antibiotics in animal husbandry ensures a growing spread of multi-resistant germs.
So is factory farming a cause of pandemics?
Professor Andreas Michalsen: Yes, it is one of many reasons and it is also related to the growth of the world population, which is destroying more and more nature and thus animal habitats and leading to a decrease in biodiversity. Animals and their viruses have to adapt to the new living conditions, which leads to mutation pressure on the pathogens. As long as the world wants to eat more and more meat and clears forests for it – and for growing urbanization – the situation will worsen. More and more animals concentrate in less and less space. We learned from the coronavirus pandemic that distance and lockdown are the most important things to stop the virus from spreading. Factory farming, for example, completely contradicts these principles. The animals are herded together in their thousands, “produced” in a division of labor and repeatedly transported over long distances. Most of the threatening new viral diseases in the past few decades have to do with animal markets, wildlife trade, and factory farming. This applies to the Ebola virus, the avian flu H5N1, MERS, SARS-CoV-1 and now COVID-19.