WHO and UN leaders condemned by animal welfare charity for ignoring root cause of Covid pandemic a year on.

WHO and UN leaders condemned by animal welfare charity for ignoring root cause of Covid pandemic a year on

 

The letter says high-risk practices, such as the commercial wildlife trade, the dog and cat meat trade, and fur, must be phased out if we are to prevent another crippling global pandemic

 

Upon the first anniversary of the World Health Organisation declaring Covid-19 a pandemic, a leading animal-welfare organisation has accused governments of “not addressing the actual issues around animal abuse” which lead to zoonotic pandemics.

In an open letter, addressed to the WHO, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), animal charity Four Paws demanded that risky practices be “urgently phased out”, with a ban on fur farms, live animal markets, and the dog, cat meat, and wildlife trade.

It also urged that there is greater acknowledgement of the need to eat less meat – a key driver of the climate crisis and habitat loss – and a crackdown on risks created by factory farming.

The letter said that “pharmaceutical responses are not the sole and long-term solution”, and said it was “deeply concerning” that despite WHO director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaking a year ago on infection-prevention, the way humans treat animals has not been factored into the pandemic response alongside the development of vaccinations.

Josef Pfabigan, President of Four Paws wrote: “The settings in which a huge proportion of animals globally are raised, traded, transported and slaughtered – cramped and overcrowded environments, poor hygiene, myriad origins, and conditions suppressing immune systems and encouraging pathogen excretion and uptake – create an ideal situation for the exchange, genetic modification and emergence of new pathogens.”

In 2007-2011, the three global organisations, the WHO, FAO and OIE, set up a plan called One Health, which was an attempt to reduce health risks, including animal-human interactions.

Four Paws wants them to add a “One Welfare” plan, stressing links between animal welfare and people’s wellbeing.

Mr Pfabigan said: “The underlying problem is the dysfunctional relationship between us, humans, with animals and nature.

“Only when concrete measures ending animal suffering are introduced worldwide can future zoonotic pandemics be stopped.

“We demand a holistic approach from those responsible, because animal welfare equals environmental health equals human wellbeing.”

In response to the letter, the non-profit organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) raised similar concerns.

Speaking to i, PETA’s Director Elisa Allen said: “PETA wrote to the WHO last year to emphasise that treating animals with disrespect and regarding them as ours for the taking will come back to bite us again, just as it has with the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Animal markets and factory farms – including those that cage animals for their feathers and fur – are breeding grounds for diseases that mutate and spread to the human population. And if we continue to pillage the natural world and kill the other animals in it, we also exacerbate the climate crisis.”

Previously, scientists have said zoonotic diseases – viruses that jump from animals to humans – have become four times more frequent in the past 50 years, with zoonoses causing a billion cases of illness in people and millions of deaths every year.

According to both the WHO and a UN environment report last year, 75 per cent of all emerging infectious diseases originate in animals, and Four Paws is warning of “ticking time bombs all over the world” from practices where pathogens may emerge and spread.

It added: “Our food and farming systems must become more resilient to crises, through a reduced reliance on animal products, and less disruptive to the natural processes that protect us from emerging diseases. To do this we need joint leadership and joint action.”

Mr Pfabigan said: “All forms of wild animal trade are associated with high risks of spreading zoonotic diseases. The Sars outbreak in 2002 has also been traced back to a wildlife market in China.

“These conditions and dangers are not only found in live animal markets in Asia. Pigs and chickens, treated equally dreadfully in factory farms, have succumbed to swine and bird flu worldwide.

Millions of mink, vegetating on fur farms in Europe, have been infected with Covid-19 and reinfected humans with mutations of the virus. As long as we let animals suffer like this, we humans will suffer the consequences of zoonotic diseases.”

It says the pressure to produce more, and cheaper animal products, leads to increasing numbers of animals being kept in poor-welfare environments, while the resulting land change fuels climate change and biodiversity loss.

Mr Pfabigan wrote: “Multiple zoonotic diseases have been definitively linked to the dog and cat meat trade including cholera. In addition, the dog and cat meat trade itself fulfils many of the conditions for pathogen emergence and spread.”

Ms Allen added: “Governments must act by banning the exotic-animal trade and all factory farms, and until that happens, each of us must take personal responsibility by refusing to prop up these dangerous industries and going vegan.

“We owe it to future generations to act now, or there won’t be an inhabitable planet left for them to live on.”

Carla Drysdale, WHO Communications Officer told i: “Cross-sectoral collaboration is key to understanding and managing public health risks at the human-animal-environment interface and improving global health security.

“WHO works with national governments, academia, non-governmental and philanthropic organisations, and regional and international partners, including with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), to prevent and manage these threats and their public health, social and economic impacts.”

WHO and UN leaders condemned by animal welfare charity for ignoring root cause of Covid pandemic a year on (inews.co.uk) WHO and UN leaders condemned by animal welfare charity for ignoring root cause of Covid pandemic a year on (inews.co.uk)

 

 

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