01 Jul HUMAN SUPREMACY AND PANDEMICS – THERE IS MUCH WORSE TO COME
Our belief that we as humans are the centre of the universe and that other animals and nature exist beneath us and at our service has led to the vast majority of disasters we face.
Human supremacy, or anthropocentrism, is the leading cause of mass chronic illness, environmental devastation, antibiotic resistance, violence against animals and, of course, as is now abundantly clear, global pandemics. The additional negative offshoots of these are vast and as equally devastating.
Experts have been warning us for over a decade that our exploitation of other animals has caused, and will continue to cause, pandemics. These pandemics are predicted to become more contagious and their impacts more severe with one expert, Dr Michael Greger, stating “COVID-19 is just a dress rehearsal for a real killer plague like influenza.”
Watch Dr Greger’s pandemic warning to us over ten years ago here.
What Dr Greger means when he says this, is that although COVID-19 is highly contagious and there have been many lives lost, the fatality rate of COVID-19 is significant, but comparatively, relatively low at less than 1%. Past major zoonotic virus outbreaks have had fatality rates of up to 80% but have thankfully (for the most part) had low transmission rates. What experts such as Dr Greger rightly fear and are confident will occur if we continue in our exploitation of other animals, is that the next pandemic will have the even more disastrous combination of a highly contagious strain with a high mortality strain.
For example: A virus with the fatality rate of H5N1 (a bird flu with a fatality rate of over 50%) combined with a highly contagious disease like COVID-19.
Our forced breeding, raising and killing of other animals for food creates a breeding ground for the spread of disease. Tens of thousands of animals crowded together, in filthy conditions under stress which cripples their immune systems, lack of fresh air and sunlight, and ammonia from decomposing waste provides the perfect storm environmentally for the emergence and spread of super strains of influenza. These infections continue on, jumping from sick animal to sick animal to survive, to mutate and get stronger. Meanwhile we are pumping animals full of antibiotics which is resulting in antibiotic resistance in humans – one of the greatest risks we are facing.
“If we want to create global pandemics then we build factory farms” Dr Greger says.
Other individuals and major health organisations have also highlighted the major cause of emerging diseases.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has stated “70% (approx. 2 in 3) of the new diseases that have emerged in humans over recent decades are of animal origin and, in part, directly related to the human quest for more animal-sourced food.”
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention states:
“Zoonotic diseases are very common, both in the United States and around the world. Scientists estimate that more than 6 out of every 10 known infectious diseases in people can be spread from animals, and 3 out of every 4 new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals.”
The American Public Health Association has been calling for a moratorium on so-called factory farms for 20 years now. However, importantly, they are not just calling for the deintensification of the pig and chicken industries but questioned whether we should be eating animals at all.
In other words, although the current industrialised systems used for breeding and rearing animals for food create perfect conditions for infectious diseases to spread and mutate, it is important to acknowledge that it is not only intensive animal rearing operations that are of concern.
For example: Bird flu viruses have existed harmlessly for millions of years, harmless to both birds and people. It is our subjugation of other animals in all forms that creates the issue. Domesticating, fencing in or caging animals, and encroaching into their territories, cause the majority of virus outbreaks and most of the other major health, environmental and ethical disasters we face today.
There is strong evidence to suggest the starting point of the Spanish Flu of 1918 (also a H1N1) was from subjugated, but not intensively reared, ducks in the USA. It is estimated that about 500 million people, or one-third of the world’s population, became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide, with about 675,000 occurring in the United States.
Additionally, humans encroaching further into land that has been mostly historically reserved for free-living animals is bringing us into close contact with animals who can carry, but be unaffected by, these viruses. This is being driven by mining, logging, human population growth and most predominantly by animal agriculture which currently uses well over half of Australia’s land and approximately 45% of land globally.
David Quammen, author of Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Pandemic, recently wrote in the New York Times. “We invade tropical forests and other wild landscapes, which harbour so many species of animals and plants – and within those creatures, so many unknown viruses” and “We cut the trees; we kill the animals or cage them and send them to markets. We disrupt ecosystems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it.”
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention states “As human populations have risen, so have swine and poultry populations as a means to feed them. This expanded number of hosts provides increased opportunities for novel influenza viruses from birds and pigs to spread, evolve and infect people.”
The fact is, the majority of infectious diseases are caused by our exploitation of other animals, whether that be by subjugating and farming them, pushing further into their territories, engaging in the wildlife trade or eating so-called “bushmeat”. The experts acknowledge this but the world’s so-called ‘leaders’ and the vast majority of our global media are refusing to talk about it. Like all other negative impacts caused by our use and abuse of other animals, the root cause of this and other global pandemics is being ignored as Dr Aysha Akhtar (double board certified in neurology and preventative medicine) highlighted recently in an interview.
“We could have prevented this and our public health agencies have failed us and they failed us again and again. I worked in the office of counter terrorism and emergency threats to the food and drug administration for 5 years and we were dealing with what to do with these new potential viruses that are emerging and not once in our conversations did we ever talk about how to prevent these viruses from emerging. All we talked about was what vaccines can we produce, what drugs can we produce, what can we stockpile. But nothing about how to prevent these pandemics from occurring in the first place. And that is a huge failing on the part of our public health agencies.”
But China Though!
Asian wet markets are horrid, violent, disturbing places. No one can dispute this. However, so are live animal markets, and animal rearing and slaughter facilities across Australia and other Western countries. There is one huge difference when it comes to the West’s rearing and slaughter facilities – HIGH WALLS. We hide what we do to animals and the conditions we keep them in.
The risks of disease spreading are higher when live mixed species are caged together (for example, keeping water birds with land animals can help disease to transfer and mutate, which is a more commonly found practice in Asian countries compared to Australia for example). However, our systems of rearing animals are as equally cramped, stress inducing and filthy. European colonised countries have a long history of live animal markets and slaughter on the streets. New York City for example currently has 80. More here.
The book Eternal Treblinka by Charles Patterson details the open air saleyards and slaughterhouses where blood and stench lined the streets of Manhattan Island. Locals in many areas were successful in having them moved away as they were sick at the sight, sound and smell.
Importantly, it is Western culture that is pushing the eating of animals’ bodies and their secretions, and the intensive animal rearing models into countries such as Asia and South America. These countries were predominantly plant-based for centuries. Approximately 70% of humans are lactose intolerant yet we push dairy products onto nations across the globe.
The blame China rhetoric is driven by both xenophobia and the convenient illusion that there is such a thing as happy meat coming from the farms of Australia where we convince ourselves the animals are treated well. It is an absolute myth. Over 95% of animals bred for food and fibre are intensively reared and the tiny number who do raise pigs, chickens and other animals outside in fewer numbers still provide a breeding ground for the spread and mutation of disease and still send them all to a terrifying and brutal death as literal babies.
Finally, it is worth noting, the 2009 H1N1 Swine Flu outbreak originated in America. It is estimated approximately 1/6th of the global population was exposed to the virus. However, it luckily had a very low mortality rate.
To say this is a China problem is absolute rubbish. Each and every one of us who engages in the unnecessary exploitation of animals and the ongoing destruction of the habitats of free-living species, is perpetuating and creating these otherwise mostly avoidable disasters.
Veganism will not stop ALL pandemics but it will drastically reduce their frequency and severity. As Dr Michael Greger states “If people stopped eating animals, we dramatically reduce our risk of killer pandemic viruses like the flu.”
China is not harming us all. Human supremacy across the entire globe, however, IS harming us all.
Below is a list of just some of the major virus outbreaks and other ailments caused by our exploitation of other animals.
Spanish Flu 1918 – Most commonly believed to have originated from subjugated chickens or waterfowl from America. The fatality rate is believed to be approximately 2% and human to human contagion was high.
HIV/AIDS approx 1920 – Originated from exploiting chimpanzees in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The case-fatality rate was 80-90% during the first 5 years of infection in developed countries and it *can be highly contagious.
Marburg 1967 – Originated from bats in Africa but the human outbreak began in Germany by placing the African green monkey in a Marburg laboratory. The fatality rate is HIGH (about 80%) and it *can be highly contagious.
Ebola 1976 – Originated in the Democratic Republic of Congo from bats or nonhuman primates. The fatality rate is high (40%) and it *can be highly contagious.
Bird Flu H5N1 1997 – Originated from subjugated geese in China. The fatality rate is high (53%) but human to human contagion is low.
Nipah 1998 – Originated from flying foxes but passed to humans by farming infected pigs in Malaysia. Fatality rate is high (78%) but contagion is low.
SARS 2002 – Likely originated from exploiting bats and spread to exploited civet cats in China. The fatality rate is, comparatively, on the lower side (10%) but contagion is high.
Swine Flu H1N1 2009 – Originated from subjugated pigs in North America. It is estimated that 1/6th of global population was exposed to the virus but it had a very low fatality rate (0.02%) so we were very lucky.
MERS 2012 – Originated most likely from bats to camels in Saudi Arabia. The fatality rate is 34% but contagion is low.
Bird Flu H7N9 2013 – Originated from poultry in China. The fatality rate is high (39%) but contagion is low.
Covid-19 2019 – Unconfirmed but most likely originated from exploiting bats in China, with the pangolin becoming the intermediate host. The fatality rate is low at less than 1% at time of writing but human to human contagion is high.
*denotes transmission is through body fluids so risk of infection is high but only when body fluids are exchanged.
Below is a list of just some of the other zoonotic diseases that are not infectious between humans, along with a list of other major human challenges stemming entirely or predominantly from our exploitation of other animals.
Mad Cow Disease – Subjugated cattle being fed other dead animals by humans.
E.Coli – Bacteria from animals defecating on plant food grown for humans.
Salmonella – A bacteria living in the intestines of animals. Passed to humans who eat them through under-cooking their flesh (mostly chickens) and eggs.
Campylobacter – A bacteria in the gut and faeces of mainly chickens. It can be fatal for the elderly, young and immune supressed. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention estimates Campylobacter infection affects 1.5 million U.S. residents every year.
Anthrax – Mostly comes from animals such as cows and goats who become infected through spore contaminated water which is then given to humans who eat the contaminated animals.
Listeria – Mostly from consuming shellfish, dairy products and cold meats.
Leptospirosis – A bacterial disease spread through the urine of infected animals. Humans can get leptospirosis through direct contact with urine from infected animals or through water, soil or food contaminated with their urine. It is most common in warm climates.
Heart Disease – Takes 48 lives in Australia every day making it our number one killer. Cardiovascular disease accounted for almost 14% of Australia’s total burden of disease in 2015. In 2017 more than 1 in 4 deaths (27%) had cardiovascular disease as the underlying cause.
Certain Cancers – The World Health Organization has classified processed meats including ham, bacon, salami and frankfurts as a Group 1 carcinogen (known to cause cancer). This places them in the same category as asbestos and cigarette smoking. Red meat, such as beef, lamb and pork, has been classified as a Group 2A carcinogen which means they probably cause cancer.
Type 2 Diabetes – An estimated 1 million Australians are currently living with type 2 diabetes. A whole food plant-based diet can be very effective in eradicating this lifestyle disease.
Antibiotic Resistance – 70% of the antibiotics produced globally are fed to the animals we raise for food, causing antibiotic resistance in humans. This resistance is considered to be one of the greatest threats to human health. Learn more here.
Climate Change – A clear threat to us all. The leading cause of climate change is animal agriculture through direct emissions from animals, land clearing through burning and cutting down forests to raise animals, and through the earth’s inability to draw down carbon due to loss of top soil, soil erosion flowing into our oceans and the direct killing of ocean life. Learn more here and here.
Drought – Exacerbated by land clearing and climate change.
Water Shortages – 80% of humans live in areas where water supply is not secure and 1.6 billion people live in areas of absolute water scarcity. Producing animal protein requires 100 times more water than producing plant protein. If fresh water is not preserved and allocated to where it is needed, it is guaranteed billions more will suffer and there will be further bloodshed through armed conflict.
Soil, Forest & Ocean Destruction – Animal agriculture currently uses 54% of Australia’s land, and approximately 45% of land globally – land that could otherwise be rewilded, draw down carbon and provide habitat for so many struggling species. The earth’s oceans are predicted to be void of fish life by 2049 – 40% of the fish taken are used to feed land animals in agriculture. Learn more here.
Loss of Civil Liberties – As we have seen, a pandemic takes away our civil liberties and opens up opportunities for even greater totalitarianism.
Disconnect – We are taught as children to shut down our natural empathy for animals as their use and abuse is normalised to us. This results in cognitive dissonance which impacts us and our behaviour throughout our lives. Learn more here: ‘Is Speciesism Blocking Our Mental Health’ by Dr Ash Nayate.
Human Rights Violations – Further examples of the ways our exploitation of other animals violates the rights of humans is food injustice and the requirement for slaughterhouses.
Food injustice – Global animal agriculture industries currently feed 70-100 billion land animals while 800 million humans starve. Unnecessarily breeding animals to feed only to kill, while others starve, is an abomination.
Slaughterhouse workers – Slaughterhouse workers tend to be from low socio-economic backgrounds, historically with less educational opportunity and who may, therefore, lack the agency to stand up for their own rights. This is currently being highlighted as workers are being forced to continue to labour whilst infected with COVID-19. More here.
Additionally, society expects the less advantaged to perform work that many have the luxury of turning down. It is unconscionable that we force our most marginalised workers into occupations that are highly likely to cause physical injury or further trauma.
Violence – Animal agriculture by its very nature requires animals to be exploited and killed. Even in the least harmful systems (that are extremely rare), the premise of animal agriculture is built on violence, as taking the life of someone who wants to live is a violent act, no matter how it is done. Studies prove that violence perpetrated against animals increases violence across society in general.
Suffering – The suffering inflicted upon animals by humans is too great to quantify. A good place to start to understand the scale and severity is throughout our website.
the human condition that allows us to falsely convince ourselves we are somehow separate and superior to other animals and our shared environment is both entirely self-destructive and morally bankrupt. Enormous benefits will come once we acknowledge our human superiority complex and learn to live in a way that respects and protects all life. Veganism is an essential part of that and goes a long way in addressing our greatest challenges.
A continuation of the same behaviour is guaranteed to cause even greater suffering than so many are already experiencing.
Every single day we are faced with a choice – to do our part in making things better, or making things worse. What will you choose?
Human supremacy is harming us all.