Corona crisis shows: current handling of animals is literally sickening

24 March 2020

The Dutch Party for the Animals urges the European Commission to immediately suspend all cross-border animal transports as corona measures lead to extreme delays at borders, causing much animal suffering. In addition, the Party for the Animals is calling for more attention to the prevention of future pandemics - especially now. Party for the Animals MEP Anja Hazekamp: "The way we treat animals increases the chance of developing and spreading these kinds of diseases."

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MEP Anja Hazekamp (Party for the Animals) speaks about the coronavirus in the European Parliament.

Because of border restrictions due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, animal transports are greatly delayed. Trucks with live animals are stuck for hours to days in extremely long traffic jams. This leads to death, serious damage to animal welfare, and violation of European Union rules on the protection of animals during transport. "Several border crossings are closed and stopping places where animals can normally rest, eat, and drink are out of order. This leads to unacceptable situations", says MEP Anja Hazekamp. The Party for the Animals has therefore made an urgent request to the European Commission to temporarily suspend all cross-border animal transports.

Preventing future pandemics: preventing at the source
The Dutch Party for the Animals also pleads at national and European level for more attention to prevention. Containing the current coronavirus is currently a top priority, but the prevention of subsequent outbreaks should also be high on the agenda. Fortunately, there are three clear measures to tackle the source of many such infectious diseases, namely: a ban on wildlife trade and consumption, an end to long-distance animal transport, and a drastic reform and shrinkage of livestock farming. This allows us to significantly reduce the risk of an outbreak and its consequences.

The current corona crisis shows that our handling of animals is unsustainable. Three in four new or emerging human infectious diseases come from animals, the American Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports. MERS, SARS, swine and bird flu, and the current corona virus all originated from animals. They are zoonoses: infectious diseases that have passed from animals to humans.

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Short documentary about zoonoses and their causes.

Most zoonoses are transmitted as a result of consumption of animals: breeders and slaughterers have intensive contact with animals and can be contaminated through the body fluids of infected animals. Eating contaminated meat can also lead to contamination. This time, the food, slaughtering, and trading of wild animals in the market in Wuhan was the source. Reason for China to ban the consumption of wild animals and close some twenty thousand wild animal farms. But the market for bred exotic animals is also enormous in Europe and other parts of the world. Even though scientists have warned for years that this trade is life-threatening, it is still allowed.

In addition to the wild animal industry, intensive livestock farming also facilitates animal diseases. Large numbers of animals live together, which, as a result of breeding policy, differ little from each other genetically and are often weakened by the stressful circumstances. All those billions of chickens, pigs, goats, and cows are a conduit for viruses that can be dangerous to humans.

It has been known for years that these diseases are a major threat to public health. And the number of animal diseases that can be transmitted to humans is facing an "unprecedented increase", as the World Food Organization warns. However, previous outbreaks have not led to addressing the underlying cause. In previous crises, all arrows were aimed at limiting the consequences, before returning to "business as usual". Even now, little is being said about the causes and prevention of subsequent outbreaks, which virologists say can be even more serious.

The Party for the Animals argues for fighting the problem at the source instead of symptom control. "People get sick because of the large-scale, intensive way in which we keep and transport animals around the world. That is a ticking time bomb, if we do not stop the intensive global trade in animals, diseases like the coronavirus will be able to keep popping up", says Party for the Animals Member of Parliament Eva van Esch.