Virologists warn: new pandemic is being bred in industrial livestock farming
The industrial poultry industry is a ticking time bomb, virologists warn. At this moment, Europe is suffering from the worst bird flu outbreak ever. Elsewhere in the world, the virus is exacting its toll on both animal and human victims as well. According to experts, it is merely a matter of time before the disease becomes transmissible from humans to other humans. If that happens, a new epidemic will become a reality. The Dutch Party for the Animals has been pointing to industrial livestock farming as the triggering factor in the emergence of contagious diseases for years. Once again, the party calls on the government to take the necessary measures to protect public health and prevent new pandemics.
The highly contagious bird flu currently making the rounds in Europe, Great Britain, Asia, North America, and the Middle East has caused tens of millions of victims amongst wild birds and birds kept in poultry farms. In Israel, thousands of cranes have perished, while in England and elsewhere, the virus is causing unprecedented deaths amongst wild birds. Since the new avian influenza outbreak starting in the autumn of 2021, governments around the world have culled more than 50 million chickens, geese, ducks, and turkeys on and around contaminated poultry farms to prevent further spread. Billions of animals remain locked up in farms permanently to prevent contagion, resulting in a lot of additional animal suffering.
Humans can get infected by and sometimes even die from bird flu as well. Following earlier reports about the virus making the jump from birds to humans in Russia, China, and India, headlines recently reported a person in South England being infected with the current variant. Scientists have issued warnings for years stating that a bird flu epidemic amongst humans could be catastrophic.
Industrial poultry farms the breeding ground for a new pandemic
Even though the bird flu is not yet or only barely transmissible from person to person, virologists warn that any moment now a new variant could emerge that will be contagious between people. Such a variant, they state, is likely to emerge amongst the increasing number of, and increasingly massive, poultry farms. Hundreds of thousands of birds crammed together, bred and kept for their eggs, meat and feathers, are the ideal breeding ground for mutations, changes in the virus particles, to emerge.
“Without industrial poultry farms, the current, seriously pathogenic variant of avian influenza would never have emerged”, says virologist Thijs Kuiken, one of the world's leading experts on bird flu. The current strain is only a couple of mutations removed from a virus that is transmissible from person to person.
The book that should be on everyone’s reading list
The Dutch Party for the Animals has insisted for years that governments should take responsibility to tackle the source of dangerous bird flu viruses. Both the Dutch government and European Parliament should work on preventing new zoonotic diseases, infectious diseases like COVID-19 that have made the jump from animals to humans.
“We are taking irresponsible risks. New zoonotic diseases will be able to cause pandemics that will leave COVID-19 looking like no big deal. Unless we radically reverse course. There’s no time to lose”, states Esther Ouwehand, leader of the Party for the Animals. “Despite all the risks to public health, the Dutch government actively works towards building industrial livestock farming systems in other countries, from Russia to Morocco. That has to stop. Only by drastically reducing the number of animals in our agricultural systems will our public health, nature and planet stand a chance”, Ouwehand said last year already.
To shake up politicians and the wide public and strengthen her call to action, Ouwehand wrote the book ‘A plague on both our houses. How animal exploitation is driving pandemics and what to do next' last year. The book discusses zoonotic diseases, the increasing risk of new pandemics, and the solutions to tackle these risks. Last week, she posted a copy of her book to all new ministers of our brand new Dutch government. “Because pandemics have such an immense impact on our entire society and all government portfolios”.
Download the free e-book here!
The English translation of Esther Ouwehand’s book is available for free as an e-book, and will soon be available in Arabic as well.