DEAR READERS: The CDC 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.”
COVID-19 is a wake-up call. After its first wave of global socioeconomic disruption, we must reassess how the consumption of wild and farmed animals can cause epidemics, pandemics and regional outbreaks of food poisoning, and begin to transition from meat-eating omnivores to vegetarians and vegans.
Humans should keep out of wildlife habitats where such diseases emerge, to which we have no immunity. Consumers in industrial countries must support producers of organically certified foods to sustain a healthful vegetarian/vegan diet with minimal or zero consumption of eggs, dairy and meat, including seafood. Overfishing for human consumption, and to feed farmed animals, is one factor in the demise of the oceans. Large fish like tuna are contaminated with mercury, and farmed salmon can be high in dioxins. One-third of all fish caught globally are fed to farmed fish, further depleting the oceans.
America’s great prairies and other grasslands around the world have been degraded by overgrazing livestock. Millions of acres have been plowed up, and wetlands drained, to produce GMO corn and soybeans to be fed to livestock and poultry — and to export to other countries like China, all at the cost of topsoil, water quality and increased carbon emissions. This all aggravates climate change and furthers the loss of biodiversity.
So we are all to blame, as a species that continues to regard other animals as dietary staples, creating anthropogenic zoonotic diseases in the process — notably antibiotic-resistant bacteria from factory-farmed animals and strains of influenza from pigs and chickens. It is “species-ist” to claim that animals were created for our own use, and that we can kill, consume and exploit them as our needs and wants dictate.
For more details about this emerging disease, see my article “What Coronavirus COVID-19 Is Telling Us: A Holistic Veterinary and One Health View,” posted on my website (drfoxonehealth.com).
DEAR DR. FOX: Your recent article was the best I have ever read on the problems with diseases such as COVID-19. Would you please do the country and the world a favor by submitting it to the New York Times as an op-ed piece, so it has the greatest distribution? — Dr. James Powell, retired dean of Arts and Sciences, Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, South Bend
DEAR DR. POWELL: I greatly appreciate your approval of my Animal Doctor newspaper column entries concerning this coronavirus pandemic. This is a complex issue that cannot be compressed into a short newspaper review.
At best, all the suffering, death, grieving and economic impact of this latest COVID-19 pandemic will change how we choose to live: most especially our collective exploitation and consumption of animals, wild and domesticated. This brings on such pandemics and other zoonotic diseases, along with accelerating climate change and loss of biodiversity.
LET YOUR CAT OUT, FEED THE COYOTES
I have written repeatedly to advise cat owners not to let their cats roam free, especially because of their killing of wild birds and other creatures. Here is one more reason to keep cats indoors: California State University, Northridge, professor Tim Karels, et al., with the National Park Service, found that cat remains were found in 20% of the poop of urban coyotes in Southern California, compared to 4% in suburban coyotes.
Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxVet.net.