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Animal agriculture

Corona May Have Set the Clock Ticking on the Need to Check Health Risks of Animal Farming

The Covid-19 has come back with renewed force in its second and third wave and India too is seeing more than 3 lakh cases a day. The situation has turned from relaxed to alarming and even out of control in the past few weeks and an important matter that needs more focus through these a year and a half of suffering and lessons we learnt from the long hard days of apocalyptic reality is, for one, the urgent issue of wet markets and animal farming and how these are causing the majority of zoonotic diseases which start from animals and jump to humans.

Popular American standup comedian and political commentator, Bill Maher recently said that it may be okay to call out China’s wet markets but something not as popular but just as despicable and
problematic for our health is factory farming in the US. In Manipur we have experienced serious disease like bird flu, swine fever and now the Covid-19, in this past decade or so.

According to Bill Maher who has called out animal abuse, disease originate in animals forced to live in conditions which are opposite to what is requisite for stopping spread of disease like Covid-19 among humans, like avoiding overcrowding and appropriate distancing. Maher may not be off the mark because figures show that 80% of pigs meant for slaughter have pneumonia because we make them live in conditions where they have no space to move. Nearby to Manipur, Assam is one place where one can see factory farmed pigs being transported on caged lorries on the highways.

Factory animals are pumped with antibiotics to keep them from falling sick, but these antibiotics are in turn passed on to humans and lead to contagions from which humans die. If this goes on humans will begin dying of diseased conditions which medicines cannot fix. That’s why a truthful and impartial enquiry is needed at all levels of our exposure to risk of health conditions, and how animals too can be saved from diseases or passing them to humans. Some people are of the opinion that if you show a documentary film to middle school children on how meat reaches your table, many children will become vegetarians.

But though theoretically realistic it doesn’t seem any radical change should be expected or will do any good or make any difference, as we have seen in the present effort to save cows under the present government’s political image building efforts where no decline has been seen in the volume of beef being exported from India, the country still being the world’s top beef supplier. The environment which has degraded no end also is affected to a large
degree by ways of food gathering. The commercial fishing industry which has the label of sustainable fishing is in fact a lie because the oceans are dying also in a sense due to extensive fishing. Like we
see that many species of fish have become extinct in Manipur and fish is being imported from the south Indian coastal towns. So, it’s quite simple to know that like fish in Manipur’s water bodies are dying in number and species, the oceans must be facing the same fate especially considering the huge volume which is taken out of the oceans each day.

Also, the south Indian fish market gives the impression there’s lot of fish in the ocean only because the market there is bigger and more fish is stocked there. Marine life is in fact badly affected by
climate change and environmental degradation. Also, food sourcing is important. The farther the food comes from, the more is the wastage. We can get exotic seafood even in a remote place like Imphal, making it obvious a lot of it is wasted in transportation and storage.

Sustainable local consumption is the best way to avoid this wastage and also fresh food is healthier.
One reason the people have become non-vegetarians from traditionally being vegetarians involves the nutritional advice given by health and nutrition experts whose nutritional worldview has made them prescribe animal food which is a more easily available source of proteins. These nutritionists have further confused people in the country to believe that animal food is better than vegetarian food, hence the large change in food outlook where people in India think why work so hard on
the fields to grow food when animal food is so much easier to produce and get food value from. This is sheer misconception especially in Indian conditions. The argument here is not from the point of view of being veg or non-veg, but when we order our food from the fish or wet market we head toward an environmental crisis which will explode on our face sooner than later, as it did in the present Coronavirus which has already cost the human race at a scale which even a conventional
third world war may not have done.

According to figures provided by sources, India produces 5.3 million tons of meat annually, 75 billion eggs which is the 3rd largest in the world, is the 4th largest chicken producer, 2nd largest goat meat
producer, and contrary to claims by politicians, is the world’s largest exporter of beef. So, we must also know that environmentally the cost of producing so much animal foods is that 40% of methane
emissions, which trap more heat than even CO2, is from farm animals. FAO reports also show that 60% of human pathogens and 75% of emerging diseases are zoonotic. It also says water used for livestock exceeds 8% of global human water use and 55% of soil erosion is caused by this. Further 30% of earth’s land is used for livestock farming considering the scarcity of food, water and land in the world. If all grains were fed to humans than animals a whopping 3.5 billion more people could be fed resolving the hunger problem in places like India.

The environmental fallout is that 43,200 acres of rainforest are cut down each day for animal farming. Also 60% of grains are meant for animals each year. And this is an important point to note for those who may be wondering why people are starving in India where the government always claims the grains produced are in excess of what can be consumed even. The catch is that these grains are fed to animals for meat production. For the record 25 lakh Indians die every year of
hunger.

Factory farming is the main cause of animal abuse and suffering and animals are kept in small closed spaces not because there is lack of space, but because their weight increases this way for producing more meat. The corporate mind works for animals same as for any other product. Corporatization means animals are treated like a machine would be for the daily output of meat, milk or eggs, that being the only consideration. Most animal activists voicing themselves against animal abuse are small, individually run organizations that can at the most take care of abandoned animals at a personal level, but cannot affect much the fight against commercial giants who are into what Bill
Maher calls a despicable industry. If Corona has brought the functioning of the animal industry into public focus, it is also expected that people will start living and eating carefully.

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