International Day of Epidemic Preparedness – time to make the connection
25 December 2022
Tuesday, 27 December is International Day of Epidemic Preparedness. This annual day highlights the importance of raising awareness about past pandemics and strengthening epidemic prevention in order to safeguard the future. And yet, a key way to minimise the risk of future pandemics is often overlooked: our food choices.
COVID-19 has had a major impact on the world since it first emerged in late 2019. Since then, the word ‘pandemic’ has entered our daily vocabulary and reality, and we’ve been forced to re-think our former ways of living and adapt to a world that is now quite a different place. But are the changes we’ve made enough? As with many of the other issues our world is facing, the mainstream discussion is often missing a crucial connection. Which is why, in 2020, we published an extensive Food & Pandemics Report that shed light on the connection between pandemics and the sourcing of human food.
COVID-19 a zoonosis
What we eat not only affects our own body but also has an affect on the health of the planet and broader society. Intensified animal agriculture is like fuel for pandemics, and puts the long-term stability of human society at great risk. Like 75% of all emerging infectious diseases in humans, COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease, which means that it jumped from animals to humans.
In pre-agricultural societies, humans didn’t get the flu, measles, or smallpox. These diseases only arrived with the domestication of farmed animals, creating the perfect hotbed for the development of zoonoses.
Connection between pandemics and our animal-based food system
There is a clear and strong connection between our outdated food system and global pandemics. To quote the Food & Pandemics Report:
“The recipe for disaster is surprisingly simple: one animal, one mutation, one human, and one point of contact is all that it takes for a global pandemic to become a reality and bring the world to a standstill.”
The destruction of ecosystems and loss of biodiversity, the use of wild animals for food, and the use of farmed animals for food are the three human activities connected to our food system that can result in zoonoses that can subsequently turn into pandemics. Human modification of the environment to cater to the increased appetite for animal-based products creates further space for new potential outbreaks.
The solution to this problem is transforming our global food system. Given that many of the world’s most urgent problems are caused by our food choices, a shift towards more plant-based and cultivated alternatives will not only help reduce the likelihood of future pandemics, but will also address other parallel crises such as climate change, world hunger, and antibiotics resistance.
You can download the full report here: