THERE'S NO CHANCE humanity is going to give up meat, en masse, anytime soon. 

That said, we just can't wish away the risks of industrial animal agriculture. If we don't end this system soon, terrible things will happen to us and to the planet. Terrible things are already happening.

As best we can tell, the novel coronavirus jumped from bats, to some other animal, to humans; with the locus of infection being a Chinese meat market. There's nothing unusual about that.

Swine flus - yes, plural- jump from pigs to humans. Avian flus jump from birds to humans.. Ebola most likely came from monkeys. ''Preventing the Next Pandemic,'' a report by the United Nations Environment Program, estimates that 75 percent of the new infectious diseases that threaten humans come from animals.

The U.N., report goes on to name the seven major drivers of these emerging animal-to-human diseases. First, is the increasing demand for animal protein.

As people get richer, they eat more meat. Since 1961, global meat production has more than quadrupled, to more than 340 million tons from 71 million tons. Americans are among the top meat consumers in the world.

In 2018, each American ate, on average, 222 pounds of red meat and chicken. Consumption in most other countries is far lower, but rising. In China, for instance, per capita meat consumption has more than doubled since 1990.

The more meat we eat, the more animals we need to raise. That brings to the second driver of pandemic risk : the ''intensification'' of animal agriculture. 

In America, there are still farmers who raise animals as their ancestors did, with respect both for their lives and for the land. But they're the exception.

They're bred to gain weight fast, crowded together in sprawling industrial operations and pumped full of antibiotics to prevent disease.

These operations are petri dishes for viral mutation. The animals, whose immune systems are suppressed by stress and fear, fall ill easily, and every creature is a fresh opportunity for the virus to develop into a form humans can catch and then spread.

Viruses are not the only health risk from industrial animal agriculture though. About 65 percent of antibiotics in the United States are sold for use on farms. These antibiotics are often, mostly, used to keep animals from getting sick, not to treat them once they're ill.

They're then excreted in animal waste, where they make their ways into waterways, fish and us. Antibiotic-resistant diseases are already killing 700,000 people a year worldwide. The UN's interagency group on antimicrobial resistance estimates that could rise to 10 million per year by 2050.

To put that toll in perspective, there are around three million confirmed deaths from Covid-19 so far.

The Publishing continues to Part 2 in the future. The World Students Society thanks author Ezra Klein.


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