By Heather Moore
We can help combat climate change — and prevent future pandemics — just by eating vegan foods. Some experts, including medical historian Dr. David Morens — who works at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases with Dr. Anthony Fauci — believe that climate change can accelerate and exacerbate pandemics.
Nearly a third of the emerging infectious diseases over the past 10 years followed a certain path, and the changing climate contributed to their rise. The climate may not have played a direct role in the coronavirus outbreak — which many scientists believe originated in a wet market that sold fish, poultry and exotic animals for human consumption — but our insistence on eating animal-based foods is contributing to climate change and intensifying the spread of animal-borne diseases.
Dr. Aaron Bernstein, the director of Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health C-CHANGE program, has said that in order to reduce our risk of infectious diseases, “we should do all we can to vastly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.”
But, are we doing all we can?
Far from it.
Many people still eat meat, cheese and other animal-based foods, which are a leading contributor to climate change. According to The New York Times, the U.S. is one of the world’s top greenhouse-gas emitters, with each person producing more than 15 tons of carbon dioxide, on average. That’s about three times as much as the British average and eight times as much as in India — two countries that have become increasingly vegan-friendly.
America needs to do better. The lead researcher on a University of Oxford study showing that the meat and dairy industries use 83% of farmland and generate 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse-gas emissions, has said that going vegan is “the single biggest way” to lower our impact on the Earth, much more so than flying less or driving an electric car.
So, let’s all give it a try.
A study by Uswitch, a comparison service in the U.K., shows that meat-eaters contribute nearly twice as much to climate change as vegans do, and a paper in Nature Sustainability indicates that shifting from animal-derived foods to plant foods could remove more than a decade of carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere.
A shift from animal-based to vegan foods has other benefits, too: Helen Harwatt, a fellow at Harvard Law School, believes that if we stop raising animals for food, we’ll not only restore native ecosystems and help halt climate change, we’ll also reduce the spread of diseases from wildlife to pigs, chickens, cows and other farmed animals and, ultimately, to humans.
So, if we want a livable climate, ecosystems that benefit both humans and animals, and fewer animal-borne diseases, we should all choose vegan. Doing so not only will help protect the environment and prevent more animal-borne diseases, it will also help stop animal suffering, as every vegan spares nearly 200 animals per year. Who’s with me?
ANIMALS SUFFER ON FACTORY FARMS – THEY ARE CRATED IN TINY SPACES WHERE THEY CANNOT TURN AROUND OR WALK FREELY. THEY ARE ABUSED THEIR ENTIRE ALL-TOO-BRIEF LIVES.