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April 12, 2022

2 min. read

Farm Forward to WHO: Reduce Pandemic Risk Now 

Farm Forward welcomed the World Health Organization (WHO) Intergovernmental Negotiating Body’s recent request for public guidance on the question, “What substantive elements do you think should be included in a new international instrument on pandemic preparedness and response?”

We submitted a comment we consider critical for pandemic preparedness: factory farming poses the greatest future pandemic risk. With the CDC reporting that three out of four new or emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, it’s critical that the global public health community focus on the issue that will most materially reduce future risk of pandemics—namely factory farming. 

We call on world leaders to bring the age of factory farming to an end.

Here’s our comment as submitted to the WHO:

Any global effort to reduce pandemic risk must focus on reforming industrial animal agriculture. Deintensifying existing poultry and pig farming while placing a moratorium on new factory farm construction is the public health measure that would most dramatically reduce the risk of the next pandemic virus.

Factory farms, especially pig and poultry farms, are breeding grounds for pandemics. Influenza viruses such as H1N1 (swine flu) or H5N1 (bird flu) evolved on pig and chicken farms. Genetic analyses have shown that crucial components of H1N1 emerged from a virus circulating in North American pigs, and an analysis of 39 antigenic shifts that played a key role in the emergence of particularly dangerous influenzas showed that “all but two of these events were reported in commercial poultry production systems.”

Influenza and coronaviruses move fluidly between animal and human populations, just as they move fluidly between nations. When it comes to pandemics, there is not animal health and human health—not any more than there is Korean health and French health. Farmed animals today are overwhelmingly genetically uniform, immunocompromised, and lodged together by the tens of thousands—a perfect petri dish for creating pandemics.

The era of intensive confinement of farmed animals must come to an end.

World leaders must build a future without industrial animal agriculture, and transition toward plant-based foods and sustainable farming practices that enhance rather than imperil
public health.

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Lead image credit: We Animals Media


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Last Updated

April 12, 2022