Livestock is not to blame (Editorial)
It didn’t take long for activist groups to lay blame for the coronavirus pandemic with modern animal agriculture.
News articles and opinion pieces dating back to mid-March proclaim it was large livestock farms that launched the worldwide crisis due to antibiotic use, deforestation, climate change or anything else that could could coincide with the groups’ agenda to move people away from eating meat and shut down the entire industry.
Firing back in the ongoing dispute, veterinarians, animal health specialists and agriculture advocacy groups continue to shoot down the misinformation.
The latest retort came in an open letter signed by more than 70 organizations and individuals from around the world, released by the Animal Agriculture Alliance.
Purporting that livestock and modern agriculture are the source of the pandemic “threatens to distract the global public health response at a time when animal agriculture can offer lessons for wildlife zoonosis management as part of the long-term pandemic preparedness,” according to the letter.
In other words, officials could draw from the animal agriculture playbook to win the game against future disease crises.
Because of their potential to greatly impact the food system, livestock diseases are heavily monitored and regulated.
That keeps diseases that do break out in the industry from spreading far and wide.
Animal science research and biosecurity education continue to improve and expand to developing countries, aiding protection and disease control.
While the exact origin of the disease is yet to be pinpointed, it is widely believed that wild animals played a role in transmission to humans, similar to two previous but smaller coronavirus outbreaks.
Animal health offices roundly agree, neither those two, nor this current epidemic has anything to do with livestock.
Indeed, the experts add, modern housing for livestock, especially on larger farms, combined with proper biosecurity, better vaccine-related projects that may carry infectious disease.
“The knowledge and expertise of the livestock sector can help strengthen the global COVID-19 response and tackle the growing risk of nutrition insecurity,” the alliance’s letter continued.
On top of that, agriculture has been actively involved in the research around treatment of the COVID-19 strain.
University agriculture and veterinary colleges from University of Maryland to Oregon State University are conducting projects related to developing a vaccine.
And a June 5 article in Science magazine, reported on the “promising” progress a South Dakota company is having using genetically altered dairy cows to produce large quantities of human antibodies that subdue the pathogen that causes COVID-19.
With clinical trials set to begin this summer, the company, SAb Biotherapeutics said each cow can produce enough antibodies in a month to treat several hundred patients.
For sure, these particular animals won’t be part of the food supply but this clearly shows how livestock is much more a part of the solution than part of the problem.
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