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Factory farming will kill us all Industrial meat production has created the perfect breeding ground for the next deadly disease

Pigs in a factory farm, Germany Credit: Christian Adam/ullstein bild via Getty

Pigs in a factory farm, Germany Credit: Christian Adam/ullstein bild via Getty


November 16, 2020   5 mins

It puts itself about, doesn’t it, Sars-Cov-2? As well as spreading among humans, the virus crosses species. In all likelihood the virus transited to Homo sapiens sapiens from bats via pangolin sold in a Wuhan “wet market”. Last week 17 million farmed mink were culled in Denmark, after the weasel-like creatures were found to be infected with Sars-CoV-2, caught from workers; a mutant form of the virus  then “spilled back” from mink to humans. Five other countries have also reported coronavirus outbreaks at mink farms.

Does it matter? Certainly for the mink, most probably for you and me. Danish scientists are expressing concern about one mink-related strain of the virus which is believed to be less sensitive to protective antibodies, raising concerns about the effectiveness of any Covid vaccine. 

But the Danish mink episode is just one more proof that factory farms are ticking time-bombs of zoonotic disease — those which leap from animals to humans — and petri-dishes of bacterial infections. 

Humans are meant to be wise — indeed, so wise that we called ourselves sapiens twice — but you do wonder. We elevate ourselves over animals, consider them as Other, when biologically the species barrier between us is thin. Even non-existent. Take the common-or-garden pink pig, for instance: the pig so physiologically resembles humans that it has been used in medical  research for over 30 years as a translational model. That is, if it works in a pig it is likely to work in humans.

Our Western arrogance towards animalia is Rene Descartes’ fault, of course. As soon as the Enlightenment philosopher declared that  animals were automata, and only  humans conscious and deserving compassion, the creatures of the Earth were done for. 

If animals are “flesh robots”, ethically they can be as badly treated as you like. Add the generalised disconnect from nature concommitant with the Industrial Revolution, and the table appetites of late capitalism (more meat, please!) you end up with the factory farming of Peppa, Ermintrude and the Little Red Hen, plus the remainder of  Old Macdonald’s old-style farmyard. All of them reduced to “units” or “produce” rather than sentient beings. 

The welfare arguments against factory farming from PETA and vegans are familiar, and need no rehearsing. When, though, will humans finally learn that factory farming will kill them? 

By definition, a factory farm entails intensive rearing, with the livestock in close proximity, beak to beak, snout to snout. The old rule of farming — the one I was taught by my grandfather — is that “a sheep’s worst enemy is another sheep”. Put another way, any disease or sickness with animals close-packed “whips through the lot like wildfire”, in his words.

The overcrowding of animals in factory farms not only enables easy transmission of disease; according to the European Food Safety Agency, the stress from the overcrowding (often on bare concrete or metal slats), the inability to display normal behaviour compromises the animals’ immune system… which increases their susceptibility to disease. A vicious circle of malady. 

The circle of malady can become a spiral of death. Factory animals tend to be genetically similar to each other — clones, effectively — selected for traits such as big breasts or big rumps. Thus, a virus introduced into the herd or flock can run through it without meeting any resistance in the form of genetic variants to prevent its spread. 

It is different in the wild, or on farms which practise low-stocking densities. Viruses dislike killing their host, since if the host dies their demise follows. Out in the jungle or on organically-run Welsh hills, say, pathogens do not regularly encounter hosts, so the pathogen has to keep its virulence low — otherwise it runs out of hospitable bodies. But in a shed  with 250,000 laying hens the pathogen has a positive embarrassment of hosts, and can go through them like, well, wild fire.

This is why factory farms pose a bigger risk for zoonotic outbreaks than either the natural world or farms using low stocking rates. 

In 2018 a group of scientists analysed 39 “conversion events”, or antigenic shifts, whereby a pathogenic avian flu strain became more dangerous, exactly the sort of incidents that could cause a pandemic among humans: all but two were reported in intensive commercial poultry production systems. 

The world has already had portents of  how apocalyptic farm-reared zoonoses can be. We are not dealing with hypotheticals here. Between 1997 and 2006, the H5N1 virus — or avian flu — which was transmitted from poultry to humans, achieved a 59% mortality rate among people affected. For comparison, Covid-19’s mortality rate is in the neighborhood of 1%. 

Intensive poultry operations are the Manhattan Projects of viral development, and China is replete with them. Starting in the 1990s, as part of its economic transformation, China ramped up its food production systems to industrial scale. There are currently 5.27 billion chickens in China, most of them being farmed intensively.

Almost as nightmarish as avian H5N1 was the H1N1 swine flu which emerged from multiple viral gene “reassortment events” in farmed pigs in North America in 2009, before jumping to humans. The Swine Flu pandemic went global, killing  between 151,700 and 575,400, before being suppressed at great cost. 

In June this year a new strain of swine flu, similar to the one that caused the 2009 episode, was identified in China. Named G4 EA H1N1, it possesses “all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus”, according to the authors of  one scientific paper. 

None of these near-misses have stopped the continual industrialisation of farming in the world’s most populous country. The latest pig farms in China are multistoried, with 1,270 pigs per floor, and over 90% of the meat on China’s plate comes from factory farms. 

And so China lurches from pandemic to pandemic: H7N9 avian flu; Covid-19; H1NI. African Swine Fever…

It is not just the mutant viruses manufactured in factory farms that are the stuff of bad dreams. The other pandemic risk associated with factory farms is from highly drug-resistant bacterial pathogens. Industrial farms are heavily reliant on antibiotics, both as prophylactics and as therapeutics. Overuse of these antibiotics causes bacteria to evolve, with those that mutate to survive the antibiotic becoming more dominant. 

Worldwide it is estimated that 73% of all antibiotics are used in farm animals. (In the UK the figure is about 30%.) According to leading authorities such as the European Medicines Agency and the WHO,  the overuse of antibiotics in farming contributes to higher levels of antibiotic resistance in some human infections.

This is more serious than most people understand, and already, every 15 minutes, one person in the US dies because of an infection that antibiotics can no longer beat. The post-antibiotic era is already here, and it will get worse. Small wonder then, that the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations says that “Livestock health is the weakest link in our global health chain.” 

The United Kingdom is a part of  that chain, if a slightly complacent one. DEFRA trumpeted recently: “We have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, as well as world-leading scientific capability on animal health, and we are continuing to explore ways to enhance our position as a global leader.”

DEFRA’s timing was unfortunate. So far this month three cases of  bird flu (the H5N8 and H5N2 strains) have been detected on poultry farms in England, leading to mass cullings. Cleary Britain has no special immunity against outbreaks of factory-farmed diseases. 

What is to be done? The world’s desire for animal flesh is unlikely to disappear soon. Presently, one billion pigs, three billion ducks and 69 billion chickens (the three most commonly killed terrestrial animals in the world) are slaughtered annually to meet the demand for meat.  

So we are not going to give up meat as a species, but as a matter of growing urgency we need to de-intensify and deindustrialise the livestock industry. It is not just humans who need to socially distance; we need to give the animals some space, and outdoors. The consequences if we don’t act soon could be truly catastrophic. 


John Lewis-Stempel is a farmer and writer on nature and history. His most recent books are The Sheep’s Tale and Nightwalking.

JLewisStempel

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Mark Wilson
Mark Wilson
3 years ago

Factory animals tend to be genetically similar to each other ” clones, effectively ” selected for traits such as big breasts or big rumps.

Sort of like Instagram influencers then.

Jane Bray
Jane Bray
3 years ago

I’m not a meat eater and the factory farming of animals appalls me but what appalls me more is the waste of over produced meat. I have seen too many turkeys sat on shelves in local supermarkets not sold and then disposed of because of over ordering. All lives should be treated with respect animal or human and perhaps if we just ate what we needed instead of wasting life and food the world would be a better place. If individuals had to kill their own dinner they certainly wouldn’t be throwing it away!

Chris Milburn
Chris Milburn
3 years ago
Reply to  Jane Bray

Wait a minute, are you saying “All Lives Matter”. Are you some kind of racist? 😉

Nancy Strunk
Nancy Strunk
3 years ago
Reply to  Jane Bray

There are many ways to accomplish this, stop shopping at cheap large food chains , a big W comes to mind. Find local farmers who produced beef, sheep, goat and pork. Get together with a few friends and purchase the desired animals, make sure you have a butcher first who can process these animals. Use small family owned butchers. The bigger processors will mix your neat with all others guaranteed not to get you animal back. Bu you have to be willing to pay the fair price for the animal. Dairy breeds have bigger loss of neat to big bones. Beef breeds have smaller bones. If you use a responsible farmer and butcher you will get almost fat free hamburger. For same if less than grocery store. You will be helping your communities and farmers. You work 5-6 days a week. Farming is 24/7 job. If you have a cow give birth at 1am you still gotta get back up in morning for chores. Goat meat and milk is some of the best quality if you know how to cook. Raw milk is best if you can find it and making your own cheese and yogurt is great. There are ways to be a part of the solution but everyone has to be a part of it. Yes you will take large $hit at once, but then may not buy meat again if you buy a whole cow and whole pig for 1 year or more.

Martin Price
Martin Price
3 years ago

Factory farming SHOULD kill us all (well some of us!). The point not raised by Mr Lewis-Stempel is that there are too many humans. Not what we do or do not consume. This is the core of many of the problems facing us today and yet no one is addressing it.

Ifor Humphreys
Ifor Humphreys
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Price

Quite right. The elephant in the room is too many of us!

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Ifor Humphreys

If only some would volunteer to make that less of a problem. Yet no one does. Why not?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

No cash incentive. QED

Val Cox
Val Cox
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

We should perhaps have let covid take its course?

Ian Manning
Ian Manning
3 years ago
Reply to  Ifor Humphreys

And the even greater elephant is: what can be done about this?

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago
Reply to  Ifor Humphreys

Too many for what?

Henry Matthews
Henry Matthews
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Price

Absolutely right. But some people are addressing it. I read a paper last year — which I have cited in a recent paper of mine — that calculated the optimal world population (based on quality of life considerations) as about 2 billion.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Henry Matthews

That’s a reduction of about 75%. In the case of the UK that would mean a return to 16/17 million, as it was when Peel was PM in 1841.Simply wonderful don’t you think?

Richard Watkins
Richard Watkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Henry Matthews

That number feels about right. Just imagine how much more comfortable it would be. Then you need the combination of legislation and education to keep it there. Sounds like trying to climb Everest with a broken leg.

Dean Barwell
Dean Barwell
3 years ago

Logan’s Run?

Martin Price
Martin Price
3 years ago
Reply to  Henry Matthews

Thank you for your reply Henry. I will search for the paper.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Price

That is why paradoxically, a full scale Nuclear War with China &Co is an absolute imperative if we are to survive.

Otherwise Mother Nature will rid herself of this avaricious specious of African Ape, sooner rather than later.

Sadly, I am probably too old to see either.

Mark
Mark
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

@Mark Nonsense, ur post suggests you’ve already led a nice and long life, glad that you’ve taken your fill and wish hell upon all those who haven’t had as long on this earth as you. Go and watch Threads and see how morally repugnant your post is

The fact of the matter is that you are also dead, dead wrong, reactive a species we may be but we are extremely innovative, and doubly so when we need to be. We will solve overpopulation, just as we solved it before when Malthus predicted catastrophe

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark

Isn’t that a bit of an overreaction? Advocating war with China maybe morally repugnant, but it is still inevitable, particularly given “we are extremely innovative” as you so proudly say. You might have gone on to mention ‘we’ are also manically competitive, which ultimately leads to war does it not?

Poor old Malthus, dying in December 1834, just missed the Irish Famine by just over ten years. Innovation was not much in evidence then, and Ireland has yet to fully recover.

Four months ago we agreed that Boris was deficient in moral courage in his reaction to this C-19 farrago, but on the subject of world population control or lack of, I think we will have to differ. C’est la vie.

Mark
Mark
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

War with China is no more inevitable than war was with the ussr. Likely but not a certainty. But that isn’t what you said, you said nuclear war was was ‘imperative’ for the survival of our species. Which is nihilistic nonsense.

Rev malthus claimed that there was a natural limit to population due to the amount of total food we could produce. The Irish famine was caused by potato blight and UK gov mishandling and has nothing to do with malthus or his predictions

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark

Presumably you are a believer in that feeble, idiotic, acronym MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction)?

The disparity between the nuclear capability of the US and any potential rival is so enormous that MAD, to put it mildly, is highly unlikely.

I don’t know the origin of MAD, but it must almost certainly have been dreamt up by some Marxist toad, and then eagerly swallowed by the legions of closet crypto communists that infect both our secondary schools and so called universities.

You describe war with China as “likely but not a certainty”. I agree and that is precisely why it is imperative to strike sooner rather than later. Amongst other benefits it will reduce the “butchers bill” considerably, as I’m sure, even you would agree?

The Revd Malthus is entirely vindicated by the Irish Famine.
The potato was introduced into Ireland in the late 16th century, probably by English conquerors. For a little over a century and a half the population remained stable, as a result of incessant Warfare.

However after the climatic defeat of 1689, things settled down. By say, the death of Queen Anne in 1714 the population was close to 3 million. Due to incessant “bonking like bunnies” and over a century of ‘near’ peace, the population had reached a staggering 8 million by 1844, and all thanks to the humble potato. When the potato crop finally collapsed Malthus’s ideas of exponential population growth versus a linear food supply came to fruition (no pun intended).

aelf
aelf
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Price

Well then, when do you plan to remove yourself?

Ian Manning
Ian Manning
3 years ago
Reply to  aelf

What a ridiculous comment.

aelf
aelf
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Manning

Not at all.

When someone starts in on reducing the population they always exclude themselves from the ranks of those to be reduced.

This seems . . . inequitable.

Martin Price
Martin Price
3 years ago
Reply to  aelf

Thank you for your suggestion Aelf. It is my full intention to do so when I am no longer supporting those who I love. However my personal decision is perhaps less important than addressing the global issue which will make the decision for us all in time.

Mark
Mark
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Price

@martin Oh for heavens sake, the rev malthus had similar ideas to you and whilst he was right with available info at the time, his predictions led to nowhere (he was utterly, utterly wrong as a matter of fact) – he had not factored in human ingenuity. Please stop this nihilistic doomsday brigade nonsense

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Price

Feel free to take the first step and address it on a personal basis – “every little helps”

Martin Price
Martin Price
3 years ago
Reply to  Derek M

Thank you for your suggestion Derek. It is my full intention to do so when I am no longer supporting those who I love. However my personal decision is perhaps less important than addressing the global issue which will make the decision for us all in time.

Helen Lloyd
Helen Lloyd
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Price

Overpopulation is a multifaceted issue & of course this is being addressed behind the scenes by many organisations – just go & read the UN’s SDG’s or look into charities assisting with empowering women & alleviating poverty in developing countries.. The simple fact is that human population cannot be changed overnight; everyone’s diets can. Overconsumption of everything is the main issue, particularly in early developed nations. Listen to some of Philip Wollen’s talks on youtube & look into the website awellfedworld. “The earth can produce enough for everyone’s need. But not enough for everyone’s greed.” Overpopulation is ‘an’ issue but cannot solve our land use/biodiversity crisis quickly enough this way. Too many people just don’t like the fact that the answers require them to make changes in their own lifestyles. Live ‘consciously’ & ethically; eat plantbased, buy less, live with less, #refusereducereuserecyclerot. We need to ‘be’ the change the world needs, not blame someone else. It absolutely IS about what we do & what we consume. Just because less people, living & consuming as they wish, would take longer to trash the planet doesn’t mean it’s the right action.

https://www.truthordrought….

pirh zapusti
pirh zapusti
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Price

Or you haven’t read the alternate study that says the world is actually going to run out of people. We’re facing a rapidly aging population and only one continent – Africa – with replacement birth rates. Everywhere else is dying, so you’ll get your VHEMT wish.

Warren Alexander
Warren Alexander
3 years ago

Can’t we just have one senseless panic at a time?

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
3 years ago

Farming has never attracted most of us once we built cities. There has been a slow movement of people from country to cities and farming has been mechanised to give us cheap food, which is what most people want. There is no interest in how anything is produced. This point was made very strongly by Simon Reeves in his programmes about Cornwall when he was talking to a family struggle with beef farming. The environmentalists want us to live with nature, whatever that means. People seem to support it, but they don’t want to be the ones on farms unable to take holidays. They still want to have their toys and foreign travel.

Henry Matthews
Henry Matthews
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

post-Covid, desire for foreign travel is greatly dampened, and hopefully for cheap plastic toys from China. There has been a huge upsurge in home cooking. People would rather spend money on something that keeps them healthy. Cheap food is yesterday’s mantra.

steve eaton
steve eaton
3 years ago
Reply to  Henry Matthews

Well, except for the huge chunk of humanity which is hungry and broke I guess…

David Bell
David Bell
3 years ago

“It is not just humans who need to socially distance” – That’s fine but go down to your local shop and see how social distancing has reduced the number of people in the shop. Now apply that to food production. How do we feed a population if we don’t produce enough food. Food poverty is still a major world wide problem and less face it, intensive farming has been a big driver in reducing starvation around the world. How do we solve these problems if we significantly reduce the amount of food we produce?

And no one say “go vegetarian” because that raises massive animal welfare issues. If we all stopped eating meat we need space to grow crops, but that space is currently taken up with growing feed stocks for animals. So we either grow crops for ourselves and let the animals starve, or we feed the animals and starve the population, that’s assuming we think culling several million animals and disposing of the carcasses isn’t a good idea! Then we have the final issue of reproduction and how we stop it. If we aren’t going to eat animals and we aren’t going to slaughter them and we need their grazing land to grow food for us, then we need to reduce the animal population.

When you call for something to be done you need a solution to the issues created. This article doesn’t even think about the issues never mind address them!

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago
Reply to  David Bell

Erm.. Eat them?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

Soylent Green, with Charlton Heston, 1973.

David Bell
David Bell
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

But militant vegans want us to stop and stop now. That means not eating them!

Jim Richards
Jim Richards
3 years ago
Reply to  David Bell

Having worked on a farm, I know it is pretty easy to stop animals reproducing. You don’t need sex education or contraceptives, you keep them apart. Chickens last 5-10 years, pigs and cows 15 -20. In other words, you could within about fifteen years reduce the population of farmed animals to near zero through natural mortality. It shouldn’t be beyond the wit of humanity to gradually change the nature of food production. Though I strongly suspect lab grown meat will largely eliminate husbandry within twenty years

Nancy Strunk
Nancy Strunk
3 years ago
Reply to  Jim Richards

Then you are a fool. I would much rather eat something grown on my homestead than something some vegan lab rat wants. Support local farmers and you won’t have factory farming, but you pay for quality. Forget the big W and pay for quality. If you can’t pay for a whole animal, get some friends together and used a family owned butcher. No one wants a fake steak. The hamburger from a responsible farmer will be leaner and most likely cheaper than what you get from a grocery store for 70/30 fat mix. Farmers work everyday, all seasons. When it’s -20 and your eyeballs feel frozen it’s hard to feel happy when your animal goes to auction and your paid to feed it but not your labor. It’s hard to get enough for milk tonnage to feed them but nothing for you. Yet you go to Walmart and see milk at $2.39 gal.Grow a garden, process and can the food, that will give you a small taste of farming. Guess what biden/harris want only factory farming. Day NO and support your local farmers, they will support you back.

Helen Lloyd
Helen Lloyd
3 years ago
Reply to  David Bell

Exactly that – we need to reduce the animal population & the way we do that is by stopping eating animals. Farmed animals are only raised in their billions through farmers intervention in order to satisfy the demand for meat. As with any product, supply & demand rules – so in the case of eating animals, you buy, they die. Less animals will be bred if people switch the demand elsewhere, i.e. to plantbased foods. 85% of our diets should already be heavily plantbased for health..wholegrain bread, pasta, potatoes, beans, chickpeas, lentils, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, wholegrains, rice, spices, herbs etc etc. Going 100% plantbased is easy & is supported by all major dietetic associations. Read the Oxford Study by Poore & Nemeck – we could feed the global population on circa 75% less land if we all ate 100% plantbased which would release land for much needed rewilding/reforestation in order to prevent further species extinction & restore lost biodiversity.

David Bell
David Bell
3 years ago
Reply to  Helen Lloyd

I see you have just gone off on one without actually reading the questions. How are you going to manage that transition where people stop eating meat. You either have a mass cull of animals, you leave animals to starve or you leave humans to starve. How do you manage rare native breads who only survive on specialist farms who themselves only survive by selling the meat. How do you dispose of the dead animals that should have been eaten, but aren’t. I doubt you would enjoy big bonfires of dead animals!

How do you supply the iron and vitamin B12 vegetarians need or, if it is enforced veganism how do you supply the calcium as well.

Those who support enforcing dietary restrictions to vegetarianism or veganism never explain the transition because it brings up very difficult questions they are afraid to answer!

Sue Ebbens
Sue Ebbens
3 years ago
Reply to  David Bell

We need to have Regenerative farming ..Read this
https://www.frontiersin.org

Sue Ebbens
Sue Ebbens
3 years ago
Reply to  Helen Lloyd

Vegan diet is not the anwser. Regenerstive practices whichvm use animals symbiotically with the land , are beeded to build, and maintain soil fertility. Soil first, and tgat needs naturally reared animals
https://www.frontiersin.org

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

‘In all likelihood the virus transited to Homo sapiens sapiens from bats via pangolin sold in a Wuhan “wet market”.’

My understanding is that the market hypothesis was debunked almost immediately. I suspect that it escaped from the lab, a view shared by people who know much more about these things than I do.

Ian Manning
Ian Manning
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Oh, dear, here we go – the mindless descent into Trumpian conspiracy theory! Given all the evidence of transmission from animal to human in the article (and endorsed by the mink problem in Denmark), only a mind closed to rationality and evidence would go down the ‘escaped from the lab’ route.

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Manning

It’s not a Trumpian conspiracy theory.

It’s just a sensible enough theory that Trump seized on. Trump likes to breath air. Does that make breathing air Trumpian?

And as Caligula/Commodus says, you don’t know.

Angelique Todesco-Bond
Angelique Todesco-Bond
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

You see Adrian, you quote Caligula and up he pops, But agree with both of you.

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Manning

It’s not a conspiracy theory to say it escaped from a lab, no one really knows and in totalitarian China we may never know especially with the WHO in China’s pocket. Escaped from the lab is also not the same as created in the lab or released deliberately from the lab. Concerns about the Wuhan lab and possible pathogen escape had been raised in 2017

Michael Cowling
Michael Cowling
3 years ago
Reply to  Derek M

Hang on, it’s not a conspiracy theory to say that it might have escaped from a lab, but to leave out any element of doubt is getting into tin-hat country. There is also a reasonable possibility that it got into the Wuhan market via wildlife. We just don’t know.

Andrew Martin
Andrew Martin
3 years ago

There were no bats in the Wet Market and the Chinese have accepted the virus did not come from there. What I can tell you is that Bats were brought back from Yunnan Caves on an expedition there by the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Pangolins which were seized by Chinese border control officers from illegal traders were sent to Wuhan for virus research at their request. But even if they were both in that Market how did that “insertion” of 4 amino acids magically happen that doesn’t exist in either the Bat or Pangolin virus genome?

Andrew Martin
Andrew Martin
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Manning

Then you clearly have no idea at what goes on in these high security labs. For instance did you know that they made a Chimeric virus from SARS – CoV and did Gain of Function research to improve the spike protein in its ability to infect back in 2015. Have you heard about synthetic viruses? Probably not but that is what they were working on in 2018/19 at WIV. The unique four amino acids found in the Spike protein does not exist in any other Coronavirus with a similar genome to SARS -CoV 2. Many virologists have said yes it came from nature from a chance cross between a Pangolin and a Horseshoe bat. But we haven’t got a clue how that Polybasic cleavage site came about or to be more precise just ignored it. Mindless Trumpian conspiracy theories?…. absolute tosh.

Helen Lloyd
Helen Lloyd
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

A view shared by conspiracy theorists only. There are many scientific articles that prove that it wasn’t. Just look into the history of pandemics & you’ll see that they predominantly originate from a combination of our use of animals & our exploitation of wild animals’ natural habitats. The Spanish Flu was an avian flu & we currently also have avian flu in several areas of the UK 🙁

Swiveleyed Loon
Swiveleyed Loon
3 years ago
Reply to  Helen Lloyd

Name the articles. I want to read their proof.

aelf
aelf
3 years ago

Oh dear.

It’s the lack of factory farming that helped unleash SARS & SARS-Cov-2 onto the world. When your population is effectively eating anything that moves due to a lack of supply of foodstuffs you’re inviting zoonosis.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  aelf

hold that thought the next time you or a loved one needs an anti-biotic.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  aelf

China has no lack of foodstuffs. Their problematic culinary appetites are cultural and economic.

aelf
aelf
3 years ago
Reply to  Nun Yerbizness

Most cultures culinary appetites develop from conditions of scarcity.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  aelf

Most cultures culinary appetites develop from conditions of abundance.

Quentin Vole
Quentin Vole
3 years ago
Reply to  aelf

And the Spanish Flu didn’t come from factory farms.

c fyfe
c fyfe
3 years ago

When something seems unnatural, nature corrects eventually. That goes for intensive farming, communism, veganism..

aelf
aelf
3 years ago
Reply to  c fyfe

Intensive farming works. Communism doesn’t. Veganism is only possible in a wealthy, industrialised society

namelsss me
namelsss me
3 years ago
Reply to  aelf

Jains are vegans and have been numerous in India for 2400 years at least. India has only been industrialized for a few decades and is not wealthy.

Of course the most moral diet is cannibalism:-)

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  namelsss me

Beginners should start after dark to avoid squeamishness.

Gerry Fruin
Gerry Fruin
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

But we’re not allowed out:-)

aelf
aelf
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

The Neanderthals did that. In the long run it didn’t work out.

aelf
aelf
3 years ago
Reply to  namelsss me

Lacto-vegetarians, not vegans.

Helen Lloyd
Helen Lloyd
3 years ago
Reply to  aelf

Intensive farming is killing us & global meat consumption is completely unsustainable. Not sure where you’re from but most of the worlds’ poorest are living on more heavily plantbased diets than most. Friendly reminder to non-vegans..’Vegan food’ – the exact same thousands of food varieties that everyone else can & does eat, just in a slightly different proportion because of the exclusion of animal products. Wholegrain flours/bread, pasta, potatoes, beans, chickpeas, lentils, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, wholegrains, rice, spices, herbs etc etc. Many of these foods are some of the cheapest on the planet & there are thousands of non-animal foods available.

aelf
aelf
3 years ago
Reply to  Helen Lloyd

You’re full of nonsense.

The U.S. has been farming intensively for over a half-century with increasing crop yields from less & less land. Global meat consumption isn’t unsustainable & factory farming keeps endangered species from being eaten (look up what’s happening to the pangolin).

Veganism is a hobby only supportable by a pharmaceutical industry producing dietary supplements in sufficient quantity to keep the ‘vegans’ from suffering those diseases attendant on dietary insufficiency.

devonny00
devonny00
3 years ago
Reply to  aelf

The only disease likely to be suffered by dietary insufficiency for vegans is a lack of B12 in the diet due to the absence of animal products. There are plenty of people who live on vegan diets who are quite healthy.

attaleuntold
attaleuntold
3 years ago
Reply to  Helen Lloyd

You have my sympathy, Helen. However rational and plain common sense your arguments are it is like trying to convince a Young Earth Creationist that Ken Ham is an idiot and a charlatan.
They simply will not accept it.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

So what is the alternative? The left has this fantasy of people living in ever more crowded urban areas, so who’s going to handle food production? Not the urban gardeners. There are plenty of jurisdictions in the US that make it illegal to plant on one’s own property; there are even prohibitions against collecting rainwater, as if that is somehow owned by govt.

You can’t have it both ways. I keep hearing how the urban areas are where all the smart people, where the economic hubs are located, and then without a hint of self-awareness, there’s pearl-clutching over Big Farm. Maybe in this era of remote work where one’s physical location matters less, some of the concerned can move to flyover country and start working their patches of land.

Val Cox
Val Cox
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

But they all shop at Wholefoods surely?

Jim Richards
Jim Richards
3 years ago

I’m a lone vegetarian in an otherwise vegan family so I am not going to cast moral judgements on anyone’s choices. We’ve all got our ethical blind spots. I do think, being realistic, that it’s going to be very hard indeed to persuade everyone to give up meat. I never really liked it though I’m very far from squeamish, so it was never very difficult to give it up but I know that others find it one of life’s great pleasures.

As that’s so, I suspect change is going to come via factory grown meat and completely artificial food. If you follow the stories, the progress has been remarkable. At some point it’s going to be cheaper and safer to eat factory meat.

It would then simply require a ban on antibiotics being given wholesale to farmed animals. I’m very dubious about giving medical authorities too much power but I’m sure that sort of ban could be fully justified in terms of safety. Economics would then end factory farming. There might be a few organic herds left for gourmets, but one wonders how long they would persist, especially now that they can 3D print factory meat steaks that are textured like the real thing

The big issue will be dairy. But they’re already working on it. As I said, it’s a fast moving field and we perhaps underestimate how fast change may come. I’ve got teenage children and it’s really striking how many of their friends are vegan. It’s a huge change.

Helen Lloyd
Helen Lloyd
3 years ago
Reply to  Jim Richards

Change is coming that’s for sure..hubby & I both switched to a vegan diet a couple of years ago in our late 50’s through having younger vegan family members that caused us to ask the question ‘Why’ through intensive research. Certainly the younger generations completely understand the environmental issues surrounding animal agriculture so appear to be eating 100% plantbased as a minimum or leading fully vegan lifestyles. As for milk, plant mylks are certainly far more prevalent & widely used than they once were. Oat & EU organic soya are the most environmentally friendly, with sustainable hemp an upcoming option.

Bengt Dhover
Bengt Dhover
3 years ago

This all makes sense on every level. I guess it’s just a shame bacon tastes so darn good I’d never dream of actually giving it up.

Geoff Cox
Geoff Cox
3 years ago
Reply to  Bengt Dhover

I know your comment is meant to be fun, but just to let you know, I gave up all meat eating overnight about 30 years ago. I don’t miss bacon, I don’t miss sausages, I don’t miss anything really. If I do, it is more than compensated for by my feeling that I am doing my bit against animal cruelty … oh yes and by extra pasta.

But before people jump in and ask about cheese or my shoes or any other animal products I buy, I know that if the whole world went vegetarian, a lot of things would change both foreseen and unforeseen. But we can’t carry on as we are.

icubelimited
icubelimited
3 years ago
Reply to  Geoff Cox

As a fairly recent vegan convert (2 years) after a lifetime of meat eating, I haven’t missed it at all and if anything now have a much more varied and tasty diet. There are so many issues wrapped up in man’s continued exploitation of animals for the planet, our health and their lives, and it requires many more people to wake up to the implications of their choices. Thankfully many young people are responding and it will work through the population simply as the cohorts age. However, there are plenty of us older people that can accelerate the trend if we took action.

Kathryn Richards
Kathryn Richards
3 years ago
Reply to  icubelimited

The big problem, for me, is that if everyone who cares about animal welfare becomes vegan, all that is left is those who don’t care. Then the lives of animals can only get worse,
IF everyone became vegan, we would not be able to feed everyone and there would be almost zero ‘wild’ places left as the countryside would be turned over to monoculture.
The mania for almond milk, for example, is draining reservoirs in California and killing millions of bees and other wildlife.
As Geoff says, there will always be consequences.

Jake Prior
Jake Prior
3 years ago

There are of course destructive vegan choices, just as choosing to eat meat is a destructive choice. There is no need to drink almond milk. I have hemp milk, which I’m sure has very low environmental impact. As for the claim that the country would be turned ver to monoculture if people were vegan, you really need to do a little research about the land and resource requirements for different foods. Almonds and avocados may require a lot, but they’re a vanishingly small par of the vegan diet, most of which is extremely low in land and resource requirements. All meat, however it’s produced, has very high land and resource requirements. The truth is diametrically opposite and great swathes of land could be returned to wilderness if we reduced considerably our consumption of meat and dairy.

Ian Manning
Ian Manning
3 years ago
Reply to  Jake Prior

An excellent contribution, Jake. Hopefully, some of the ‘How are we going to feed everybody if we don’t industrially farm animals?’ contributors will rethink their views. Although I’m not going to hold my breath.

shinybeast1
shinybeast1
3 years ago

The thing that annoys me most is the amount of agricultural land dedicated to Halloween pumpkins. They are no good to eat and pumped full of god knows what. Makes me so sad every year when you see thousands of them stacked up in the supermarket.

icubelimited
icubelimited
3 years ago

I’m sorry but I’m confused by your comment. If 20 people out of 100 go vegan there is now 80 people eating animals compared to 100. That is fewer people who “don’t care” and its not as if the 20 vegans don’t care! On your second point you perhaps don’t realise that animal farming is so much more land and resource intensive that switching to a plant-based diet reduces the land needed so that we can release more land for re-wilding rather than less. So much of agriculture land is devoted to producing animal feed. Cutting out the “middle-man” (i.e. the animal) is so much more efficient in feeding mankind. Consequently, there is no need to create a monoculture – that is a choice about how we farm.

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago
Reply to  Geoff Cox

Well bully for you but that doesn’t give you the right to tell everyone else what to do.
“we can’t carry on as we are” why not? What do you base that on?

Geoff Cox
Geoff Cox
3 years ago
Reply to  Derek M

Hi Derek – we can carry on as we are, of course, but I’d rather we didn’t. If you haven’t taken a look at the way we get our meat, you should organise a trip to a battery chicken operation and smell the smell, perhaps you could witness a cow with a mournful eye getting slaughtered, sliced and diced in about half an hour, or perhaps you could check out some rabbit farms on the Continent. This is a real experience for millions of animals and I want as little part in it as possible.

tom.zunder
tom.zunder
3 years ago
Reply to  Derek M

Zootropic pandemics. Catastrophic extinction rates. Massive loss of habitats. Reduction of environmental resilience to climate change. I base it on that.

Joel Birkeland
Joel Birkeland
3 years ago

Alarmist. Factory farming will kill us all? Perhaps a better title would have been “Factory farming will make some of us sick.”

biljana.stanojcic
biljana.stanojcic
3 years ago

Oh gosh. It would have been a shareable article if it didn’t make several huge mistakes. First, vegans are not welfairists, but abolitionists. They fight for putting an end to the exploitation of the innocent, not for larger cages or even outdoors space. It is an argument that actually the self-called carnivores make.
Putting 60 000 000 000 animals that we breed every year outside is impossible, that is why we put them inside in the first place.

“What is to be done? The world’s desire for animal flesh is unlikely to disappear soon.” If only we could bring laws to prohibit a certain behaviour and protect the society and individuals from the whimses of some other individuals!

Val Cox
Val Cox
3 years ago

BSE anyone?

airmailpilot
airmailpilot
3 years ago

The evidence is on our island right now and it came from China and they will do it again

Stephen Morris
Stephen Morris
3 years ago

Fascinating. I had no idea how vulnerable cheap meat is to infection. Perhaps a cataclysmic virus will free animals from brutal conditions. I hope so

marklewanski
marklewanski
3 years ago

Fermi paradox solved?

David Armitstead
David Armitstead
3 years ago

Intensive animal farming has been around for a long time. I can remember battery hens in the 1950s and Broiler hens coming in in the late 50’s early 60’s. So why has it taken 0ver 60 years to suddenly be aware of the dangers?

Kathryn Richards
Kathryn Richards
3 years ago

Actually battery hens go back to the 1930’s.
The dangers have been known about, but as long as people want cheap meat, and lots of it, the dangers will be ignored.

Helen Lloyd
Helen Lloyd
3 years ago

Indeed…the only way to eliminate it is for individuals to change their diets & shift demand, otherwise farming will go on making money from living beings.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago

“Industrial meat production has created the perfect breeding ground for the next deadly disease.”

created a breeding ground that includes the wholesale use of human antibiotics as a food supplement to speed growth while destroying the antibiotics ability to fight off infections.

Paul Hansen Mr
Paul Hansen Mr
3 years ago

The mid west will deplete the aqua fir before the next 20 yrs.

Paul Hansen Mr
Paul Hansen Mr
3 years ago

But China is a entirely different story. Watch the show feeding 6 billion people they are eating themselves out of house and home and depleting there water. No young farmers left in the USA due to the CRP program and the costs of land, equipment and inputs.

Paul Hansen Mr
Paul Hansen Mr
3 years ago

Well if we do get attacked it will be the east cost or the west coast. Just those two will reduce the population. and most of the problems.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
3 years ago

hang on – are not most humans living in factory farms ? What we call cities ………………………………….

iambetsytrotwood
iambetsytrotwood
3 years ago

Ending farm subsidy would do more for the planet and our wastelines than chatting about what else can be done. Human behaviour is grotesque atm.

G Matthews
G Matthews
3 years ago

It is harder for a British person to get an antibiotic to treat a genuine illness than it is for a Chinese pig. There, antibiotics are mixed in with the feed so that meat is leaner and less money needs to be spent on pesky optionals like hygiene. Try getting an antibiotic from your GP.

Sue Ebbens
Sue Ebbens
3 years ago

This is what we need to be doing. It has started, we need to support it by buying food from this type of farming.
https://www.frontiersin.org

neilyboy.forsythe
neilyboy.forsythe
3 years ago

Four floors of boars?

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago

A really thought provoking and, speaking as a ‘mid-range’ carnivore, somewhat depressing article.

The bottom and most realistic line is that the world simply needs to consume less meat for animal welfare, environmental, and personal healthcare reasons, let alone for obvious practical reasons.

There is also a certain brutal symmetry here, given that covid 19, along with its similar viral ilk over the years, is a zoonotic disease derived in often mistreated animals in regular and close contact with human beings that is then able to jump species and infect humans and that the overconsumption of the meat and the by-products they are kept and bred for is one of the main contributory factors to the obesity that is one of the major comorbidities so inextricably associated with the current rash of Covid deaths, many arguably premature.

Nature usually has a not so subtle way of letting human beings they’ve overstepped the mark and why.

Whether we choose to listen and how we choose to interpret and then act, and whether we can do it in concert, of course, is another issue.

Chris V
Chris V
3 years ago

There is a solution to the blight of factory farming, and it is regenerative agriculture primarily using ruminants, in a manner which nearly mimics natural ecosystems. For a detailed and nuanced discussion of regenerative agriculture, I recommend the book Sacred Cow, and the documentary of the same name. Industrial monocrop agriculture, which is the backbone of vegetarian and vegan food industry, is destructive in its own right.

dapadgett53
dapadgett53
3 years ago

With as many vegan food products on the market now, there is absolutely no reason to eat other animals. Mindless consumption and cannibalism of other animals, because we are all animals, is slowly killing us all. It’s time to stop the endless breeding and murder of other species for our greedy palate pleasure for the sake of the planet ,the lives of other species, and ourselves.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  dapadgett53

there is absolutely no reason to eat other animals.
Let’s see: because man is an omnivore? Because I like steaks, burgers, ribs, and chicken? Because it’s no anyone else’s business?

Humans have eaten meat for as long as there have been humans. If you choose veganism, have at it, but it’s curious how those who choose otherwise are not afforded the same courtesy.

Helen Lloyd
Helen Lloyd
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

I’m going to quote someone else’s words: – “I’m not really interested in discussing what type of diet our caveman ancestors ate, or whether God put animals here for us to eat, or if we can obtain enough protein from a plant-based diet, or if humans are biologically herbivore or omnivore. These are tired arguments. What we should be discussing is how we can move forward and evolve as a race. The killing of billions of animals every year for food and clothing has helped put this planet and its inhabitants in the crisis situation that we’re now faced with.
And veganism offers a solution. Global warming, the declining health of our population, polluted waterways and depleted soil, fished out oceans, starvation in poor countries, species extinction and rain forest destruction are but a few of the problems that can be addressed and remedied if more people embraced a vegan lifestyle.
This is why being vegan is so important…it offers viable solutions and compassionate answers. It saves lives…not only the animals but very likely our own. The human race has backed itself into a corner, veganism offers a way out. Lets move forward.” Richard Lysoff
Not sure why we should be ‘courteous’..we may have to live with it but why would we stop spreading awareness & challenging preconceived myths. Most vegans were of course once meat-eaters. If you were the one waiting in line at a slaughterhouse I would fight for you too 🙂
Oh, & what you eat is no-one else’s business? I’m afraid the reality is that when your ‘choice’ of meat, eggs & dairy directly affects the water, soil, air, animals both wild & domesticated, starving nations & the future of life on this planet..what you eat is everyone’s business. Our ancestors may have eaten meat (opportunistically through hunting, whilst eating a mostly plantbased diet I might add) but our descendants are relying on us to evolve. ALL major dietetic associations support a 100% plantbased diet (predominantly wholefood plantbased, minimally processed) for health at all stages of life.

You may like to do some more research into environmental issues, zoonoses, pandemincs, antibiotic resistance.

Swiveleyed Loon
Swiveleyed Loon
3 years ago
Reply to  Helen Lloyd

I’ll tell you what, Helen Lloyd, I’m totally fed up with people like you telling me what I should or shouldn’t do.

But I agree that factory farming is repugnant on many levels.

attaleuntold
attaleuntold
3 years ago

Perhaps if you were a little more savvy then ”people like” Helen wouldn’t have to say anything at all?
Now there’s a thought.

Bronwen Saunders
Bronwen Saunders
3 years ago
Reply to  Helen Lloyd

I, too, have grave reservations about factory farming, but perhaps even more reservations about veganism – at least as a one-size-fits-all solution. What about those parts of the world that are unsuited to arable farming? There are good reasons why peoples in arid, largely barren landscapes rear goats. Goats eat anything and are a dependable source of high quality protein. The same is true of chickens and pigs. I live in Switzerland which is of course famous for its cheese. Are you proposing that Swiss farmers abandon dairy farming and with it an important element of Swiss culture? And what would you do with all those alpine pastures that are simply not suitable for any other kind of farming? Let them revert to scrub? How can that possibly be considered progress?

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  dapadgett53

You try and survive pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding (or a surgical operation of any kind) on a vegan diet and see what happens to you and the child. Humans are carnivores.

However, we could all thrive eating less, but better quality meat, that is the “wise” direction of travel I would have thought.

Jim Richards
Jim Richards
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

I’m not a vegan, my partner is. She’s had two children, the girl is a very healthy and normal sized (vegan) teenager, the boy is a madly energetic (vegan) seven year old who is the by far the tallest and most muscular child in his class. Both breastfed. You simply can’t generalise

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Jim Richards

Are you sure your partner was vegan all the way through ? all the people I’ve known have had to change their diet due to anaemia and other problems. I’m sorry to look on the bleak side but I wonder if the children took all the nourishment they needed to thrive and it is your partner’s long term health that will have been compromised. Let’s hope I’m wrong, I am sometimes !

Helen Lloyd
Helen Lloyd
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

A small amount of research is all that’s needed to switch to a 100% plantbased diet as part of a vegan lifestyle & as with anything, it’s a simple adjustment which then just becomes second nature. All major dietetic associations now support a 100% plantbased diet as suitable for all stages of life, including through pregnancy. This is just one statement: “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes. A vegetarian diet is defined as one that does not include meat (including fowl) or seafood, or products containing those foods. This article reviews the current data related to key nutrients for vegetarians including protein, n-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, iodine, calcium, and vitamins D and B-12. A vegetarian diet can meet current recommendations for all of these nutrients. In some cases, supplements or fortified foods can provide useful amounts of important nutrients. An evidence- based review showed that vegetarian diets can be nutritionally adequate in pregnancy and result in positive maternal and infant health outcomes. The results of an evidence-based review showed that a vegetarian diet is associated with a lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease. Vegetarians also appear to have lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension and type 2 diabetes than nonvegetarians. Furthermore, vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index and lower overall cancer rates. Features of a vegetarian diet that may reduce risk of chronic disease include lower intakes of saturated fat and cholesterol and higher intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, soy products, fiber, and phytochemicals.”
Plenty of programs such as Veganuary, Challenge22 etc to get you into the swing of it & Dr Greger’s Daily Dozen is a simple daily checklist.

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago
Reply to  Jim Richards

I believe there are some vegans who take exception even to breast milk…

Bronwen Saunders
Bronwen Saunders
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Agree completely with this. I was vegetarian until I fell pregnant. My body then told me to eat meat. Plant proteins just don’t cut it.
I also agree that the way forward is to eat less and better quality meat.

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago
Reply to  dapadgett53

But the animals are so tasty! Soooooo tasty!

steve eaton
steve eaton
3 years ago
Reply to  dapadgett53

We have canine teeth for a reason. I would agree so far however that meat has become too prevalent in our diet to be good for our own health. I stand 100% behind your choice not to eat meat, but making a universal moral and ethical judgement on it is buffoonery.

P.S. Cannibalism is defined as ,”the practice of eating the flesh of one’s own species.”

Helen Lloyd
Helen Lloyd
3 years ago

Whilst the article is excellent in explaining the issues with zoonoses & factory farming, it is naive in the statement “we need to give the animals some space, and outdoors”..we simply do not have the land available & have already destroyed Earth’s ecosystems/biodiversity due to the expanse of global land which is already taken up with animal agriculture. Ethically, for human health & the ability of humanity to survive on planet Earth, humans NEED to stop eating animals, or at least VASTLY reduce their consumption & that means cutting by 90% at least in countries such as the USA, UK, EU, Australia, South America, New Zealand etc. Try reading The Oxford Study by Poore & Nemeck & looking at the charts on land use in ourworldindata. The way most of the developed world is eating would demand multiple planets worth of land & developing countries trying to mimic ‘our’ lifestyles is a recipe for disaster. We are only able to satisfy the global demand for meat through a high % of intensive farming, circa 70%+ in the UK & 99% in the USA. The only immediate & overnight solution to reduce demand & stop farmers raising & sending to slaughter living beings for profit is to stop eating animals. David Attenborough “The true tragedy of our time is still unfolding ““ the loss of biodiversity. The living world is our unique marvel. The natural world is fading,” said Attenborough.
“We must change our diet. The planet can’t support billions of meat-eaters,” he continued. “If we had a mostly plant-based diet we could increase the yield of the land. We have an urgent need for free land”Š Nature is our biggest ally.”
#ThereIsNoPlanetB #ClimateEmergency