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Opinion: Eat right to avoid disaster | TS . summary

TThe world may be at greater risk of infectious diseases that originate in wildlife as people increasingly encroach on natural habitats in the tropics to graze livestock and hunt wild animals. Destructive epidemics such as HIV/AIDSAnd the EbolaAnd the COVID-19, which likely originated in wildlife, are a reminder of how environmental destruction and infectious disease are intertwined. Tropical deforestation and poaching are also at the root Global Warming And the mass extinction of species.

All of these phenomena indicate that what we choose to eat has a fundamental impact on our health and the health of our planet.

We recently made a file reconsidering of the scientific literature to explore how diseases of wildlife origin, global warming, and mass species extinction relate to the global food system. Our second goal was to explore the countervailing actions that governments, NGOs, and each of us can take.

From the perspective of individual consumers, the world’s population needs to switch to diets low in foods sourced from livestock to stop human encroachment on tropical areas of the wild. Second, there is a need to reduce the demand for wild meat in tropical cities.

Eat less food from livestock

Closer to the equator, the biodiversity becomes richer. These tropics have historically experienced less development, usually teeming with wildlife and carbon stored in the form of abundant vegetation. But in recent decades, agricultural frontier It expanded rapidly in tropical forests. This unprecedented expansion of agricultural land devoted to grazing and forage production may lead to increased contact between wildlife, people and livestock, which could increase the potential for pathogens to pass from one to another.

Habitat destruction also has a negative impact on large herbivores and predators, as food sources and breeding grounds are lost. This could lead to an increase in general species of rodents, bats, birds, and primates that are better adapted to thrive in human-modified landscapes. Some of these types are well known lockers Infectious diseases of livestock and humans. For example, the white-footed mouse (pyromiscus leucopus) is a reservoir host for bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease, while some fruit bats (family Pteropodidae) are reservoir hosts of Nipah virus and possibly Ebola virus. Intensive livestock farms increases the likelihood that domesticated animals will serve as an intermediate host for diseases of wildlife origin, thereby amplifying the risk of human infection. (See the figure on page 10.)

Flexible diets could feed a growing world population without further expansion of farmland into tropical wildlands and with reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition, if humans keeps growing Adopting diets rich in food from livestock sources, global warming is unlikely to be sustained Much less than 2°C And that the rate of species extinction can slow down. This is because animal production has Biggest ecological footprint For all food production systems in terms of land and water use, greenhouse gas emissions, and pollution of terrestrial and aquatic systems.

Requiring everyone to become vegetarian is not realistic or even desirable. But Flexibility Diets could feed a growing world population without further expansion of farmland into tropical wildlands and with reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. These diets consist of large amounts of plant foods, including plant proteins such as legumes, nuts and seeds. modest amounts of fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products; And small amounts of red meat and processed animal proteins.

Besides switching to organic or eco-friendly farming and reducing food loss and waste, diets low in foods sourced from livestock are therefore an essential component of a sustainable global food system. Such a dietary shift would have other general health benefits as well, such as reducing excess weight, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and colorectal cancer.

Benefits of a global shift to flexible diets

Measures available to governments, civil society and businesses to promote healthier and more sustainable levels of consumption of foods sourced from livestock include education in schools, training of doctors and pediatricians, environmental labeling of food packaging, taxation of meat and dairy products, and a legal duty for the retail and hospitality sectors. Purchasing food for workplaces, schools and hospitals.

Governments tend to avoid such interventions for fear of a popular backlash. But the public tends to expect that government leadership Faced with such a complex challenge.

Reducing the demand for wild meat in tropical cities

In the tropical forests of Africa, Asia and South America, the pressure of hunting to supply its neighboring cities A significant increase over the past thirty years. In addition to endangering vulnerable animal populations, the active trade in wild meat may increase the risk of zoonoses disease transmission.

But in the absence of effective enforcement of state law and ongoing campaigns to reduce consumer demand, the ban is not working. In fact, powerful for consumers Wild meat preferences It means they may continue to buy it despite the high prices caused by the ban, which boosts black markets. In the case of “luxury meat”, prices rose and scarcity It may lead to increased demand. The ban could also turn the wild meat trade into an illegal trade, unregulated channels Where less attention is paid to the biosecurity measures needed to prevent infection from wildlife-borne diseases.

A complete ban can have other unwanted effects. While in most large cities, legumes, fish, and protein from livestock sources are readily and affordable, there are indigenous and rural communities. Rely on stalked meat For vital nutrition and income. Their rights to provide themselves sustainably within their customary territory should be protected.

The ideal course of action would be to contain tropical wild meat hunting and trade by curbing demand in urban areas and extractive hotspots, while upholding hunting rights and biosecurity measures among communities in remote subsistence areas.

Avoid biological hazards from animal source foods

Interventions in rural communities should provide wild meat hunters, traders and butchers with training in inexpensive biosecurity measures that they can easily adopt to avoid infection from contact with wild animals. Biosecurity measures should also be expanded to animal and wildlife farms, slaughterhouses, food markets and restaurants. These measures include wearing protective clothing when handling wild animals, wrapping carcasses to prevent blood from coming into contact with cuts in people’s skin, and thoroughly cooking wild meat before eating.

Other physical distancing measures should be taken on farms, pastures and live animal markets. These include fencing and reducing livestock dens to reduce contact with wild herbivores, planting fruit trees visited by bats at a sufficient distance from livestock sites, and limiting the number of animals for sale at live bird markets.

Different strategies across different regions

Levels of consumption of foods of animal source, and the degree to which human societies depend on animal source proteins, vary widely. Efforts to reduce livestock production should focus on curbing excessive consumption in richer countries and expanding megacities in less developed and emerging economies. In the poorer rural areas of countries with limited resources, home gardening In addition, smallholder livestock development programs can help reduce malnutrition with limited environmental and public health impacts.

sponsor Communities in arid grasslands and hunter gatherer Instead, communities in tropical rainforests and unsuitable arctic regions will continue to rely on animals for nutrition. However, the slight environmental impacts of their way of living cannot be compared to the effects of the dense and affluent urban population.

Our future depends on urgent change

The incidence of infectious diseases originating in wild animals is high and may be increasing. This could be another warning sign of the degradation of our ecosystems undermining The ability of the planet to sustain human health and well-being.

Dietary shifts away from foods obtained from livestock and reductions in the demand for wild meat in the tropics are critical to simultaneously protecting the environment, protecting vulnerable communities with limited resources, and reducing the risk of disease outbreaks and epidemics. We all share the responsibility to act now to prevent further pollution, floods, droughts, famine and epidemics.

Julia Wegner Socio-environmental researcher at the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) at the University of Oxford in the UK. Chris Murray Associate Professor of Environment and Health at the MRC Unit in The Gambia and the MRC Center for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London. Murray receives funding from the UK Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and the UK Global Challenges Research Fund. He currently serves as a scientific advisor/board member for the Soulsby Foundation and the Regenerative Society Foundation.

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