‘Zoonoses often take that route… and the more you have of a thing, the more that thing is going to be the likely conveyor,’ says UN environment chief

Industrial animal farming has caused most new infectious diseases in humans in the past decade – and risks starting new pandemics as animal markets have done, experts are warning.

Experts from both the UN and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have pinpointed animals or food of animal origin as a starting point for emerging diseases, such as Covid-19, which has killed more than 270,000 people worldwide.

Valentina Rizzi, an expert in disease at the EFSA, said: “The diseases transmitted directly or indirectly from animals – including livestock – to humans are called zoonoses. A big proportion of all infectious diseases in humans are originating from animals, and more specifically the majority of emerging new infection in humans in the last 10 years really come from animals or food of animal origin.”

Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) told One Earth: “The virus usually originates in the wild, is transmitted often by wild birds, bats etc into livestock – domesticated animals”

“We see it more frequently in pigs than poultry but you do see it elsewhere, too, in other animals. Of course we can’t deny that these zoonoses often take that route – this we know from science.

“And the probability is the more you have of a thing, the more that thing is going to be the likely conveyor.”

The UNEP warned in 2016 of new diseases from animals, amplified by the world’s rising population of livestock for meat and dairy.

Ms Andersen said the more we as consumers demand protein from livestock and meat, the more the market would respond.

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