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Does Eating Meat Spread Diseases?

Updated: Mar 15, 2021

COVID-19 is the latest virus to emerge from the use and exploitation of animals, its full name is severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. It is a virus that infects people's lungs, makes it hard, sometimes impossible, for them to breathe. The symptoms include a dry cough and fever and it's horrible, it makes you feel terrible. The message from governments and health authorities is to stay isolated, and wash your hands. But, what about doing something to stop this kind of disease from happening in the first place instead of trying to contain it when it's too late? COVID-19 is only the latest of these diseases and, unless things change, it won't be the last.

Bird Flu

Bird flu, or avian flu, is a type of flu that infects birds, there are many different types and most of them can't infect people, but there are four different strains or types than can infect people. It doesn't spread from one person to another, you have to catch it from a bird and this stops it from spreading quickly around the world. You can become infected by touching infected birds, touching the droppings or bedding of infected birds or by killing or preparing infected poultry for cooking. Symptoms include a very high temperature or feeling hot or shivery, aching muscles, headache and a cough. In recent years more than 200 people have died after catching bird flu.

Swine Flu

In 2009 a new illness was identified, many people were becoming infected and it spread around the world very quickly. The virus had originally come from pigs and spread to humans so it was called swine flu. It became clear to scientists that it was the same virus that had caused the Spanish flu in 1918, but it had changed slightly and become a new strain. This new strain was first found in Asia, it is believed that one person became infected who then traveled to Mexico. Once in Mexico that person infected many others and once these people started travelling, around Mexico, to other parts of South America and getting on planes to other countries, the virus spread across the world. This virus killed 18,000 people.

Mad Cow Disease

Mad cow disease, also called Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), is a fatal disease that slowly destroys the brain and spinal cord of cattle. People can't get mad cow disease, but they can get a human form of mad cow disease called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) and this does kill people.

When a cow is slaughtered parts of its body are used for human food and other parts are used in animal feed. If an infected cow is slaughtered and parts of its brain or spinal cord are used in cattle feed, other cows can become infected. People can be infected if they eat these parts from infected cows, but they can also become infected if they are working with cattle, on farms or slaughter houses.


Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is another illness caused by a coronavirus called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). The disease seems to have first started in camels and then spread to people that worked with camels. These people then passed the disease on to others and the disease spread across the world. Most people that get MERS get severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, their lungs become diseased and they find it hard to breathe. About 3 or 4 out of every 10 people that get MERS die.


SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) is also caused by a coronavirus, the SARS coronavirus, known as SARS CoV. SARS originated in China in 2002 and scientists think that the human version of the virus came from small mammals but it mutated and infected people.

The SARS infection quickly spread from China to other Asian countries and there was also a small number of cases in several other countries, including 4 in the UK, plus quite a large number in Toronto, Canada. During the time of infection, there were 8,098 reported cases of SARS and 774 deaths. This means the virus killed about 1 out of every 10 people who were infected.

Spanish Flu

The 1918 influenza pandemic is the worst pandemic in recent history. It was caused by a flu virus that comes from birds. Scientists think that the virus came from a chicken farm in Haskell, Kansas, that there were infected birds that passed the disease on to people.  In the United States of America the virus was first seen in people in the army in 1918 and then spread. Roughly 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus and at least 50 million worldwide died.

Three-quarters of new human diseases originate from animals, even HIV came from monkeys, but they can only be identified once they have infected humans and by that time it could be too late. Thousands of birds have been put down to try to stop the spread of bird flu, millions of cows have been killed to stop the spread of mad cow disease, but in terms of changing behaviours to prevent these diseases nothing has changed. Some of the worst diseases to infect people come from animals; quite often the animals don't become very ill, but when people get these illnesses thousands can die There are many diseases that people can get from animals that have nothing to do with the exploitation of animals, such as rabies. But when exploiting animals, through farming, trafficking or using animals as entertainment definitely causes, creates even, illnesses that kill millions of people it can't be argued that it's okay to do these things.

One other thing, how comes no one seems to care that these animals, kept in cages, kept in cramped and dirty conditions, becoming sick because of the things that humans have done to them are suffering?

COVID-19 is the lastest in a long line of zoonotic diseases, diseases that have come from animals and infected people, but nothing has changed to stop these things from happening. If anything, things have gotten worse. More animals are being farmed in ever more horrid conditions which means that it's just a matter of time before this happens again. If everyone were to stop eating meat it wouldn't stop animal diseases from infecting people, cat scratch disease is a real thing, rabies from an animal bite can happen, but COVID-19 didn't start in a vegan market. Just saying.


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