We should curb our contact with wildlife and livestock to prevent future pandemics, a new report says.
Our relationship with the environment has been getting more and more complex. Wildfires, floods, extreme weather changes and now, a pandemic – the challenges are multiple and require immediate action.
Now, a report by UN established organisation IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) says humankind needs a new approach to stop future outbreaks before they become global.
Its authors call on people to stop encroaching on wild land and eat less meat. This is hardly surprising.
If you trace back the origin of past pandemics, quite often you will get to an animal source. The virus that caused the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic is likely to have sprung from North American domestic and wild birds. HIV jumped onto humans from chimpanzees, most likely when humans came into contact with the chimpanzees’ infected blood while hunting them. Even recent diseases like Ebola, zika and, of course, COVID-19, have their origins in animals.
Mammals and birds are estimated to harbour more than a million undiscovered viruses, according to the report.
Fighting the drivers of pandemics, such as agricultural expansion, the wildlife trade, wildlife consumption, and global travel will require international effort. Some countries will undoubtedly resist such measures. But what we all need to understand is that preventing pandemics costs less money, effort and lives than fighting them once they have taken hold of communities.
If we fail to shift our course swiftly, this may very well not be the only pandemic in our lifetime.