The Common Ground Between KFC And Pandemics
Pandemics and KFC – what do they have in common? Both are a scourge of the Earth.
At Covid-19 level 3 we were supposed to be in a waiting room. Instead many folk beat a well-worn path to KFC, causing chaos and road queues.
It is doubtful that level 2 is going to bring any relief from the madness. It seems that many people just want to go back to the way things were.
What's it all for? If a pandemic cannot give us a space to reconsider our collective madness then what can? People really should think about how their diet impacts the world around them.
It should have been one of the lessons we learned – what we eat can cause pandemics. It is also at the root of much environmental destruction.
Yum! Brand which owns KFC and Pizza Hutt, for example, has one of the industry's weakest anti-deforestation policies. It sources palm oil resulting in deforestation and destruction of wildlife habitat which in turn causes biodiversity loss. This creates the ideal conditions to start a new epidemic.
Oh the irony!
A study published in Bioscience journal demonstrated that biodiversity loss can also have a direct effect on zoonotic disease transmission. The science is complicated , but the message isn’t. Increasing human interference with the natural world through animal agriculture, hunting wildlife and destroying habitats is a direct cause of the emergence of zoonotic disease.
So we are at a crossroads. To KFC as usual or not KFC.
It really isn't much of a dilemma. These fast food giant chains need to go – and good riddance.
The corona virus pandemic should give us pause for thought. We need to hold that pause and not just head straight back into KFC – or whatever your poison is. McDonald’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut are all the same. The health threats alone are frightening. It is well known that regular consumption of these foods contributes to obesity and associated respiratory problems, high cholesterol and blood pressure and heart disease.
We’re in the middle of a pandemic and the first thing many people do when released from lockdown is head to these fast food giants. Much of the meat from these fast food chains comes from factory farmed animals. This is especially true for pigs and chickens. Factory farmed animals are a site for the emergence of zoonotic diseases due to overcrowding and associated filth.
Factory farming is showing no signs of halting its growth around the world and apart from the potential in triggering future pandemics, the welfare implications for animals are truly horrifying. For example, so–called meat (or broiler) chickens in New Zealand are bred specifically to gain weight as fast as possible. They live for their brief lives in cramped barns and are susceptible to heart disease, lameness and starvation if they become too heavy to move around.
These same chickens end up in your KFC box. That is not so finger lickin’ good at all.
Besides the obvious injustice of being selectively bred, born and raised for the express purpose of becoming someone’s KFC dinner, animals suffer other horrors during pandemics.
A recent CNN news report in the United States stated that 2 million chickens will be killed in Maryland and Delaware because of lack of employees at the ‘processing plant’ due to the Covid-19 pandemic. During pandemics there is often mass killing of animals in factory farms. Behind closed factory farm doors all kinds of horrors emerge under the name of “approved humane methods”. The three depopulation methods are ventilation shutdown, fire-fighting foam, and carbon dioxide poisoning. In the case in Maryland and Delaware the chickens will be killed by shutting of the ventilation causing them to slowly bake and suffocate to death.
Doesn’t sound very humane - but how else can you kill a million chickens in one go?
It is not the first time or the last time this will happen. An academic study in Nature Journal stated that “humans are not the only victims of the killing scourge caused by these viruses. In November 2016, the Netherlands killed over 190,000 ducks, Sweden 200,000 chickens, Germany about 100,000 turkeys and chickens, and more recently South Korea has killed about 7 million chicken and ducks. Why? Because of an influenza scare."
Our response needs more collective intelligence from everyone. There should be a stronger focus on the cause of the Covid-19 virus and preventing it occurring in the future. The media’s silence on this has been deafening. It seems we don’t like to examine our interference in the non-human world, our exploitation of animals and their environments for our own economic gain. If we don’t start respecting nature and making changes to our exploitative economy future pandemics will occur.
Concerns about our exploitative relations with nature and the animals have been raised by a panel of leading scientific experts. A guest article by scientists from the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) on the 27th April stated that pandemic are caused directly by human activity that brings “increasing numbers of people into direct contact and often conflict with the animals that carry these pathogens”.
The IPBES article has also made a call for us to make significant changes in the economic activities that occur at the interface of human/animal/environmental contact. This includes changes in animal agriculture, deforestation, mining, and fossil fuel industries. They write we need a fundamental transformation of our economic system that is values based and system -wide. They say we need a new world, one that puts environmental and social responsibilities seriously.
Our survival as a species is at stake. The IPBES article also stated that 1.7 million unidentified viruses of the type known to infect people exist in mammals and birds. Of these , any one of them could be the next cause of a pandemic – potentially even more disruptive and lethal than COVID-19.
So at these crossroads of between stage three and two lockdown, keep on the right path.
The right path is not beating a track to your local KFC. The right path is considering what a sustainable, healthy and ethical diet might look like – for both the animals and your health. And importantly, to prevent future pandemics.
Another species - jumping virus could literally bring us to our knees both economically and as a species. We are not immune to Covid-19 , and neither are we immune to extinction.