The famous primatologist Jane Goodall said humanity will continue to see future pandemics, like COVID-19, if we don’t change our diets and start conserving animal habitats.
Goodall said in June at an online event for the organization Compassion in World Farming that habitat loss and animal consumption, especially through factory farming and wet markets, are major forces behind pandemic outbreaks.
“Our disrespect for wild animals and our disrespect for farmed animals has created this situation where disease can spill over to infect human beings,” she said, via Live Science.
While it’s unclear exactly how the coronavirus outbreak began, experts believe that it originated in an animal. It’s suspected that the disease then spread to humans at a Chinese wet market, where live animals, fresh meats, and produce are sold.
However, industrial farming at large factories that produce meat is also risky, especially if they have low hygiene standards. Goodall pointed out that the “swine flu” pandemic of 2009 resulted “from handling poultry and pigs.”
Animal consumption through wet markets or factory farming aren’t our only concerns. The loss of animal habitat, Goodall said, could also contribute to future outbreaks.
As we continue to cut down trees and expand into uninhabited regions, the animals that live there will need a place to go. When animals move as they search for a new home, they bring the viruses they carry with them.
And there is no shortage of potential viruses. There are an estimated 1.7 million suspected viruses in animals and birds that haven’t yet infected humans, according to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
The world should expect an outbreak from one of these many viruses, Goodall said, if we aren’t more mindful about our actions and habits.
“If we do not do things differently, we are finished,” she said. “We can’t go on very much longer like this.”