We must have a societal shift in the way we view animals, the environment and our diets. We must stop eating animals.
Covid-19 is not the great leveller as was suggested at the start of this pandemic.
Older people have a much higher risk of suffering severe symptoms and death than younger people – the ONS says that the majority of deaths involving Covid-19 have been among people aged 65 and over.
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Men have a higher risk than women and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people have a higher risk than white ethnic groups. These risk factors you can’t change - but others you can.
Early on in the pandemic, scientists noticed how many of those admitted to hospital with Covid-19 had underlying health conditions. People with obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease were far more likely to need intensive care and require a ventilator.
Vegans tend to have a lower risk of all these conditions and a varied, vegan diet can help both prevent and reverse them. All these diseases carry serious health risks and Covid-19 has added another layer.
Of course, going vegan won’t prevent you from catching Covid-19 so you still need to observe all the normal precautions.
What it may do, though, is lower your risk of suffering complications or severe symptoms – it could even save your life. If enough people do it, going vegan could also lower the risk of future pandemics.
Although this pandemic was only declared as one in March 2020, the science is now clear.
A study published in the journal Obesity Reviews revealed that people living with obesity who get Covid-19, are more than twice as likely to be admitted to hospital than people of a healthy weight.
This group was almost three-quarters more likely to need intensive care and 48 percent more likely to die. People with diabetes also have a higher risk of dying in hospital with Covid-19 compared to those without diabetes.
Covid-19 can cause acute breathing difficulties in some people, which puts extra pressure on the heart, so for people with high blood pressure or heart disease, it can be extremely serious.
The good news is, a healthy vegan diet can help prevent and reverse all these conditions and not only will you benefit from improving your general health, you can lower your risk of severe Covid-19.
Research shows that vegans tend to weigh less than vegetarians and meat-eaters and experts agree that a vegan diet can help you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight without having to worry about portion size.
Vegans have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, the type associated with diet and lifestyle. A 2019 Harvard study of more than 300,000 people revealed that eating a vegan diet could cut the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by almost a quarter.
In the same year, a study of 12,000 people found that those who ate mostly plant-based foods were 32 percent less likely to die from heart disease.
In July, spurred on by the pandemic, the government launched a new strategy in a bid to tackle the threats posed by obesity.
They intend to ban junk food TV adverts before 9 pm and end buy-one-get-one-free promotions in stores. These are positive steps but the strategy roundly fails to mention possibly the single biggest thing we can do to tackle the crisis.
Writing in an open letter with Viva!, 15 top doctors have advised that going vegan is the quickest and cheapest way of fighting obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease – major risk factors for Covid-19.
The letter was signed by clinicians including Emanuel Goldman, a world-renowned professor of microbiology and consultant haematologist, Dr Shireen Kassam, nursing expert Baroness Watkins of Tavistock and Professor Richard Kock, emerging diseases specialist at the Royal Veterinary College at the, University of London.
Going vegan could not only lower your risk of severe Covid-19, if enough of us do it, it could lower the risk of future pandemics.
It’s likely that Covid-19 came from a wet market in China where poultry, civets, snakes, pangolins, bats, beavers, foxes, dogs and other animals, many captured illegally in the wild, were caged for sale.
The dreadful, cramped conditions and mix of wild and domestic creatures, alongside throngs of people is a pandemic in the making.
Before we congratulate ourselves, however, a pandemic risk resulting from the ill-treatment of animals lies closer to home too – in a factory farm near you!
As industrialised farming has spread around with world, diseases have followed. Densely packed sheds containing stressed animals, confined in filthy surroundings and being bred for fast growth has lowered their immunity.
It’s an ideal environment for a mutating virus or antibiotic-resistant superbugs to emerge. It’s no surprise, therefore, that three in four new or emerging infectious disease come from animals.
Many scientists thought the next pandemic would be caused by an avian influenza (bird flu) virus emerging from a poultry or pig farm.
H5N1 is a particular concern even though less than 1,000 people have been infected – the death rate is a terrifying 60 percent. By comparison, seasonal flu kills about 0.1 percent of those infected.
With H5N1, most infections have involved individuals handling, slaughtering or consuming infected poultry but if the virus changes to become more easily spread between humans, like in Covid-19, we could be facing a deadly pandemic the likes of which we have never seen.
Viva!’s founder and director, Juliet Gellatley, says: “We must have a societal shift in the way we view animals, the environment and our diets. We must stop eating animals.
"It is time to finally make the connection between animal agriculture and environmental destruction, antibiotic resistance and disease outbreak. We must stop tearing down forests to make way for animal farming or to grow animal feed.
"We must protect ecosystems and prioritise the safety and freedom of wild animals, leaving them to live their lives away from human contact. If we don’t take urgent and far-reaching action now, eating animals will be the death of us”.
Dr Justine Butler is a senior researcher and writer at Viva! Health. She graduated from Bristol University with a PhD in molecular biology and a BSc First Class (hons) in Biochemistry from UWE before joining Viva! in 2005. Viva! Health monitors scientific research linking diet to health and provide accurate information on which you can make informed choices about the food you eat.