Those in power can no longer ignore the link between animal farming and the health and climate emergencies.
An animal slaughter truck has blocked the road outside the Department of Health and Social Care with eight activists locking themselves inside and on top of the vehicle.
The blockade has been staged by Animal Rebellion. The group argues animal farming is detrimental for human life as it increases the likelihood of deadly pandemics, such as COVID-19, as well as climate breakdown.
Animal Rebellion is calling on the UK government to lead a transition to a just and sustainable plant-based food system, in order to reduce the risk of future pandemics and avert the worst impacts of climate breakdown, such as extreme weather events, droughts and floods.
Recent scientific studies have estimated that 75 percent of new and emerging infectious diseases come from animals. The current COVID-19 pandemic is a zoonotic disease which was transmitted from animals to humans.
Whilst scientists believe Covid-19 originated from an animal ‘wet market’ in China, many more zoonotic and infectious diseases, such as bird flu and swine flu, have arisen from livestock worldwide.
The UK has also seen the outbreak of fatal infectious diseases as a result of animal agriculture, such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), which is a variant of ‘mad cow’ disease.
This protest comes just days after reports that half of the staff at Banham Poultry slaughterhouse in Norfolk - 75 in total - have tested positive for Covid-19. Further reports show that slaughterhouses all across the UK have seen significant outbreaks of the virus.
The World Health Organization recommends a ‘One-Health’ approach, which is a framework to protect human health by way of ensuring both environmental and non-human animal health.
Kieran Blyth, a spokespserson for Animal Rebellion, said, “The World Health Organization’s recommendation of a One Health approach shows that we must ensure both environmental and animal health if we are to ensure human health.
"The environmental destruction of animal farming, as well as the increase of antimicrobial resistance amongst farmed animals, is putting human health at critical risk.”
Inger Anderson, Head of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), has said: "As we continue to encroach on fragile ecological ecosystems, we bring humans into ever-greater contact with wildlife.
"Around 75 percent of new and infectious diseases are zoonotic and, in fact, about 1 billion cases of illness and millions of deaths occur every year from these diseases."
Animal agriculture currently accounts for 80 percent of Amazon deforestation, as well as 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
A 2018 study into the environmental impacts of food production - the most comprehensive of its kind - found that a plant-based food system could reduce farmland usage by 76 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 49 percent from current global levels.
Despite the warnings of future pandemics and climate collapse, the UK Government continues to support animal agriculture through funds of up to £2.1bn.
Harley McDonald-Eckersall, a spokesperson for Animal Rebellion, said: “Those in power can no longer ignore the link between animal farming and the health and climate emergencies. They must acknowledge that we can only avoid future pandemics and climate catastrophe by way of a full transition to a plant-based food system.”
Angela Duncan, a spokesperson for Animal Rebellion, said: “The science is clear; animal farming and fishing industries are killing us and the planet. The government must take action now and lead the transition to a plant-based food system.”
Animal Rebellion actions schedule
4th September: Banking on Betrayal - Finance action
5th September: Global Action: Web of Lies + Mass People’s Assembly
6th September: Ocean March with Extinction Rebellion + Paint the Streets
7th September: TBA - big action
8th September: Affinity group actions & trainings + Open Letter
9th September: DEFRA Street Party
Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist. This article is based on a press release from Animal Rebellion.