Vegetarians say eating less meat would avoid epidemics because factory farming leads to forests being cut down which forces bats out of their natural habitat where they can then infect people.
The claim, which was followed up by the suggestion that in order to avoid this happening anymore, people should stop eating meat, has been backed up by vegetarian groups and green politicians, who want more people to switch from eating meat to vegetables.
In Zug, in the Swiss canton of the same name, for example, Luzian Franzini, 24, county councillor from the “Young Greens” said there appears to be a connection between meat eating and epidemics.
He said: “Due to the high meat consumption in Switzerland, we indirectly favour the deforestation of rainforests for factory farming and to support the production of animal feed.”
The habitat for wild animals, such as bats, becomes smaller and they come into contact with humans more often, whereby pathogens can be transmitted.
For Franzini, it is therefore clear: “If we reduce meat consumption, we can also help from Switzerland to reduce the risk of future epidemics.”
For Dr Edmund Haferbeck, head of the scientific and legal department of the animal protection organisation Peta Germany, it is “completely clear that the shocking treatment of animals has such a result”.
He added: “Farming and abattoirs are breeding grounds for potentially infectious diseases, which is why a vegan lifestyle not only protects animals but also human health.”
However the allegations were rejected by Roger Stephan, Professor of Veterinary Food Safety and Hygiene at the University of Zurich, who said: “A transmission of the virus from animals to humans is more likely where people live together with poultry or pigs in a confined space, for example in Chinese backyards.”
He said as such, the current infection and others like it has nothing to do with meat consumption or factory farming.
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