New research released today, on World Health Day, has shown the most damaging human health impacts linked to industrial farming and how these will only get worse as the demand for meat continues to grow in all corners of the world.
World Animal Protection’s latest report, The Hidden Health Impacts of Industrial Livestock Systems, exposes how governments around the world are turning a blind eye to the public health toll of industrial agriculture systems as well as the suffering of billions of farmed animals.
Canada is already the 8th highest meat consuming nation and by 2030, meat consumption is projected to grow 30% in Africa, 18% in the Asia Pacific, 12% in Latin America, 9% in North America and 0.4% in Europei. This skyrocketing demand sees billions of stressed animals suffering and confined to cramped and barren cages or pens for their whole lives. Over 70% of the 80 billion land animals industrial farming systems each year.
The research builds on the concept of five pathways “through which food systems negatively affect our health”, outlined by the World Health Organization in their 2021 report, Food Systems Delivering Better Healthii. World Animal Protection details how these negative health impacts are directly linked to industrial animal agriculture:
1. Malnutrition and obesity: Industrial farming systems have displaced local and sustainable food production. At the same time, the high volumes of cheap meat produced is allowing for excessive meat consumption – one of the leading risk factors for chronic illnessiii.
2. Superbugs and diseases: Three-quarters of the world’s antibiotics are used on farmed animals – a practice driving the emergence of antimicrobial resistant bacteria. As well, industrial farms put stressed animals into tightly packed sheds, risking disease like swine flu or bird flu that can jump to humans.
3. Foodborne illnesses: Industrial farming creates high levels of stress in animals, leaving them prone to bacteria or parasites that can cause foodborne illness in people, such as Salmonella.
4. Illnesses from environmental contamination: Heavy metals like zinc are added to industrially farmed animals’ diets and contaminate waterways. More pesticides go to crops destined to feed animals suffering on industrial farms than anywhere else.
5. Physical and mental impacts for workers – Physical and mental health impacts suffered by workers on industrial farms include poor working conditions in meat slaughtering, processing and packaging facilities, physical injury and psychosocial and mental health issues.
Lynn Kavanagh, Farming Campaign Manager at World Animal Protection, said: “This report highlights the true costs of industrial animal agriculture systems, which has detrimental consequences for our health and the environment. The interconnection between how we treat animals, public health and ecosystem health couldn’t be clearer and a One Health, One Welfare approach should be taken to improving our food system.”
Dr. Lian Thomas, Scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute said: “The health of farmed animals and their environment must be a high priority for the public health sector. Sustainable food systems which promote good animal health and welfare, and environmental protection, will directly protect human health.”
A change is needed. World Animal Protection is calling on the Canadian government to educate Canadians on the benefits of consuming more plant-based foods and fewer animal-based foods, in line with the Canada Food Guide, and to facilitate a widespread transition to more humane, sustainable, just and resilient farming practices that do not harm the environment, animals and public health.