In a published study calling for better protection of nature, international experts suggested that governments impose tax on production of livestock and consumption of meat.
Study chair zoologist Peter Daszak said: “Over-consumption of meat…(is) bad for our health. It’s unsustainable in terms of environmental impact. It’s also a driver of pandemic risk.” He added that the global consumption pattern was the driving force for poultry and pig production.
Cattle-breeding for the purpose of beef production, he said, was also a leading contributor of ecosystem destruction. Left unchecked, pandemics will become more frequent, spread faster, cost more and kill more. “Bold action to halt habitat destruction that helps viruses hop from wildlife to humans” is necessary.
Daszak conceded that meat and livestock tax was “controversial”, but maintained that it was worth it to avoid future pandemics. He also noted that the livestock industry was a lucrative one, but previous studies have shown the capability of a levy to steer it towards better, less harmful practices.
The study urged governments to focus on prevention rather than cure; that is, focusing efforts on preventing pandemics instead of response, which takes place after a pandemic has already occurred.
Another proponent of the study, Dutch scientist Thijs Kuiken, said that meat-eating should be reduced, averring that it is crucial for the conservation of biodiversity and nature.
Developed countries have shown growing demand for meat, which threatens biodiversity and plays a role in climate change, according to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, a 130-member state body. Climate change can lead the way to more fatal and more expensive diseases such tick-borne encephalitis, a potentially deadly illness moving across Europe.
Furthermore, it can result in “shifts in geographic range of different species, livestock, and people…and that will spread diseases more effectively.”
Bolivian scientist Carlos Zambrana-Torrelio proposed that indigenous and local communities be included in the conversation, as their knowledge in managing and hunting wildlife may inform safer practices. Giving land tenure to these communities, he added, can also curb pandemics by stopping deforestation and expansion of agriculture in these areas.