Taking animals off our plates could be a major step in helping to prevent future pandemics, according to Dr. Neal Barnard.
Dr. Barnard, founding president of the Physicians Committee, made the comment while working alongside international campaign group Million Dollar Vegan (MDV), an advocacy organization which encourages and supports people to sign its 31-day pledge and give a plant-based diet a go.
While the organization is best known for challenging the Pope and the President of the United States to go vegan for a month in return for a $1 million to charity, amid the coronavirus pandemic, it has turned its attention to helping vulnerable people.
MDV - which was established to raise awareness of how the rearing and consumption of animals affects the environment, both farmed and wild animals, and human health - is donating $100,000 in vegan food and supplies across the nine countries where it operates, plus Ethiopia.
The group has partnered with charities and other organizations to provide meals and other goods to vulnerable families. Among the beneficiaries of these supplies are vulnerable families in East London, who will receive 3,800 plant-based meals, homeless military veterans in LA who will receive 700 food packages, and homeless people and caregivers in Parisian hospitals who will be given 1,200 vegan bowls.
The organization is working to provide vegan food to slum-dwelling families and street children in Pune, distributing 1,000 vegan meals to COVID wards at a Turin hospital, and working with several local vegan restaurants to provide food to frontline care workers at Madrid’s hospitals.
Actively supporting and caring
It has also created 7,000 ethical aid packages (meals, hand sanitizers, and masks) and is distributing them among the most deprived neighborhoods in Buenos Aires, and provided 6,400 meals to those in need in Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Los Cabos, Playa del Carmen, and Saltillo.
In Brazil, it is working to provide 3,000 vegan meals to underprivileged communities across Sao Paulo, and is supporting International Fund for Africa to feed 250 primary school children with vegan food for four months in Ethiopia.
MDV says that through its relief efforts, it 'aims to actively support and care for those most in need during the COVID-19 pandemic, whilst at the same time raising awareness of how pandemics emerge and spread in order to try and prevent another, perhaps more devastating, outbreak in the future'.
MDV works with health experts* - who cite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which say three-quarters of emerging infectious diseases come from animals.
In a statement sent to Plant Based News, cardiologist Dr. Ariel Kraselnik said: "Flu pandemics will continue, if we insist on stacking animals up for our consumption."
Dr. Neal Barnard added: “Getting animals off our collective plate would go a long way toward preventing future pandemics, and would improve our health and our environment at the same time.”
And MDV says that while scientists make the connection between pandemics and our treatment of animals, nutritionists and doctors are also sharing research that indicates eating plant-based foods may help strengthen and support our immune systems.
Dr. Campbell, of the Centre for Nutritional Studies, says: "A whole foods plant-based diet can prevent, perhaps even reverse, the chronic degenerative diseases which make older individuals more susceptible to COVID-19 while simultaneously increasing immunity by inactivating the COVID-19 itself."
Million Dollar Vegan says there has never been a more important time for people to re-evaluate their relationship with animals, to make the switch to a plant-based diet, and to join their global campaign to #TakePandemicsOffTheMenu.
'Creating tragedies all over the world'
Naomi Hallum, director of Million Dollar Vegan, added: "The coronavirus pandemic - like many others before it - is creating tragedies for families all over the world.
"None of us want this to happen ever again but to prevent future outbreaks, there are some difficult lessons we must learn. If we continue to stress wild animals by decimating their habitats and capture and cage them in markets - and if we continue to mass-produce domesticated animals inside squalid factory farms and transport them long distances - there will be no avoiding a future pandemic.
"COVID-19 is a stark reminder that all life on Earth is connected and that if we wish to preserve our own lives, we must also strive to preserve the lives of others."
*They include Dr. Michael Greger (public health expert and author of Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching), Dr. Neal Barnard (President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine), Dr. Peter Li (Associate Professor of East Asian Politics), Dr. Aysha Akhtar (neurologist and author of Animals and Public Health), Dr. T Colin Campbell (Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry, Cornell University), and Dr. Ariel Kraselnik (cardiologist).