• How Has the Pandemic Affected Meat Consumption in 2020?

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How Has the Pandemic Affected Meat Consumption in 2020?

Dec 28 2020

The sweeping changes which were forced upon people in the UK and abroad as a result of the outbreak of coronavirus have affected all facets of our lives. For many, this meant an immediate change in their daily diets, since takeaways, ready meals and restaurant visits were jettisoned in favour of home cooking and baking.

While that did represent a significant shift in the behavioural patterns of many people – not to mention the state of their own health, as well – some more sustainably minded individuals took things one step further. Given that the virus is thought to have originated at an animal market in Wuhan City, China, some have taken it upon themselves to switch to a more planet-friendly diet which minimises the possibility of such outbreaks occurring again in the future.

A turn to vegetarian and vegan lifestyles

COVID-19 is not the first virus to have been linked to the meat industry. In fact, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) has estimated that over 60% of all infectious diseases were transmitted to the human race from animals, with H1N1 swine flu and H5N6 bird flu two of the more famous variants in recent years.

It was widely believed that the next big pandemic would come from avian origins, since that is what happened with the majority of previous viruses such as Spanish flu, swine flu, Asian flu and Hong Kong flu. The fact that COVID-19 appears to have originated with a bat does not negate those predictions, but rather confirms the idea that the meat industry is often responsible for the transmission of deadly diseases.

Therefore, one of the more unexpected (but more impactful) environmental implications of coronavirus could be a transition away from a meat-based diet to one that revolves more around fruit, vegetables and pulses. Of course, that phenomenon has yet to come to pass on a truly widespread scale as yet, but the movement is gathering momentum.

Plenty of benefits

If it does, in fact, catch on globally, the repercussions could be monumental. As well as limiting the contact between humans and animals which is responsible for the outbreak of these kinds of pandemics, there are plenty of other environmental benefits associated with a plant-based diet.

For starters, the agricultural industry would not consume quite so many of our precious resources, with abstraction monitoring revealing that farming currently uses around 70% of all freshwater on the planet. Not having to rear livestock would slash that consumption, leaving more resources for other ends. The emissions associated with the industry (especially the methane generated by sheep and cows) would also drop significantly if less people consumed meat worldwide.

Other benefits associated with a decrease in meat consumption include better management of land and reduced imperviousness to antibiotic treatment – and that’s before an animal rights angle even comes into the picture. Taking all of that into account, it’s not difficult to see why many experts recommend that switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet is the most environmentally responsible action any of us can take.


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