2020 May – Zoonotic Diseases

This letter was submitted to TODAY Online in May 2020, but they declined to publish it.

Are you as tired as I am of wearing a mask and all the other very important circuit breaker restrictions?

Are you as worried as I am about loved ones dying of Covid-19, even though the death rate is relatively low here?

Are you as anxious as I am that Covid-19 is small potatoes compared to the destruction to be wrought by the next zoonotic pandemic possibly headed our way who knows how soon?

Instead of exhausting our emotions worrying, we can do something constructive to lower our risk of more and worse pandemic diseases. These diseases are zoonotic, spread by our contact with animals. Ebola, AIDS, Swine Flu, Bird Flu, SARS, Covid-19, all the way back to the Spanish Flu of 1918 and even before that, are all believed to have a zoonotic link.

Let’s not blame China, wet markets, the U.S. military or anyone else for our current Covid-19 crisis. Let’s figure out what we can do going forward to make the next pandemic less likely by reducing chances of zoonotic infection.

Think about this, please. What is driving our contact with animals? Key drivers include that we eat more than 70 billion animals annually. We also use animals to make shoes and other clothing. We destroy animals’ homes.

These drivers of zoonotic diseases overlap. We cut down the forest homes of some animals to grow food for other animals who we eat. After these animals are killed, we use their skin for clothing, wallets, etc.

How to reduce the main driver: using animals for food? Fortunately, we have so many tasty ways to reduce meat consumption. Thanks to government support, Singapore is a hub for new plant-based foods, with companies such as Sophie’s Kitchen, Life3 Biotech and Growthwell, in addition to companies pioneering cell-grown meat and milk, such as Shiok and Turtle Tree.

This is not to mention our well-established bastion of 100s of vegetarian and vegan restaurants and stalls, chronicled in abillionveg, a homegrown location and review app, now available in more than 100 countries. Last but not least, thanks to the government’s food security efforts, our supermarkets and wet markets are loaded with a wide range of plant-based food we can use to prepare our own delicious dishes.

As we stand together against Covid-19, let’s consider how tweaking our diets toward more plant foods can reduce our chances of having to endure future pandemics.