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Several doctors, animal welfare activists and health professionals have recently called on Indian prime minister Narendra Modi to promote plant-based diets and regulate the meat and dairy industries, as reported by the Times of India. In a letter, the group says that the coronavirus pandemic has shown that future public health threats can only be contained if drastic changes are made to the current way we produce and consume animal-based foods.
On Thursday (June 25), a group of doctors, medical experts and activists in India sent an urgent letter to the prime minister to urge the government to take regulatory action on the meat, egg and dairy industries and encourage the adoption of plant-based diets. As reported by the Times of India, the animal welfare groups involved include People For Animals (PFA), the Ahimsa Trust and Mercy For Animals (MFA).
The letter points to research from global scientific bodies such as the EAT-Lancet Commission, the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Economic Forum (WEF) who have made conclusions that animal agriculture poses a significant danger to public health and the environment.
Amid the pandemic, slaughterhouses across the world have recorded major clusters of infection, causing factory shutdowns and a breakdown in the meat supply chain that has prompted mass culling of animals while supermarkets and food banks run dry. Experts have also recently said that current levels of meat production is further destroying nature and wildlife, which only further raises the chances of zoonotic disease emergence.
Not only has modern industrial livestock farming been linked to increased risk of virulent disease outbreaks, the medical experts additionally noted that meat consumption is connected to other chronic illnesses in humans that can be life-threatening.
“There is ample evidence from research to prove the role of different forms of meat in causation of several chronic diseases such as type-2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, coronary heart failure, stroke etc.,” Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi from Tata Memorial Hospital told the Times.
Maulekhi argued that the “Eat Right Campaign” initiated by the Indian Food Safety and Standards Authority should promote plant-based diets for food security, sustainability and health reasons.
It should also provide “incentives, subsidies, and public distribution schemes…to ensure that malpractices in animal farming such as overcrowding and administration of non-therapeutic antibiotics are not encouraged,” wrote the group.
The letter pointed to other countries such as Canada, whose food guidelines have already removed dairy from its list of dietary recommendations and promoted vegan choices. The Canadian government has made several investments into plant-based industries as well, most notably its CAD$100 million (US$74 million) investment into a plant-based ingredient manufacturer.
Last year, New Zealand also made strides to promote plant-based diets. In their sustainability report, the country’s Ministry of Health said that vegan food would help cut down greenhouse gas emissions as well as improve public health.
The recent calls from doctors, animal welfare activists and health professionals in India mirrors that of another editorial article authored by leading academic physicians from the U.S. and New Zealand. In the article, the experts said that the coronavirus pandemic is showing humanity that unsustainable and dangerous factory farming must be phased out for alternative proteins.
Lead image courtesy of Unsplash.