As the entire world is fighting with one of the worst pandemics, COVID-19 which is a zoonotic disease ( it is said to be originated from the wet market of Wuhan) highlighted the importance of creating more awareness and dialogue on zoonotic diseases. Zoonoses are an infectious disease caused by a pathogen such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites that have jumped from animal to a human. Out of 1415 pathogens known to infect human, 61 per cent were zoonotic.
The global health crises due to the ongoing pandemic had not only affected the lives of millions but also landed our economy in the mess. Therefore, the need for awareness around zoonotic diseases has become the need of the hour.
"We have seen the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the worst crises ever seen due to a zoonotic disease. It not only affected the lives but livelihood of so many landing the global economy in deep mess. The situation we are into has forced us to think about having more dialogues on zoonoses disease," said Darshana Mazumdar, Animal Liberation Activist and Campaign Manager, Million Dollar Vegan India.
Undoubtedly, one of the most important reasons for the spread of zoonotic diseases is reckless and irresponsible behaviour towards nature. Increasing deforestation and encroaching the natural habitats of wildlife in the name of development are few important factors for the spread of these diseases.
"The increasing deforestation and encroachment into the natural habitat of wildlife are important factors for the spread of these diseases. In the name of development work, we are destroying the forest and invading into their territories. This often brings them closer to human territories and the risk of pathogen transmission also increases. Sometimes, the pathogen jumps from wild animals to the immediate host i.e. human or transferred via domesticated animals," added Mazumdar.
Another animal activist, Pooja Rathod also echoed the same sentiment, highlighting deforestation as a major factor for the spread of these diseases. She said, "This is the not the first time when we have been hit by a pandemic caused due to zoonotic diseases. In the past also there have been many such as HIV, Ebola, and swine flu among various others. However, we still do not understand that nature has an important role to play. The continuous meddling with nature is one of the reasons that we are witnessing in the form of a pandemic. The reckless deforestation, encroaching the space of wildlife leaving these animals homeless increases the risk. There is a reason that forest is the home for wildlife, as they cannot co-exist with humans. However, when you encroach their habitat and forced them to enter the human habitat, this disturbs the balance of nature causing the pandemic and various other problems."
"The encroachment by farmers for grazing in the forest is also another factor that destroys the forest and increases the chance of man-animal conflict. Apart from the deforestation and encroachment into a natural habitat, animal agriculture and the unhealthy practices in the sector are contributing factors for zoonoses diseases. Due to lack of checking and control, there are high chances of probability that a pathogen can jump to farmers who is involved in animal agriculture," said Darshana Mazumdar.
Mazumdar also highlighted the importance of plant-based food will not only reduce the risk of zoonotic diseases but also help in building immunity to combat any diseases. She said, "If we change our lifestyle and switch to plant-based food, most of the problems will be solved including the lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, heart problem etc. It is also important to create awareness among people regarding the conservation of the environment and how it is related to the spread of such diseases."
Pooja Rathod also highlighted the importance of Plant-based diet and said, "We have seen in the past that how consuming animal-based food has caused diseases. We have all the facts but we are not realising it that it is the time to make a decision. It is important to bring lifestyle changes and plant-based lifestyle is a way to combat and avoid future pandemics. It is important to create awareness and make important lifestyle choices so that we do not need to pay such a heavy price such as COVID-19 pandemic."
Written by: Anvita Srivastava