This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Eating More Animals Isn't Good for Your Health

I recently blogged about the fact that dogs are good for your health. That's because they are good family members. And you wouldn't eat your family members, right? Indeed, my wife and I stopped eating meat more than 30 years ago because we couldn't stand the thought of animals being killed so that we could consume them. And, of course, most people don't have to cope with the agony of doing the killing--they hire others to do that for them. In point of fact, with an increasing global population, especially a population that is ever more urban and affluent, the number of animals being raised for slaughter has increased over time, and that turns out to be bad for our health. 

The bad part is less a function of eating meat itself (although too much meat is not generally very good for you), but rather a function of the diseases that spread between livestock and humans. Making--and trying to fix--this connection is the goal of the One Health approach to life on the planet. A Dutch veterinarian, Thierry van den Berg, recently made the case in a blog post.
The One Health approach acknowledges that population health is dependent on interactions between animal and human diseases. In a globalized world, Humans and animals interact with greater frequency and intimacy. This interaction offers the opportunity for the emergence and spread of disease agents (chemicals, pathogens, etc.) that could adversely impact animal health, human health, or both. A multidisciplinary approach is required to address these questions.
It is reported that 61% of known pathogens can infect multiple animal species and 75% of all diseases that have emerged in the last two decades are of wildlife origin. Newly emerging and re-emerging infections are now recognized as a global problem, and 75% of these are potentially zoonotic.
One of the most significant changes in our society has been the “livestock revolution”, whereby the stock of food animals, their productivity and their trade has increased rapidly to feed the fast expanding and urbanized human population. This has led professionals involved in both animal and public health to recognize “veterinary public health” (VPH) as a key area for their activities to address the human-animal interface.
The reality is that we put ourselves at risk of emerging diseases when we raise ever more livestock for slaughter. And, as I have noted on more than one occasion, our ability to feed a growing population is almost certainly dependent on our eating less meat per person, rather than more. We need to turn things around for the sake of the future human health.  

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