Coronavirus and the Lethal Gifts of Livestock

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With the Coronavirus (or Covid-19) wreaking havoc on our society, we thought it was timely to rebroadcast this episode. Coronavirus is one of many zoonotic diseases — diseases that jump from non-human animals to human animals.  

A “wet market” in Wuhan, China, is most likely where this strain of the coronavirus started. At many “wet markets,” meat, poultry, and seafood are sold alongside live animals for consumption. It is our very consumption of animals and their products that has bestowed upon us what Guns, Germs, and Steel author Jared Diamond calls the “lethal gifts of livestock.” Our abuse of nature comes full-circle and at a heavy price for both the consumer and the consumed.

Being animals ourselves, it makes sense that we share many of the same diseases as our non-human cousins. We aren’t – after all – plants. We aren’t at risk for catching aphids or sooty mold or downy mildew.

In fact, many of the major killer pandemics we’ve been plagued with were acquired from non-human animals. Here are just a few:

we got tuberculosis from cattle, influenza from pigs and birds, whooping cough from pigs and dogs, smallpox from cattle, and of course cowpox from cows. Even HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is believed to have been first transmitted to humans through the butchering and consumption of infected chimpanzees.


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