For Most, Meat Addiction Outweighs Consequences

In an open letter addressed to the candidates for the position of Director-General of the World Health Organization a lengthy list of expert signatories called on the next General Director of WHO to focus on the damage to health and the environment caused by factory farming.

The letter points out that “Antibiotic resistance is a major threat to global health. Seven hundred thousand people die from antimicrobial-resistant diseases each year. If current trends continue, diseases caused by drug-resistant microbes could kill up to 9.5 million per year by 2050, more than current cancer-deaths.”

The letter continues: “As the global health community acknowledges the intertwined nature of planetary and human health, it must also confront the role that factory farming plays in climate change. Experts predict that without rapid and drastic shifts in meat production, agriculture will consume half the world’s carbon budget necessary for keeping global temperature rises under 2° Celsius by 2050.”

The letter’s third point is that “The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that diets high in processed meat and red meat contributed to over half a million human deaths (or over 16 million disability-adjusted life years, or DALYs) in 2015 – more deaths worldwide than interpersonal violence, and a similar DALY burden to breast cancer or alcohol use disorders. The declining cost of meat and its increasing prevalence in LMICs, facilitated by factory farms, contributes significantly to the rapidly rising burden of NCDs.

Hopefully the next Director General of the WHO will take head, especially when considering the WHO previously classified “processed meat as carcinogenic and red meat as probably carcinogenic” and has noted the devastating effects factory farming has on health and the environment.

We have met the enemy and it is us. If people didn’t consume as much meat there wouldn’t be such an enormous problem, but bacon, steak and other meat lovers apparently prefer to satisfy their cravings and care little about what happens to their children, their children’s children, or the planet. And that is the very definition of addiction.

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