Generations of breeding among the animal species have developed mechanisms of pathogen transmission from animal to human or human to human, as suggested by experts like the professors of evolutionary genetics.
The Pandemic Caused By Too Much Animal Farming? What Study Says
As stated by the professor and published in the Virulence journal’s editorial, such development of pathogens is posing a threat to the existence of humankind.
Minimal consumption of animal products and introduction of genes to induce variation are two ways of minimizing threat, as suggested by experts.
Factors contributing to the threat
Hosts and parasites are engaged in cooperation in the natural environment that induces dynamic genetic alterations.
Such continual random interaction among the host and the parasite hinders one species from gaining an edge over the other.
According to evolutionary biologists, this is identical to the account of the Red Queen in “Through the looking glass” by Lewis Caroll, which implies taking on all the running possible to be one place as it is.
According to an evolutionary genetics professor of the University of East Anglia, in the United Kingdom, Prof Cock Van Oosterhout it is a losing race for mankind.
According to him, the genetics of the livestock we have at the present time cannot keep up pace with the genetic evolution of the parasites.
Hence the livestock is actually acting as facilitating medium for the easy transmission of the disease-causing pathogen from one species to another.
Such disruption of the genetic balance, along with the destruction of the natural habitat of the animals, results in global pandemics like the ongoing covid-19, as implied by Prof. Oosterhout.
Is inbreeding a contributing factor?
Decades of selectively breeding the livestock have caused widescale inbreeding among them.
As a result, even though the total biomass of the livestock is ten times that of the wild animals on earth, the measure of the genetic diversity and viability of the livestock is lower than that of natural wildlife species by 80 times.
Experts suggest such limited genetic variation does not provide sustenance against the pathogenic invasion of species.
A few suggestions to counter the future threats will be controlling and reducing the gene flow among pathogens.
Restoring the genetic variation of the livestock and reducing the consumption of animal-based protein.
Taking a deeper look at the issues.
While talking about gene flow, it is noted that such mixed gene pools arise out of intermixing of species.
This provides an ideal backdrop for the development of pathogens.
Curbing it can be achieved by adopting measures like mandatory immunization of the population or issuing passports with details of vaccination.
Genetic variations should be introduced among the farm animals since the low genetic variation among them induces a wide range of infections or pathogen development.
Consumption of higher quantities of animals, particularly mammalian proteins, should be restricted.
Mammals contain the most danger in disease of pathogen transfer to humans through food since mammals as a species are most closely associated with humans.
Fishes, for example, are a good alternative to have opted given their habitat and genetic-based distance from humans.
Furthermore, chemical-induced growth in animal farming should be cut down.
The use of steroids and antibiotics promotes mutation in the existing pathogen species, giving rise to more dangerous variants of the pathogens.
How much threat does animal farming pose?
Changes in the ecosystem arising from deforestation or altered land use pose a much greater threat to the natural balance than overfarming of inbreeding of farm animals, as believed by some experts.
However, the dangers of disease transmission from animal to human cannot be ignored.
Hence it is crucial to be cautious while assessing threat related to such transmission though viruses that accounts for less than 2% fatalities in humans.