A cohort of farming organisations have united in an open letter to showcase how livestock continues to support global nutrition, high standards of food safety and public health during the coronavirus pandemic.
With more than 60 signatories globally, including NFU president Minette Batters, the letter comes in response to ‘unfounded claims’, whereby critics have attempted to blame modern farming practices for the Covid-19 outbreak.
Pointing to ongoing research, which continues to confirm the ‘high safety and environmental standards’ of domestic livestock production, the letter said: “Current evidence regarding the source of the virus points to a journey from wild animals to humans, which aligns with research most zoonotic diseases originate in wildlife.
“Therefore, unfounded claims, which try to present modern agriculture as the source of the pandemic, threaten to distract the global public health response at a time when animal agriculture can offer lessons for wildlife zoonoses management as part of the long-term pandemic preparedness.”
Responding, Ms Batters echoed this and highlighted livestock production is a regulated, monitored system, with high food safety standards and public health at its core.
She said: “The very safety and availability of the products [we have seen flying off the shelves, for example, milk and eggs] is down to farmers’ commitment to rigorous animal health and welfare standards, which makes the claim that modern agriculture is to blame for the outbreak both nonsensical and scientifically unsupported.
“While there are overlaps between human and animal health, including livestock, almost three quarters of emerging animal-borne diseases originate from wildlife, not farmed animals.”
As part of a sustained effort to strengthen disease management and control, the letter urged authorities, intergovernmental groups and NGOs to reaffirm the safety of livestock production.
The demands also included the refutation of misinformation that actively attempted to ‘manufacture a link between livestock and the spread of Covid-19’, and to consult livestock experts, including farmers and other stakeholders in the food chain, to understand how to aid their efforts to feed communities.
Ms Batters added: “Even as Covid-19 leaves food systems in disarray…farmers continue their work regardless, to ensure Britain does not go hungry.
“We must not turn our backs on farmers, especially not now, when we should be thanking them more than ever.”
You can read Ms Batter’s defence of animal agriculture in her recent blog post, here.