COVID-19 and Zoonotic Disease: Manufacturing and Organizing Ignorance Within the Animal-Industrial Complex

Clarke, Caroline; Barthold, Charles and Cole, Matthew (2022). COVID-19 and Zoonotic Disease: Manufacturing and Organizing Ignorance Within the Animal-Industrial Complex. In: Tallberg, Linda and Hamilton, Lindsay eds. The Oxford Handbook of Animal Organisation Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 57-C4.P110.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780192848185.013.4

Abstract

How many of us knew that warnings of a future pandemic, based on the emergence of novel zoonotic diseases linked to our treatment, exploitation and industrial scale consumption of animals, were published by experts decades ago? For context, the animal-industry- complex is worth billions of dollars, and its manipulation of our consumptive tastes has normalised human ingestion of billions of animals each year. To satisfy demand and maximise profit, animals are bred, and kept in horrendous conditions, without adequate space, light and ventilation, as well as suffering long periods of transportation that lowers their immune system and heightens their stress levels. Despite these practices, the root cause of pandemics has been persistently ignored. In 2020, the UN Environment Programme published a report called Preventing the next pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission, listing seven key drivers, six of which relate to our relationship with animals. Why, given the millions of lives, and trillions of dollars lost to COVID-19, is there still no urgent public debate about the root causes of pandemics?

We contend that this the result of multiple strategies of agnosis designed to promote ignorance and protect the interests of the animal-industrial-complex. Ignorance concerning the link between pandemic risks and mass animal consumption is sustained through a series of deliberate strategies, reminiscent of those deployed by the tobacco industry - including knowledge suppression. Crucially, absent knowledge within the public domain prevents us from re-organising to counteract the next, and potentially more lethal, global pandemic.

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