How did COVID-19 start? We are still unable to confirm how the virus transmitted to humans. However, it is likely that it originated either from bats or pangolins within the Wuhan region in China. What we know for sure is that it has caused a huge wave of people transitioning into a plant-based diet. In fact, the World Economic Forum notes the trend of plant-based transitions in China that was sparked by the coronavirus and is reaching other countries.
The biggest concern is the link between meat consumption and an increased likelihood to transmit viruses (and other nasties like bacteria etc.) Even though viruses do not replicate in meat, they persist in meat for long periods of time (Procedia Food Science). That poses a significant risk when there is a long food supply chain and it’s currently still very difficult to track down the movement of the meat to your table. On top of that, it’s also highly unlikely that we know exactly what’s going on with each piece of meat. Hence, more scientists have been recommending a more plant-based diet. Even hospitals like Mount Alvernia in Singapore are recommending low-meat and high-plant consumption.
Other than preventing COVID and other viruses, what are the benefits to move away from meat and animal-based products?
- Superbugs from antibiotics: Animal rearing uses about 80% of all antibiotics in the US. We can reduce the breeding of deadly superbugs with no cure by lowering meat consumption. (The Guardian)
- Reduced risk of cancer: Less red and processed meat is associated with lower risks of breast, endometrial, bladder and colorectal cancer.
- Moreover, red and processed meat show association to a higher risk of other conditions like obesity, type II diabetes and heart disease which we can avoid.
- Hormones and the endocrine: Hormones exist in almost all meat and animal-based products, including dairy and eggs. Excessive quantities of growth hormones lead to growth, reproductive and fertility issues. (Bustle and HuffPost)
- Drought and water shortage (quantity): 1 kg of beef requires around 15000 L of water, 15 times more than fruits. (Water Footprint).
- Water pollution (quality): Waste materials lead to eutrophication and endangerment of aquatic species. Also, fewer antibiotics mean we don’t just avoid harms to our health, but to the reproduction of animals as well.
- Land usage: Going plant-based cuts agricultural land usage by 76%. (The Guardian)
- Deforestation: As a result, less land has to be cleared for animal agriculture. This can potentially save many primary forests in the Amazon and Australia.
- Air pollution: Less burning of forests means fewer toxic chemicals into the air. Soot and carbon monoxide are 2 problematic ones that harm respiratory health.
- Climate change: If we stopped eating meat, global carbon emissions will drop by 32%. (Meat Atlas) In Singapore, most of our meat-based carbon footprint (28%) is from pork (CNA).
- Indigenous populations: They tend to be the poorest and most vulnerable groups. However, their land is habitually but often illegally taken from them, deforested and cleared for meat production while exiling them from their homes. We have the privilege to think about these human rights abuses and we should be helping in any way we can. It is probably the most tangible effect of reducing meat consumption.
- Cultures and languages: The Amazon alone is home to 300 distinct indigenous languages that have a unique history and culture.
- Animal Cruelty and Rights: Without forcing this on anyone, it is a consideration to take into account. One of the main arguments for veganism is that animals are sentient. They feel pain when they are whipped, they get depressed when they are caged and the death of an animal is still a death.
HOW CAN WE APPROACH PLANT-BASED LIFESTYLES?
Most of us do know at least maybe some of the harms of meat consumption, especially when in excess. COVID has spurred the growing popularity of China’s own line of fake meat, Zhenmeat. In Singapore, there has also been a surge in the consumption of meat alternatives and growing awareness of a plant-based diet according to The Straits Times. One of the many concerns that people have is the amount of nutrition that we get from a plant-based diet. Is there enough protein? Is there sufficient iron? What about vitamin B12?
There are many forms of what plant-based eating can look like now. For example, it can be as simple as going for fresh fruits and vegetables, choosing food options that are vegetarian or vegan and it can look and taste even exactly like a regular meat burger. We are exploring more into what this world of plant-based eating can be with innovation and new discoveries. There are countless Youtube videos and recipes out there to ensure we hit all our nutritional requirements and healthy diets as we eat plant-based. For instance, nutritional yeast for vitamin B12 or spirulina pasta for iron and protein. Either way, the future looks to be a plant-based one and we hope you can join us too.