News / Health

Growing Global Appetite for Meat, Milk Presents Health Risks

Boosting production also ups danger of human and animal diseases

A Chinese vendor sells slaughtered chickens at an open air market in Shandong province on Feb. 9, 2010.
A Chinese vendor sells slaughtered chickens at an open air market in Shandong province on Feb. 9, 2010.

Multimedia

Audio

The race to meet the world's growing appetite for animal products may increase the risk of both human and animal diseases, according to experts, who urge policymakers to consider health implications along with the need to boost production.

As the human population has grown and become wealthier, the demand for high-quality animal protein has skyrocketed.

For example, from 1990 to 2005, Asia alone added roughly one billion humans, but 10 billion chickens, according to UN figures.

Farmers are raising more animals in smaller spaces than in the past and in places that have not been used this way before, like in virgin forests or near-dense urban environments. And this intensification is often taking place in poor conditions and with few regulations, according to animal disease expert Delia Grace from the International Livestock Research Institute.

"You can get conditions which actually have never been experienced during the time of animal intensification in the West, or anywhere else in the world," says Grace. "And these kinds of completely novel conditions are giving rise to novel diseases."

According to Grace, most of those novel diseases do not cause a great deal of harm. But some do. A recent example is the H5N1 avian influenza, also known as bird flu. More than 300 people have died from it to date, and the virus continues to circulate, killing one person in Cambodia this year. However, one good thing has come out of the experience.

"Avian influenza has been something which has made people certainly re-think certainly the interdependence between animal health and human health," says Grace.

She believes policymakers need to consider both human and animal health impacts because an estimated 700 million people in the developing world keep farm animals, which provide up to 40 percent of household income.

While animal diseases can pose a threat to human health, controlling them can pose an economic threat, if not done properly. As an example, Grace points to calls from some public health officials to eliminate backyard poultry flocks in response to avian influenza outbreaks.

"It's a call from public health without thinking of poor people's livelihoods," she says.

There are good examples of public health measures that protect incomes at the same time. In a new report, Grace highlights how Kenya changed regulations calling for all milk to be pasteurized - a requirement that would have put small producers out of business.

"Smallholder milk production was incredibly important as a pathway out of poverty. And also that the health risks could be avoided not by banning or arresting these traders, but by giving them training and certification and some simple technology so that they could handle milk more safely."

Grace says as the pressure to intensify livestock production increases in response to growing demand, policymakers will need to carefully balance public health, animal health, and economic health.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs