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

Video Iran Nuclear Deal Becomes US Campaign Issue

Voters in three crucial battleground states - Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania - overwhelmingly oppose nuclear deal with Iran More

Al-Qaida's Syria Affiliate Reemerges

Jabhat al-Nusra has rebounded, increasingly casting itself as a critical player in battle for Syria’s future More

Lessons Learned From Katrina, 10 Years Later

FEMA chief Craig Fugate says key changes include better preparation, improved coordination among state, federal assistance agencies 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs