The Plant-Based Workplace   by Gigi Carter


A Guy Eats a Bat, Now I’m Unemployed

That’s the punchline of a meme my friend posted on Facebook. Even though the intermediary was likely a pangolin, instead of a bat, this funny-not funny meme poetically describes what some already know to be true—that we are all interconnected.

Food choices are complex in that they are rooted in tradition, culture, and what brings each person pleasure. However, our food choices are not personal choices. A personal choice is choosing to paint your living room hot pink instead of boring beige, choosing to go for a trail run instead of a mountain bike ride, or planting hydrangeas in your garden instead of lavender. These choices have virtually no consequence to anyone other than the person making the decision. But each individual’s food choices do have consequences for our global community.

Up until COVID-19, people adopted a plant-based diet for environmental, animal rights, and personal health reasons. All these reasons have a connection to someone other than the individual: to foster the health of the planet, to honor the right of animals to coexist with humans, or to avoid burdening loved ones with our preventable lifestyle-related illness. Now we may have a fourth reason to go plant-based—threat of a global pandemic that can result in hundreds of thousands (possibly millions) of needless deaths and worldwide economic collapse.

History shows that infectious disease epidemics and pandemics, including HIV/AIDSAvian (bird) fluH1N1 (Swine flu)MERSEbola and now Coronavirus COVID-19 have been the result of zoonotic transmission of pathogens from animals to humans. Either it has been confirmed, or there is very strong evidence suggesting, that these diseases came from the eating or handling of bushmeat (e.g., monkeys) in Africa, chickens and pigs in North America and Eurasia, bats in Asia, and camels in the Middle East.

In a 2010 paper, The Origin and Prevention of Pandemics, the authors noted: “As we increase our interactions with animals through hunting, the trading of animal foods, animal husbandry practices, wet markets, and the domestication of animals/exotic pets, the probability of cross-species transmission dramatically increases.”

And yet, a decade after that finding, here we are.

My hope is that this COVID-19 pandemic helps more people realize that we are all interconnected and that our food choices are more than personal whims because they have consequences for others. Even though the number of epidemics and pandemics is low (compared to noncommunicable chronic diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease), the severity of such an occurrence can be catastrophic, as we’ve tragically learned too late. And who’s to say there aren’t more to come?