Group urges public to stop eating meat amid coronavirus health threat

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 14) – An animal rights group has offered an alternative to prevent killer diseases amid the rapid rise of the novel coronavirus infection or COVID-19 cases globally – hop on the vegan bandwagon.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals on Thursday urged the public to eliminate meat, seafood and dairy products in their diet. Instead, it encouraged people to eat peas, lentils, tofu, fruits and vegetables, among others, to protect their health as it blamed human consumption and breeding grounds of deadly viruses to unhygienic wet food markets, factory farms, and slaughterhouses for diseases such as the COVID-19.

Marami ng siyentipiko na nagsabi na ang coronavirus ay nakaugnay sa pagkain ng mga hayop," said PETA representative Megan Cabalcar.

[Translation: A lot of scientists are saying that the new coronavirus is tied to eating animals.]

"Sinasabi nila na nagsimula ito sa Chinese wet market na nagbebenta ng mga seafood, buhay na hayop, exotic na hayop, kaya po sa palagay ng PETA at ng World Health Organization, kailangan natin pigilan ang pagkain ng karne,” Cabalcar said, referring to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, which was closed following the information that COVID-19 outbreak most likely started there.

[Translation: They are saying that the new coronavirus originated in the Chinese wet market which sells seafood, live and exotic animals, that is why for PETA and the WHO, we need to ditch eating meat.]

“We cannot expect to continue living on planet Earth if we continue to eat animals. It’s really that simple," the organization also said in a statement. "The easiest thing that you can do for your own health and the world we live in is to go vegan right now and persuade everyone you know to do the same."

The outbreaks of COVID-19 from 2019 until present, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome from 2002 and 2003, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in 2012 have a thing in common: the source of infection is believed to be animals. The virus from the animals was then spread to people, and, in part, the human carrier passes it on to other individuals through close contact. Globally, there were 8,098 reported cases of SARS with 774 deaths while MERS afflicted 2494 people and killed 858 as of 2019, according to WHO.

COVID-19, meanwhile, has so far left more than 1,400 individuals dead and sickened over 60,000, mostly in China. There are only two COVID-19 fatalities outside of mainland China-- the first death was reported in the Philippines while the second one was recorded in Hong Kong.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations study in 2013, 70 percent of new viral illnesses, which emerged in humans over the recent decades are of animal origin, and, to some extent, directly linked to the “human quest for more animal-sourced food.”

UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its 2018 report, said changing diets such as eating less meat could contribute 20 percent of the effort needed to help combat climate change.

The plant-based diet has been linked to long life as it prevents or reverses chronic diseases such as heart ailments, cancer, hypertension, and type-2 diabetes, which are the leading causes of death in the Philippines, according to government data.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Triciah Terada contributed to this report