A major outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in Indonesia is threatening to spread to Australian animals, with authorities warning, ‘the threat level has rapidly dramatically increased’. Indonesia had been free of the disease for thirty years until this May, and now has 200,000 cases.
FMD is a highly contagious viral disease of animals. It affects cloven-hoofed animals including cattle, buffalo, camels, sheep, goats and pigs. Symptoms include fever followed by the appearance of fluid-filled blisters between the toes and on the heels, on mammary glands and especially on the lips, tongue and palate. The Department of Agriculture states that humans can carry the virus in their noses for up to 24 hours and can be a source of infection for other animals.
FMD is one of an increasing number of diseases that gestate and spread in the appalling conditions in which animals are factory farmed. Even before the Indonesian outbreak, a group of experts led by Australia’s Chief Vet, Dr Mark Schipp, found that the risk of a major animal disease outbreak in Australia is increasing, with an estimated 42 per cent probability the country will experience one in the next five years.
Overwhelmingly, human diseases too start with the abuse of animals. The appropriation of animals’ habitats has led to diseases such as COVID-19, Hendra and Ebola. The 2009 H1N1 epidemic started in pigs. Measles originally came from cattle, and whooping cough from dogs. The professor of communicable disease control at the University of Queensland said of the growth of pathogens that spill over to humans, ‘The most significant driver of emergence is food production.’
The problems are enormous, the solution simple. We need to stop breeding and slaughtering animals.
Mimi Bekhechi, Campaigns Strategist – PETA