We came across a post on X stating that a Harvard study has predicted that the next pandemic will be caused by the US meat supply. The post also links to an article by The People’s Voice, a platform that has repeatedly published false information.
The article by The People’s Voice refers to a 2023 study by Harvard Law School and New York University that cautions that zoonotic diseases – infections that spread between people and animals – could cause another pandemic that potentially will claim many lives.
However, the article adds that zoonotic transmission is “extremely rare, and most if not all global pandemics with lethal outcomes can be traced back to lab experiments” and the study might be used by the World Health Organisation to make decisions for the entire world on topics such as our diets or livestock farming.
The joint report by Harvard Law School and the New York University titled “Animal Markets and Zoonotic Disease in the United States”, examines the interactions between humans, livestock, and wild animals in the US.
According to the report, more emerging infectious diseases began in the US than in any other country. The report highlighted that frequent interactions between humans and animals, such as in commercial farms, coupled with poor regulations allow pathogens to easily transfer from animals to humans, causing an outbreak.
Despite being the largest importer of wildlife in the world, and the significant risks and extent of disease exposure that comes with it, the US is supposedly not ready to address these threats, many of which are chronically neglected and under-regulated. Therefore, the report called for better regulations to reduce the risk of a potential zoonotic disease outbreak.
Hence, it is true that a Harvard Study found that the next pandemic could arise from the US meat supply.
Were lab experiments the cause of most global pandemics?
Multiple disease outbreaks have originated from animals including Ebola and Zika. The recent COVID-19 pandemic’s beginning has also been linked to wildlife infected with the coronavirus.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), zoonotic diseases are very common in the US as well as worldwide. The CDC states that “scientists estimate that more than 6 out of every 10 known infectious diseases in people can be spread from animals, and 3 out of every 4 new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals”.
However, in a statement to USA Today defending their safety practices, US National Chicken Council senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, Ashley Peterson, stated that “[a]ccording to the CDC, the likelihood of spreading an avian disease to a human in the United States is extremely rare”.
This suggests that while zoonotic transmission by itself may not be rare, with the proper safety precautions and regulations, certain types of diseases that could spread from animals to humans such as avian disease could be prevented almost completely.
Therefore, it is inaccurate to state that zoonotic transmission is “extremely rare, and most if not all global pandemics with lethal outcomes can be traced back to lab experiments”, and is likely false.