A new report by the FAIRR Initiative analyzes the meat industry and finds that 73 percent of the world’s meat producers score as “high risk” in FAIRR’s “Pandemic Ranking.” The scoring criteria are worker safety, food safety, deforestation and biodiversity management, animal welfare, and antibiotic stewardship.
Founded by Jeremy Coller, the FAIRR Initiative aims to “build a global network of investors who are focused and engaged on the risks linked to intensive animal production within the broader food system.” The report, titled An Industry Infected, states:
As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds globally, we are presented with a real-time case study into the vulnerability of animal agriculture systems to external shocks. It has reminded us of the vulnerability of human health to disease risks stemming from both wild and domestic animals, and has served as a warning of the role modern animal production systems can play in increasing zoonotic disease risk.
According to FAIRR, the meat industry’s poor scores mean that “intensive animal production is at serious risk of creating and spreading a future pandemic.” The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting found that at least 23,000 reported cases of COVID-19 are tied to meatpacking facilities. This number spans at least 216 slaughterhouses in 33 states. Worker illnesses even led to the forced closure of more than 20 slaughterhouses across the country.
The meat industry not only spreads diseases but creates them. Three out of four emerging infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic—meaning they passed to humans from animals. Additionally, the meat industry prioritizes profits over all else, meaning animals are kept in cramped, filthy conditions. In these environments, diseases such as swine flu and avian flu spread easily and rapidly from animal to animal. According to the report, “while the COVID-19 pandemic did not come from livestock, the next one may.” Coller explained:
Factory farming is both vulnerable to pandemics and guilty of creating them. It’s a self-sabotaging cycle that destroys value and risks lives. To avoid causing the next pandemic, the meat industry must tackle lax safety standards for food and workers alike, closely confined animals, and overused antibiotics. This will disrupt a supply chain already cracking from fundamental land, water, and emissions constraints.
This report further demonstrates that the meat industry isn’t just cruel to animals—it’s dangerous to people. Despite this, the powerful meat lobby is asking the federal government for a bailout, citing business disruptions related to COVID-19.
Taxpayer dollars should help farmers improve practices, diversify, and transition to plant-based farming—not prop up an industry that risks everyone’s health. Take action by visiting MercyForAnimals.org/NoSlaughterBailout!