Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara are speaking out about factory farming amid the coronavirus outbreak and the backlash against wet markets. The pandemic is believed to have started at a wet market in Wuhan, China.
The vegan couple made the comments in an op-ed published in The Washington Post.
“China is hardly the only country where live animal markets and other squalid operations are common,” the wrote. “Some 80 of them operate within the five boroughs of New York City alone, according to Slaughter Free NYC, a nonprofit group that opposes them. They are near residences, schools and public parks.”
But, as Phoenix and Mara pointed out, they’re a drop in the bucket when it comes to our food system. The real threat is modern factory farming.
“Less notorious but much more commonplace threats to public health are the ‘concentrated animal feeding operations’ (CAFOs) scattered throughout the South and Midwest,” the couple wrote.
“These factory farms warehouse thousands of animals that wallow in their own waste with limited or no airspace. [This] routinely [creates] conditions for the proliferation of superbugs and zoonotic pathogens,” they added.
Phoenix made headlines in February when he used his Academy Award acceptance speech for Best Actor in “Joker” to address our dependence on animals. He cited the dairy industry for its inherent cruelty.
But these industries aren’t just cruel. They bring significant health risks for humans, animals, and the planet.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) have warned us against the risks of factory farms for years,” Phoenix and Mara wrote. “The unsanitary living conditions inside CAFOs weaken animals’ immune systems and increase their susceptibility to infection and disease. The factory farms’ response has been to pump the animals full of antibiotics that make their way into our food supply and onto our dinner plates, systematically fostering in humans a lethal resistance to the medicines that once quelled everyday infections. Such practices have brought humanity to the point that the WHO now estimates that more than half of all human diseases emanate from animals.”
‘Torturing Animals Got Us Into This Mess’
“Many of us are privileged enough to stay at home in safety with our loved ones to avoid the coronavirus. But how much thought are we giving to the individuals and communities that are directly affected by our choices and lifestyles?,” Mara and Phoenix ask.
“Tens of thousands of Americans face threats to their daily health and well-being from neighboring CAFOs and the animal waste that mists or flows over their properties. They are unable to be ‘safer at home.’ Will we apply the same energy we have put into overcoming this virus into preventing future outbreaks and helping dismantle the industries inflicting so much damage to communities across the country?”
Phoenix and Mara aren’t the only celebs to lambaste the animal agriculture industry.
Last Friday, during an episode of HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher,” Maher said U.S. factory farms are “just as despicable” as wet markets. The comedian and host opened his segment by telling viewers he will not watch the popular Netflix docu-series “Tiger King.”
“It’s not gonna happen. I already need to watch one bottle blonde from reality TV,” Maher said besides a photo of President Donald Trump. “And the other reason I’m not watching ‘Tiger King’ while sequestering: because torturing animals is what got us into this mess.”
Maher added: “Here’s another hot take that may not be as popular: America’s factory farming is just as despicable as a wet market and just as problematic for our health.”
“Factory farming has a lot more lobbyists, but ecological timebombs tick the same,” he continued. “Americans should not get too high and mighty about wet markets while we are [factory farming].”
Coronavirus and the Meat Industry
More than 216,000 people have died from the virus to date. And one of the industries hardest-hit by coronavirus is slaughterhouse operations. More than 20 major slaughterhouses and processing plants in North America have halted operations due to coronavirus outbreaks. More than 70 workers have died. Despite the risks to slaughterhouse workers, President Trump is expected to order these businesses to stay open amid the crisis, putting more lives at risk.
“As this disaster continues to ravage society, we must examine our role in the emergence of the coronavirus and our vulnerability to a growing number of diseases as a result of our impositions on the animal kingdom and the environment,” the couple writes. “This probe cannot end with bats, monkeys, pangolins and other exotic wildlife supposedly to blame for recent contagions. It should encompass all of the supporting industries that contribute to the debilitation of communities, our susceptibility to illnesses and our complete defenselessness in their wake. A real public-health reckoning would have us reshape our patterns of consumption, curbing our dependence on animal products. A bacteria-infested (and inhumane) food supply makes people sick.”