The global coronavirus pandemic brings to the forefront the consequences of a failed food system founded on intense animal farming and the urgent need to transition to sustainable, healthy plant based farming.
“The COVID-19 virus seemingly took us all by surprise,’’ says Delaware internist Dr. David Donohue, “but a pandemic was predicted by scientists more than a decade ago. The development of intense animal farming conditions, whether in the wet markets of Asia or the factory farms of the U.S., creates the right conditions for a deadly zoonotic virus.’’
Dr. Michael Greger, former director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture for the Humane Society of the United States, says as many as three quarters of all emerging diseases arise from the domestication of animals or the sale of wild animals for consumption examples include tuberculosis (goats), whooping cough (pigs), typhoid fever (chickens), Ebola and AIDS (consumption of non-human primates), SARS (bats) and influenza (pigs and chickens).
Once pathogens jump the species barrier, they can pass from person to person and spread around the world.
COVID-19 is a zoonotic virus believed to have originated in a wet market in Wuhan, China, where live animals are sold for human consumption and slaughtered at the point of sale. Wet markets, which also exist in New York and other cities, are sewers of viruses and bacteria, animal crowding and cruelty.
In the United States, food borne bacteria and viruses from animal feces that get into our food supply through contamination of meat in processing or crop fertilization, cause 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths each year.
The overuse of antibiotics in animals crammed together in factory farm conditions has led to the evolution of bacteria that are resistant to some or all antibiotics in people, which leads to the deaths of more than 35,000 Americans each year.
Amid this distress, there is a unique opportunity to take steps to significantly improve our health, and reduce the chances for future zoonotic diseases. Research shows that a plant-based diet is healthier and consumer demand for alternative plant-based meat and milk products is booming. 
According to the Good Food Institute “these products are a key driver of growth at grocery retailers nationwide, outpacing overall food growth by more than five times. New SPINS retail sales data released March 3, 2020, shows that grocery sales of plant-based foods that directly replace animal products have grown 29% in the past two years to $5 billion.”
Currently the government heavily subsidizes the meat and dairy industries.
Our belief is these funds are better spent investing in helping farmers to transition to plant-based farming to take back their livelihood from mass corporations and provide incentives to businesses to increase the production of plant-based meat and dairy alternatives.
In late 2019 several local health care and animal rights professionals joined together to form the Delaware Food Transformation Coalition. Our mission is to encourage the transition of Delaware’s food production away from a system of unhealthy overcrowding of farm animals to a plant-based food system. This promotes individual and community health, ends the suffering of farm animals and protects the environment.
The answer is right in front of us.
Policymakers should accelerate a transition to plant based farming. If we take action now, we can emerge in a much stronger position by reducing the risk of another zoonotic pandemic, protecting the planet and turning our sick care system into a health care system.
As individuals we do not have to wait for our government to lead the way, each of us can take charge of our health and vote with our dollars by transitioning to a plant-based diet.
The time is now. The choice is ours.
This editorial was co-authored by Jane Pierantozzi and Cathy Rash, Delaware Food Transformation Coalition.
To contact the Delaware Food TransformationCoalition email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Opinion pieces published here reflect the author’s views and not necessarily those of TSD.