Newly-vegan actress Rakul Preet Singh admits to “feeling lighter” ever since she stopped consuming animal products. She is also proactively being a responsible celebrity after going vegan. Rakul Preet is collaborating with international nonprofit Million Dollar Vegan to share 1,000 vegan meals a day with people in Dharavi. Masoor biryani and vegetables are on the menu. Million Dollar Vegan works with world leaders and personalities like Hollywood actress Alicia Silverstone, singer Mya and others to take a vegan pledge and grow the community.
When news of Rakul Preet turning vegan broke earlier this year, it went viral. Her intention was to do her bit to protect the planet. However, many celebrities and regular folk are switching to vegetables and fruit after the coronavirus pandemic hit. An increasing number of millennials are ditching dairy and meat, citing food safety as a reason. What is the relationship between veganism and COVID-19, you may ask. After all, the novel coronavirus doesn’t spread by eating meat or animal products, nor are vegans and vegetarians less likely to be infected.
There are two links between COVID-19 and being vegan. One is that the virus is widely reported to have originated from a ‘wet market’, where animals are caged and slaughtered. These wet markets and animal factory farms are breeding grounds for zoonotic diseases. When animals are imprisoned together in tiny cages with other species they would not live alongside, or packed tightly in a shed as happens at dairy farms, viruses can mutate and spread in ways scientists wouldn’t imagine.
COVID-19, SARS, bird flu, swine flu and the bubonic plague (currently rearing its head in China again) leap from animals to human beings. If everyone is vegan, wet markets wouldn’t exist nor would factory farms. Activists and researchers are waking up to this fact.
Another link is that the lockdown has showed us that entire populations can make drastic changes to their lifestyle, nations can put their economies on hold if millions of lives are on the line. Making a collective shift in our daily diet would be a small deal then. If we transition from a meat-based diet to a plant-based one, it could save many human lives. It will reduce the threat of future pandemics and other health crises associated with animal consumption, like antibiotic resistance for example.
If we want to get serious about preventing future pandemics, animal breeding needs to be phased out. More government subsidies for vegan farming (nutritious protein crops, for one) means better soil and lower carbon emissions. Re-allocating public subsidies away from meat and dairy consumption will ensure fewer epidemics.
Going vegan does not necessarily mean there would be no pandemics, of course. Health crises could emerge in ways completely unrelated to animals. But there is every reason to believe that a vegan world would be one with far fewer pandemics – and it would almost certainly be one without COVID-19.