The Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) along with over 100 doctors have raised the issue of ‘One Health’ with Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan.
Coming at a time when zoonotic viruses like SARS-CoV2 put immense pressure on the world’s health and economy, the ‘One Health’ principle highlights the inter-dependency of human, environment and animal health.
In a letter to the Health Minister, the ’Doctors for One Health’ initiative called for the enforcement of rules to prevent the recurrence of a global pandemic caused by coronaviruses such as the present SARS-CoV2. “Coronaviruses represent a continuous pandemic threat; humans have experienced two coronavirus-related health security crises since 2003,” they wrote.
The threat from zoonotic coronaviruses or those jumping species are being highlighted by public health representatives across the world, given that the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) reportedly emerged from a wet market in China that sold live and wild animals for meat. From SARS in 2003 to Avian Flu, Swine Flu, MERS and Covid-19, the viruses are said to have jumped from animals to humans, a situation caused by proximity, bad farming practices and dwindling animal habitats.
“It has gone beyond animal welfare and has become a health issue. Internationally too doctors are urging their Governments to act against wet markets, improve farming practices and work towards ’One Heath’, a principle outlined by the World Health Organization,” FIAPO Executive Director Varda Mehrotra , told BusinessLine . Practices of the meat industry have come in for scrutiny during Covid times, after meat factory workers in the United States and Germany got infected.
The ‘One Health’ initiative brings together medical voices from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS-New Delhi), Lady Harding Medical College, Maulana Azad College, among others. They have called for the immediate banning of wet markets that are “hotbeds for diseases”, ending of unsustainable intensive farming of livestock and enforcement of harsher rules and closures of slaughterhouses that do not follow FSSAI guidelines and rules under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughter House) Rules, 2001.
In India too there are illegal road-side meatshops, animal markets or “mandis” that have live and dead animals and exotic pet shops that sells animals, she said, and these need to shut down. India also has a system of intensive farming and agricultural practices, handling of livestock, fish farming etc that need reform, she added. Handling of farm animals have been a cause for concern globally because of antimicrobial resistance that renders antibiotics ineffective because of excessive or irrational use.
The doctors’ petition pointed out to the Government that in addition to enforcement, the country would also need collaborative interdisciplinary control measures between agricultural and public health.