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Launch a Covid veggie fest

28 Apr 2020 / 19:06 H.

FOUR nuns sang: How do you solve a problem like corona? More earthy characters such as the ecologists thank corona for prompting humanity to renovate itself. But what is it about us that needs renovating?

Wuhan, epicentre of Covid-19, has stirred to life again and the city’s residents are back at devouring meat with a vengeance. But post-corona China exhibits one major difference – terrestrial wildlife meat is off the table with a nationwide ban. The question is: how long will the ban last. A similar ban was imposed after SARS in 2003, but was lifted when consumers protested.

The UN General Assembly has to enforce a permanent global ban on all types of wildlife capture, trading, farming, and consumption other than for research and educational purposes. The punishment has to be of highest severity when you consider the thousands who have died because of Covid-19.

What about livestock? Utterly safe? No. Modern animal farming is highly intensive with deeply negative ecological impacts that create new host populations for pathogens crossing over from wildlife. This was discussed in a 2017 scientific report on the dynamics of wildlife-livestock-human interface. Every nation in the world that runs factory-like animal farms is potentially a pandemic incubator, not just those nations indulging in wildlife trade.

Covid-19 may turn out to be a mere curtain-raiser for more equally devastating coronas on the way. As contact rates are greatly speeding up with climate change acceleration, easy world travel, and urban population growth, 2024 is a highly possible date for the next coronavirus invasion.

Over the past 1,000 years, the world’s religions have missed several golden opportunities to transform human behaviour. It missed the chance to ban slavery; it was Abraham Lincoln who finally did it using purely secular forces without the help of any religion. So, don’t miss this chance to ban meat-eating and substitute it with stem cell lab-grown meat.

It may come as a surprise to you that no religion is pro-meat. Several religions – those originating in West Asia – prescribe rules for meat-eating, classifying animals into permissible and forbidden lists for consumption. They circumscribe meat-eating but don’t generally promote it. All other religions, particularly the indigenous religions of India and China, favour vegetarianism.

If you read the earliest sacred book held in great esteem by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – the book of Genesis – the first recommended diet is purely vegetarian with no meat whatsoever. Genesis 1:29 states the preference for greens. “Then God said, ‘I have given you every sort of seed-bearing plant on Earth and every kind of fruit-bearing tree, given them to you for food’.”

To this day in Eastern Europe, the Orthodox Church Christians observe a seven-week period of vegan fare during the Lenten fast before Easter. We are now in the Ramadan fasting month, and it is a grand opportunity for all religions to do some kind of fast together to change human behaviour.

The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism should launch a Covid vegetarian fast that non-Muslims should practise until end of Ramadan. Below are the proposed fasting details:

It’s a 15-hour fast stretching from 8pm to 11am. Dinner ends at 8pm and you break fast with brunch or lunch at 11am or later. After 8pm you can only drink water or a veggie liquid. Night fasting ensures that eateries have lunch customers after the prolonged shutdown and income loss. Eat just brunch/lunch and dinner. All restaurants should be encouraged to prepare menus for vegetarians and aquavegs (vegetarians who also consume eggs and fish).

The direction of the fast is to break away from terrestrial meats because these require animals to be factory-farm bred. The goal is to persuade the livestock industry to convert slaughter-farms into laboratories for cultivation of stem cell labgrown meat under tight scientific, dietary and medical supervision. This will ensure the meat is healthy and nutritious without antibiotic and chemical additions.

Say your prayers regularly. Reflect on the most important lesson of Covid-19: God shows no preference for human lives over animal lives, contrary to religious teaching. Just as we slaughter animals with impunity, so does God’s other half or God’s hand, Nature, allow a virus to cross over from the embattled animal world and do its worst.

The writer champions interfaith harmony. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

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