“Stop subsidizing factory farming,” famed columnist Mark Bittman wrote in a New York Times op-ed last weekend, urging the World Health Organization (WHO) to take action toward addressing the “major threat” of animal agriculture. Written along with Scott Weathers and Sophie Hermanns, the piece tasks WHO’s new director general—to be appointed this week when the the organization convenes in Geneva—with tackling the global health and environmental crises caused by the cruel industry. “[The] sweeping change in meat production and consumption has had grave consequences for our health and environment,” the writers state, “and these problems will grow only worse if current trends continue.” The piece cites antibiotic-resistance as a growing threat to human health and urges the new director general to encourage the WHO’s 200 member nations to adopt policies that warn citizens of the harm caused by meat consumption and help fund plant-based alternatives to animal products. In conjunction with the op-ed, the writers submitted an open letter—signed by 200 professionals in global health, medicine, biology, policy, and climate research fields—to the WHO this week, outlining similar action points toward reducing the impact of industrial animal agriculture. “Eating animals may have been crucial to our survival in the past. But now, it’s killing us,” the writers conclude. The WHO has been effective in changing public perception of animal products in recent years. In 2015, the organization reclassified bacon and other processed meats into the same carcinogenic category as tobacco—a move that has been credited for a £328 million decrease in sales of processed meat across Britain in 2016.
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