Intensive livestock farming could, contrary to the prevailing wisdom, help reduce the risk of future pandemics, according to a team of scientists.
The researchers, from the universities of Cambridge and Leeds, said that switching to more extensive production systems, such as ‘free-range’, could actually increase the risk.
In a new paper, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, they explained that this was partly because extensive farms required much more land to meet demand for meat, eggs and dairy.
This, in turn, could drive habitat loss and disturb more wildlife, potentially including species that could host the next pandemic virus.
It is often asserted that intensive livestock systems increase the risk of zoonotic diseases, and this argument is used to make the case for a switch to more extensive, lower yielding farming practices.
In November 2020, for example, in the wake of the Covid outbreak, the Soil Association described the pandemic in terms of a wake-up call from Mother Nature to return to more traditional farming practices.
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