So here we all are, day-in, day-out, wearing masks, and keeping two metres apart, and washing our hands, and speaking to granny through a window or on a computer, and to top it all many people have lost their jobs and are struggling financially, and yet governments are doing nothing about what should be one of the central issues of the pandemic: how we can stop it happening again.

The key to the problem is understanding what caused the pandemic in the first place and most of the experts agree. The majority of new viruses and infections in recent years have come from animals. What happens is the virus originates in the wild, it crosses over to domesticated animals, then it crosses over to us. In the case of coronavirus, it probably started in bats, crossed to animals sold as food, then ended up in humans. And here we all are.

What’s made it worse recently is the growth of a much more mechanised form of agriculture. Many countries, including Scotland, have ramped up their food production to industrial scales and that means animals are packed in much closer together, which creates the kind of conditions viruses love. The animals are probably not genetically diverse, they’re stressed which harms their immune system, they’re very close to each other, and all of that means that if something nasty breaks out, it spreads quickly.

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The trend towards this kind of farming – if farming is still the right word – is increasingly evident around the world. China. South America. The US. Here. This Friday, lorries will arrive at Ramsgate in Kent. The lorries will be full of sheep, packed in tight and stressed out by the conditions. They will then be taken abroad and fattened up for killing. It’s the kind of disrespect for animals – and, it turns out, our own health – that has spread disease in the past and could do so again in the future.

Sadly, many of the lorries that are sent to Ramsgate come from Scotland – indeed, the Scottish Government is being taken to court over the issue in two weeks’ time. Since 2017, more than 12,000 calves have been exported from Scotland to Spain where they are fattened for beef and the Scottish Government supports the trade. However, Compassion in World Farming, which campaigns for better standards, says the Government is breaking the law and it’s taking it to court later this month. Good luck to them.

The fact that the Scottish Government intends to defend the case is a great pity, but it’s also a reflection of what’s going on here and around the world: the industrialised farming, transportation, and killing of animals is seen as acceptable, probably inevitable, and possibly even desirable (because it makes money and produces more and cheaper meat). And yet governments aren’t doing anything about the fact that one of the by-products is Covid-19 and other viruses like it.

Some activists have attracted criticism for their response to the situation. The animal rights organisation PETA released an advert that said “Tofu never caused a pandemic”; some vegan groups have also said that if we ate less meat there would no coronavirus, but it’s not quite as simple as that. What we can say is that the risk of another virus like Covid-19 would be reduced if we produced meat in a different way; we can also say that if the worldwide demand for meat and dairy continues to grow, the more industrial agriculture is likely to become, and the more industrial it becomes the greater the risk of viruses.

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You may conclude from all of this that you should be eating less meat – and that would be a good decision – but you may also conclude that governments are failing in their duty to act not just on the symptoms of Covid-19 but the causes too. Earlier this week, a number of animal rights organisations delivered a letter to Downing Street calling for integrated action to prevent pandemics that start in animals. What that would mean in practice is better animal welfare, encouraging plant-based diets, and, at the very least, an admission of what is really going on here and an investigation into how to prevent it.
The consequences of not doing so are grim. In due course, we will eventually get out of this crisis. We will eventually be able to take the masks off and hug people and go to concerts and theatres and all the rest of it.

But if we don’t address the cause of the crisis, it will happen again. Governments should be acknowledging that, and they should be starting to take action – for the sake of the animals, but for the sake of human health too.