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The Causal Relationship between Eating Animals and Viral Epidemics

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For decades it has been known that infectious agents including pathogenic protozoans, bacteria, and viruses, adapted to a particular animal host, can mutate to gain the ability to infect another host, and the mechanisms involved have been studied in great detail. Although an infectious agent in one animal can alter its host range with relative ease, no example of a plant virus changing its host organism to an animal has been documented. One prevalent pathway for the transmission of infectious agents between hosts involves ingestion of the flesh of one organism by another. In this article we document numerous examples of viral and prion diseases transmitted by eating animals. We suggest that the occurrence of cross-species viral epidemics can be substantially reduced by shifting to a more vegetarian diet and enforcing stricter laws that ban the slaughter and trade of wild and endangered species.

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