What is causing the latest outbreak of Ebola in Uganda?


In light of the most recent Ebola outbreak in Uganda (over the past month), many people are experiencing a sense of déjà vu. The rapacious destruction of rainforests for palm oil, soy, meat and dairy by multinational corporations is deeply linked to the spread of infectious zoonotic diseases, such as Ebola. These diseases are becoming more and more commonplace with the destruction of the environment and growth of animal agriculture. This has enormous implications for human health, food security, animal conservation and planetary health.


The answers to preventing future zoonotic diseases are staring us right in the face: we should stop eating animals and consuming animal products and we should stop destroying rainforests for palm oil, soy and other crops!

What is causing the latest #Ebola outbreak in #Uganda? Zoonotic spillover happens when humans get too close/eat #wild animals & animal agriculture. It is strongly linked to #palmoil #deforestation #Boycottpalmoil #Boycott4Wildlife

#Ebola #birdflu #Zika virus were all caused by tropical #deforestation and humans getting too close to wild animals & eating domestic animals. Solution: Be #vegan for the animals, #Boycottpalmoil #Boycottmeat #Boycott4Wildlife

Many research papers and books have been written about the connection between the relentless capitalist growth imperative of multinational corporations, deforestation to make way for agriculture and the spread of Zoonotic diseases from wild animals to humans. Here is a collection of research papers and quotes from experts about the issue.


What is zoonotic disease spill-over?

Zoonotic spillover requires close contact between a human and an animal or its organic material. This occurs when humans destroy rainforest ecosystems for industrial agriculture, rapid urbanisation, mining or other land conversion. Illegal wildlife hunting, bushmeat trade and the illegal pet trade expose humans to new pathogens from these wild animals. This pathogen transfer is the zoonotic spill-over from wild animal hosts to human hosts.

Bushmeat is a suspected vector for HIV and Ebola. Primates, rodents, pangolins, antelope, and vipers have all been shipped along air routes. One study found that 100% of seized bushmeat samples intercepted at borders had bacteria that was unsafe for human consumption. (C4ADS, 2020).

C4ADS

Unlike bushmeat or other products, live animals can host a zoonotic disease indefinitely. Live birds, orangutans, marmosets and salamanders are all known hosts of zoonotic diseases when they are trafficked in the illegal pet trade.

Animal agriculture is also involved in the spread of Zoonotic diseases. Pigs, chickens, cows and other fowl are known hosts for ASF, avian flu, and E. coli. This can spread to humans when they consume meat and dairy products.


How does a zoonotic disease spread?

Spillover of possible pandemic pathogens occurs from livestock operations; wildlife hunting and trade; land use change—and the destruction of tropical forests in particular; expansion of agricultural lands, especially near human settlements; and rapid, unplanned urbanisation. Climate change is also shrinking habitats and pushing animals on land and sea to move to new places, creating opportunities for pathogens to enter new hosts.

Dr Aaron Bernstein, director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Wellcome Collection, Zoonotic Disease Explained

“We invade tropical forests and other wild landscapes, which harbour so many species of animals and plants — and within those creatures, so many unknown viruses. We cut the trees; we kill the animals or cage them and send them to markets. We disrupt ecosystems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it.”

David Quammen, author of “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Pandemic,” in the New York Times.

1. Prevention is the best cure


Is palm oil deforestation linked to zoonotic disease spread/pandemics?

Taking into account the human population growth, we find that the increases in outbreaks of zoonotic and vector-borne diseases from 1990 to 2016 are linked with deforestation, mostly in tropical countries, and with reforestation, mostly in temperate countries. We also find that outbreaks of vector-borne diseases are associated with the increase in areas of palm oil plantations.

Morand, S., & Lajaunie, C. (2021). Outbreaks of vector-borne and zoonotic diseases are associated with changes in forest cover and oil palm expansion at global scale. Frontiers in Veterinary Science8. doi:10.3389/fvets.2021.661063

Is Ebola linked to land-grabbing for industrial palm oil in Africa?

This discussion paper’s findings relate to an outbreak of Ebola in Liberia and the interaction between palm oil companies, deforestation and a past ebola epidemic in this location:

Epidemics and rapacity of multinational companies

“The palm oil multinationals, exploiting the health crisis, stepped up deforestation to increase output. The effect on deforestation is more severe in areas inhabited by politically unrepresented ethnic groups, characterised by a reduction in tree coverage by 6.5%. We also document an increase of more than 125% in the likelihood of fire events within concessions during the epidemic.

“This suggests that not only did the palm oil companies foster deforestation, but further that they used forest fires to do so. This is particularly harmful to the environment, and the smoke and the haze may have severe health consequences, apart from being a source of carbon dioxide. This deforestation was accompanied by a 150% increase in the amount of land dedicated to cultivation.

“This exploitative behaviour was highly profitable for palm oil companies, with a 1428% increase in the value of Liberian palm oil’s exports compared with the pre-Ebola period. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for local people or the local environment.”

Sonno, Tomasso & Zufacchi, Davide (2022) Epidemics and rapacity of multinational companies Discussion Paper. The Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics.

What is the best way to stop zoonotic diseases?

1. Prevention is the best cure

  • End tropical deforestation.
  • Stop buying meat and dairy.
  • Boycott palm oil.
  • International banning of the illegal wildlife trade, bushmeat trade and exotic pet trade.

“If COVID-19 taught us anything, it is that testing, treatments, and vaccines can prevent deaths, but they do not stop the spread of viruses across the globe and may never prevent the emergence of new pathogens. As we look to the future, we absolutely cannot rely on post-spillover strategies alone to protect us”

Dr Aaron Bernstein, director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.


2. The ‘wild’ must be kept ‘wild’ and we must stop consuming animals

“The ‘wild’ must be kept ‘wild.’ It is time to restore our forests, stop deforestation, invest in the management of protected areas, and propel markets for deforestation-free products. Where the legal wildlife trade chain exists, we need to do a far better job of improving hygiene conditions. And of course, there is the urgent need to
tackle the illegal wildlife trade, the fourth most common crime committed worldwide”.

Statement by Inger Andersen, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (2020) Statement: Preventing the next pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission, UNEP.
Linkages between environmental issues and zoonotic diseases: with reference to COVID-19 pandemic, Springer 2020.

3. Boycott meat, dairy and palm oil

The clearing of rainforests and other ecosystems for animal agriculture and cutting into forests for growing monocultures like palm oil and soy is responsible for zoonotic spillover. If we all decided to boycott meat, dairy and palm oil tomorrow, we would prevent the majority of this zoonotic spillover.

If we all woke up vegan in 2050, we would require less cropland than we did in the year 2000. This could allow us to “reforest” an area around the size of the entire Amazon rainforest – somehow fitting considering 70-80% of deforestation in the Amazon is due to the livestock industry.

Kehoe, Laura (2016) Can we feed the world and stop deforestation? Depends what’s for dinner, Humboldt University Berlin, The Conversation.

Statistics on zoonotic diseases

  • In the 20th Century there were at least six outbreaks of novel coronaviruses.
  • 60% of known infectious diseases are zoonotic.
  • 75% of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic.
  • In the 20 years before COVID-19, the economic damage caused by zoonotic diseases amounted to $100bn USD.
  • An estimated 2 million people per year die from zoonotic diseases – mostly in developing nations due to people’s close proximity to wildlife and dependence upon livestock.
  • Meat production has increased by 260% in the past 50 years.
  • Factory farms are linked to 25% of infectious diseases in humans.
  • Climate change contributes to the spread of pathogens.
  • Globalised transport and food supply chains facilitate easy movement of zoonotic diseases.

Read more

C4ADS (2020) Animal Smuggling in Air Transport and Preventing Zoonotic Spillover https://c4ads.org/issue-briefs/routes-zoonotic-spillover/

David Quammen, author of “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Pandemic,” in the New York Times.

Harvard Chan C-CHANGE/Harvard Global Health Initiative (2021) Protecting forests and changing agricultural practices are essential, cost-effective actions to prevent pandemics https://youtu.be/BIiduif1C4A

Kehoe, Laura (2016) Can we feed the world and stop deforestation? Depends what’s for dinner, Humboldt University Berlin, The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/can-we-feed-the-world-and-stop-deforestation-depends-whats-for-dinner-58091.

MacDonald, A. J., & Mordecai, E. A. (2019). Amazon deforestation drives malaria transmission, and malaria burden reduces forest clearing: A retrospective study. The Lancet Planetary Health3. doi:10.1016/s2542-5196(19)30156-1

Morand, S., & Lajaunie, C. (2021). Outbreaks of vector-borne and zoonotic diseases are associated with changes in forest cover and oil palm expansion at global scale. Frontiers in Veterinary Science8. doi:10.3389/fvets.2021.661063

Sonno, Tomasso & Zufacchi, Davide (2022) Epidemics and rapacity of multinational companies Discussion Paper. The Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics.

Statement by Inger Andersen, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (2020) Statement: Preventing the next pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission, UNEP.

Wellcome Collection (2020) Zoonotic Disease Explained

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Palm Oil Detectives is completely self-funded by its creator. All hosting and website fees and investigations into brands are self-funded by the creator of this online movement. If you like what I am doing, you and would like me to help meet costs, please send Palm Oil Detectives a thanks on Ko-Fi.

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Did you enjoy visiting this website?

Contribute to my kofi

Palm Oil Detectives is 100% self-funded

Palm Oil Detectives is completely self-funded by its creator. All hosting and website fees and investigations into brands are self-funded by the creator of this online movement. If you like what I am doing, you and would like me to help meet costs, please send Palm Oil Detectives a thanks on Ko-Fi.

Published by Palm Oil Detectives

Hi, I’m Palm Oil Detective’s Editor in Chief. Palm Oil Detectives is partly a consumer website about palm oil in products and partly an online community for writers, scientists, conservationists, artists and musicians to showcase their work and express their love for endangered species. I have a strong voice for creatures great and small threatened by deforestation. With our collective power we can shift the greed of the retail and industrial agriculture sectors and through strong campaigning we can stop them cutting down forests. Be bold! Be courageous! Join the #Boycott4Wildlife and stand up for the animals with your supermarket choices

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