Chapter 7. The New Public Health

We now have a choice before us. Do we use our knowledge to continue to condemn animals to incalculable harm, in turn jeopardizing our own health, or do we use that knowledge to evolve the practice of public health and improve the welfare of all? Do we continue to ignore the sad plight of animals who are abused, traded, eaten and used for experiments and consequently ignore how their plight affects our own health, or do we use our scientific advances and knowledge to fight against abuse, protect animals and their habitats, clothe ourselves without animal skins and fur, entertain ourselves without debasing animals, and feed ourselves and produce medicines without hurting animals?

We can do all of these things today. In fact, we are at an amazing crossroads in human history. We can largely exist and, even more, exist better without compromising the welfare of animals. Curtailing our harmful practices against animals will significantly reduce a great many of the problems that currently threaten our health and welfare.

How often in life are we given the opportunity to tackle several major obstacles to both our individual and collective health—and deal with the ethical conundrum of our poor treatment of animals—with rather simple solutions? In comparison with so many other obstacles that public health faces, such as poverty, war and social inequities, the improvement of animal welfare is often a relatively easy goal to accomplish. A gesture as simple as choosing one plate of food over another can single-handedly help thwart epidemics, curtail global warming and lengthen our lives—and reduce the number of animals in factory farms. By redirecting our medical resources toward the use and development of human-based tests, we can create far more predictive testing methods and avoid significant harm to animals. Striving to minimize the harms we cause to animals does not require us to abandon our quest to further human health. Rather, our endeavor to improve human health will be substantially advanced by promoting better treatment of animals.