Zoonoses, infectious diseases which are transmissible from vertebrate animals to humans, present considerable public health, social and economic risks. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was estimated that zoonoses caused up to one billion cases of illness globally every year (Karesh et al., 2012) and that 75% of new human pathogens detected over the past three decades had originated in nonhuman animals (Jones et al., 2008). Moreover, livestock farming has been implicated in many past zoonotic disease epidemics and pandemics, including those centred on the H1N1 influenza virus (known colloquially as swine flu) and H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).
The current COVID-19 pandemic has heightened concern over the risks and impacts of novel zoonoses, and this has focused attention on the potential role of livestock production in facilitating the emergence and transmission of novel zoonoses. In this context, this in-depth analysis aims to support the European Parliament in addressing the following questions:
- What zoonotic disease risks do different livestock species and production practices pose, and what zoonotic disease emergence threats do they present?
- What lessons can be learned from past zoonotic disease epidemics?
- What recommendations can be made regarding improvements to the prediction, detection and control of zoonotic diseases within the EU?
This study also examines the zoonosis risks posed by fur production. Mink made up 94% of pelts produced in the EU in 2019 [European Food Safety Authority(EFSA), 2021], so our comments on the fur sector focus on mink farming.