A new bill introduced in the House of Commons in June aims to prevent future pandemics by tackling the sources of zoonotic diseases. Private member’s Bill C-293, known as the Pandemic Prevention and Preparedness Act, was introduced by Member of Parliament Nathaniel Erskine-Smith and calls on the federal and provincial governments to tackle future pandemic risks—including from the farming industry, the wildlife trade, deforestation and habitat loss.
Scientists estimate that three out of four new or emerging infectious diseases in humans emerge from the ways we treat animals. Whether it is the wildlife trade, “wet markets”, fur farms, or intensive factory farms, when we treat animals poorly it harms humans, too.
In addition to a comprehensive review of Canada’s COVID-19 response and many other elements of pandemic preparedness, Mr. Erksine-Smith’s act calls on the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Minister of Industry and provincial governments to provide measures to:
- Reducing the risks posed by antimicrobial resistance
- Regulating commercial activities that can contribute to pandemic risk, including industrial animal agriculture
- Promoting the production of alternative proteins
- Phasing out commercial activities that disproportionately contribute to pandemic risk, including activities that involve high-risk species.
The act also acknowledges that deforestation and encroachment on wildlife habitats could contribute to pandemic risk and that Canada needs to take action to reduce the risk that the commercial wildlife trade will lead to a pandemic.
The first reading of Bill C-293 was on June 17 2022 and can be read here.
Canada’s current legal and regulatory framework is inadequate to prevent and address emerging zoonotic diseases. For example, although reptiles are known to carry zoonotic diseases, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency does not inspect reptiles (except turtles and tortoises) imported into Canada, and does not even require an import permit or health certificate for these animals. Most rodents can also be imported without a permit, health certificate, or inspection.
COVID-19 has further highlighted the threat of zoonotic diseases. Outbreaks have occurred in mink farms around the world, causing the virus to transmit between minks and workers, and leading to the heartbreaking mass killing of millions of minks.
How to Help
Ask your MP to prevent the risk of future pandemics and protect animals by supporting Bill C-293, the Pandemic Prevention and Preparedness Act. Find your MP by searching with your postal code here.
And call on Canada to ban fur farms! British Columbia recently banned mink farming after three COVID-19 outbreaks infected animals and workers. Health experts are sounding the alarm that these dangerous outbreaks could lead to viral mutations that could prolong the pandemic.
Banner image by Amy Jones | Moving Animals