FAQs

What is Million Dollar Vegan?

Million Dollar Vegan is a non-profit campaign seeking to introduce people to the benefits of a plant-based diet – for their health, the environment, sustainability and animals. With the support of doctors and some very well-known names, we encourage world leaders to lead by example and show how eating a delicious vegan diet can protect health as well as benefit the planet and animals.

How can I support Million Dollar Vegan?

You can encourage the people you love to try eating more plant-based foods by getting them to download our Vegan Starter Kit. They will then receive all the best and most practical information on switching to a tasty, healthy plant-based diet.

You can also follow us on social media and share our posts so that many more people know how we can protect ourselves, our planet and animals through eating plant-based foods.

Where does the coronavirus come from? From animals?

The source of the coronavirus is believed to be a “wet market” in Wuhan, China, which sold both dead and live animals, including fish and birds, and where animals’ bodies were butchered on site. Such markets raise the risk of viruses jumping from animals to humans because hygiene standards are poor, and they are typically densely packed.

The species source of the latest outbreak has not yet been identified, but the original host is thought to be bats. These wild mammals shed viruses when they are stressed, which happens more when they are hunted or their habitat is destroyed.1 Bats were not sold at the Wuhan market but may have infected live chickens or other animals who were sold there.2

Coronavirus came from pangolins. What have wild animals got to do with animal agriculture?

It is not yet known which animal species were infected at the market but Peter Daszak, the president of EcoHealth Alliance, an organization that works on animal-to-human spillover diseases, said that accumulating evidence on pangolins made it “doubtful that this species played a role in the outbreak.”1

Dr. Daszak said that South China “has an abundance of mixed wildlife-livestock farms that house chickens, ducks, civets, porcupines, pigs, bamboo rats, altogether all in conditions that would be conducive to viral spillover and spread.”2

What is clear is that the main zoonotic risks for people (i.e. the risk of contracting infections from animals) lie in farming and eating animals. Factory farms – where most of the meat and eggs eaten come from – are squalid and overcrowded, just like the market at Wuhan. It is no surprise then, that previous viruses that have killed people have come from, or proliferated in, factory farms.

Dr Michael Greger, former director of public health and animal agriculture for the Humane Society of the United States, said commercial poultry farms, “are designed like a disease incubator”, thanks to dark, moist and crowded conditions.3

Both eating wild animals and farming domesticated animals have left us with a long history of disease, sickness and death. The 1918 flu pandemic killed 50-100 million people and originated in birds.4 More recently, the SARS virus – thought to have originated from another live animal market5 – spread to over 8,000 people worldwide and cost the global economy an estimated $40 billion.6

Then came H1N1 “swine flu” – believed to have originated in pigs – which infected around 60.8 million people.7

This was followed by MERS, another deadly coronavirus, which emerged straight out of an industrializing camel sector in the Middle East.8

And then in 2013, the H7N9 “bird flu” emerged from poultry, sickening more than 1,500 people and killing roughly 40 percent of them.9

And this is not over. Scientists agree that about 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases are of animal origin.10

Both farming and eating animals have been bad news for people for a long time.

What other pandemics came from animals?

Our long history of exploiting animals for their meat, milk, eggs and skins means there is also a long history of serious illness and widespread deaths in people: Tuberculosis is thought to have been acquired from the domestication of goats; whooping cough from domesticated pigs; typhoid from domesticating chickens; leprosy from water buffalo; and the cold virus from cows or horses.1

The 1918 flu pandemic infected half a billion people and killed 50-100 million people worldwide. It originated in birds.2

In more recent years the SARS virus – thought to have originated from a live animal market – spread to over 8,000 people worldwide and cost the global economy an estimated $40 billion.3

In 2009, the H1N1 “swine flu” – believed to have originated in pigs – infected around 60.8 million people.4

MERS, another deadly coronavirus, emerged straight out of an industrializing camel sector in the Middle East.5

And in 2013, the H7N9 “bird flu” emerged from poultry, sickening more than 1,500 people and killing roughly 40 percent of them.6

Around three-quarters of emerging infectious diseases come from animals.7

Dr Michael Greger, author of Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching said: “Unless we radically change the way chickens and pigs are raised for food, it may only be a matter of time before a catastrophic pandemic arises.”8

Are you blaming meat eaters for coronavirus?

We are not blaming people; we are shining a light on the practices that harm humanity in the hope that we can change our ways so that we never have to deal with another preventable pandemic again.

Now that we all know the devastation that farming, trading and eating animals can bring, isn’t it time to reassess our own actions?

Dr Liz Specht, Director of Science & Technology at The Good Food Institute says: “Both farmed and caged wild animals create the perfect breeding ground for zoonotic diseases… It’s time to admit that we, as a civilization, have outgrown the dated notion of using animals to produce meat. Hunting and animal farming served their purpose for millennia of human population growth. But in 2020, we need to be brutally honest with ourselves. We can’t keep doing this. The current system is broken. It is inefficient, insecure, unsustainable, and extremely unsafe.1

And while coronavirus is in the forefront of our minds, and we look for ways to ensure that these killer viruses don’t emerge again, we should remember the other benefits of eating plant-based: the lower risk of contracting one of the many foodborne diseases like E. coli, salmonella and campylobacter that are rife on farms, infect meat and kill people. Plus, those who choose a plant-based diet suffer less from heart attacks, strokes, obesity and type 2 diabetes.

If farming animals can cause pandemics, why hasn’t the government made them illegal?

That is a good question. Governments know that tobacco causes cancer and kills 8 million people a year,1 yet cigarettes are still legal. In America, 88,000 people die each year from alcohol-related conditions,2 and yet alcohol is still legal.

Just because something is legal does not mean it is good for you, society, the planet or humanity.

This is China’s problem – surely they’re the ones who need to improve practices and animal welfare, not us?

This coronavirus began in China, but other pandemics have begun elsewhere, and the next one could arise in any country of the world. Plus, these viruses spread quickly around the world, which makes it everyone’s problem.

Bird flu, swine flu and other emerging infectious diseases can appear, proliferate and jump the species barrier wherever conditions are right. The cataclysmic 1918 outbreak of flu may have taken hold in the human population in the trenches of world war I in France, where men lived in filth and overcrowding, alongside live pigs, and nearby live geese, duck and chicken markets.1

The fact that this pandemic began in China rather than closer to home should be of little comfort. According to experts, one of the biggest epidemiological risk factors is our current system of livestock farming, with factory farms – where the vast majority of animals bred for consumption are reared – are particularly dangerous.

It isn’t always easy to pinpoint exactly where a virus begins but we do know that without farming, trading, slaughtering and eating animals, we would all be safer from these disease pandemics.

Global pandemics are extremely rare events. Car accidents kill more people. Aren’t you overreacting?

Global pandemics do not need to be regular events for them to devastate lives, families and communities. It just takes one pathogen to be both deadly and highly infectious for millions of people to lose their lives.

In 1918, a flu pandemic infected half a billion people and killed 50-100 million people worldwide. It originated in birds.1

In 2003, the SARS virus – thought to have originated from a live animal market – spread to over 8,000 people worldwide and cost the global economy an estimated $40 billion.2

In 2009, the H1N1 “swine flu” – believed to have originated in pigs – infected around 60.8 million people.3

MERS, another deadly coronavirus, emerged straight out of an industrializing camel sector in the Middle East.4

And in 2013, the H7N9 “bird flu” emerged from poultry, sickening more than 1,500 people and killing roughly 40 percent of them.5

Three out of four emerging pathogens affecting humans originate from animals.6 And now, in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the world is facing its most serious public health crisis in generations, with thousands of people dying as a result of infection every day.

We do not yet know just how bad the current pandemic will become but it was preventable, and we should act now to prevent the next pandemic that will emerge from farming, trading and eating animals.

If diseases come from animals, is it safe for me to be in contact with other animals?

It is safe to be around our domesticated companion animals, though there are risks associated with keeping ‘exotic’ and wild species, particularly reptiles. These do not make good ‘pets’, though any currently in homes must be properly cared for. Abandoning any ‘pet’ animal during this crisis is unnecessary and unkind.

If we are around farmed animals, it is wise to wear protective clothing, which should be washed afterwards, and we should avoid touching the animals where possible, and wash our hands carefully after any interaction. Those who work on farms, in animal markets and slaughterhouses, or are involved in the transportation of animals, are most at risk.

Animals are not the enemy. It’s the conditions we keep them in and the way we exploit, capture, kill and eat them that is the problem.

What is antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotics are wonder drugs that prevent and treat bacterial infections. Because farmed animals are kept in overcrowded, squalid conditions where disease is rife, they are given a lot of antibiotics just to keep them alive until they reach slaughter weight, which for chickens can be as little as 57 days.

The use of antibiotics has become a standard practice in factory farms, known as CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations). As of 2016, around 69 percent of all medically important antibiotics in the US were sold to be fed to farmed animals.1

In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration banned the use of antibiotics on farmed animals without a prescription from a vet and made it illegal to administer the drugs solely to make animals fatter, which for years had been common practice on industrial farms.2 But tests on thousands of meat samples almost two years later showed that powerful antibiotics classified as “critically important” to human health were still being used.3

This is dangerous for all of humanity, not just those who consume animal products. When we misuse antibiotics in this way, bacteria adapt and are no longer killed by the drugs, which means new infections emerge that cannot be treated.

As the director-general of the World Health Organization, Dr Margaret Chan said in 2016:  “This is a crisis, and it is global. Resistant pathogens travel very well internationally in people, animals, and food. They can also spread directly from one person to another. With few replacement products in the R&D pipeline, the world is heading towards a post-antibiotic era in which common infections will once again kill.”4

Does coronavirus have anything to do with antibiotic resistance?

COVID-19 is a virus, not a bacterium, and so is not affected by our overuse of antibiotics. However, what does connect these two global threats is our damaging exploitation of animals when we farm, trade and eat them. Bacterial diseases, like viral diseases, can spread around the world quickly, and can kill. Without effective antibiotics, even simple infections will kill us.

This is not a future concern; it is happening already. Each year in the U.S., at least 2.8 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria or fungi, and more than 35,000 people die as a result.1

Today, we are understandably focused on viruses, but it could just as easily have been drug-resistant bacteria that spread across the world. Unless we stop feeding antibiotics to farmed animals, and preserve them for use in people, this scenario is increasingly likely. To protect ourselves, we must stop farming animals intensively and given the vast majority of farmed animals are reared intensively, including more than 99 percent of chickens, that means we must stop eating them.

What does farming animals have to do with antibiotic resistance?

The use of antibiotics has become a standard practice on CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) from which most meat, milk and eggs come. In 2016, around 69 percent of all medically important antibiotics in the US were sold to be fed to farmed animals.1

In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration banned the use of antibiotics on farmed animals without a prescription from a vet and made it illegal to administer the drugs solely to make animals fatter, which for years had been common practice on industrial farms.2 But tests on thousands of meat samples almost two years later showed that powerful antibiotics classified as “critically important” to human health were still being used.3

This is dangerous for all of humanity, not just those who consume animal products. When we misuse antibiotics in this way, bacteria adapt and are no longer killed by the drugs, which means new infections emerge that cannot be treated.

As the director-general of the World Health Organization, Dr Margaret Chan said in 2016: “This is a crisis, and it is global. Resistant pathogens travel very well internationally in people, animals, and food. They can also spread directly from one person to another. With few replacement products in the R&D pipeline, the world is heading towards a post-antibiotic era in which common infections will once again kill.4

Why are you talking about antibiotics during a viral pandemic?

Antibiotic resistance and global viral pandemics have a lot in common. They emerge and are exacerbated because we farm, exploit, catch, kill and eat animals.

CAFOs (concentrated animal feed operations) from which most of the meat, milk and eggs eaten come, are little more than disease factories. And when we exploit and mistreat animals this way, we put ourselves at risk.

Both bacterial diseases and viruses, can spread around the world quickly, and can kill people in vast numbers. We do not yet know just how bad this current pandemic will get, but already each year in the US, at least 2.8 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria or fungi, and more than 35,000 people die as a result.1

We have known for a very long time that diseases from animals can adapt and jump species to infect people. Tuberculosis is thought to have been acquired from the domestication of goats; whooping cough from domesticated pigs; typhoid from domesticating chickens; leprosy from water buffalo; and the cold virus from cows or horses.2

And then came the 1918 flu pandemic that infected half a billion people and killed 50-100 million people worldwide, which originated in birds.3 Then SARs (from a live animal market),4 swine flu,5 MERS (from the exploitation of camels for their work, meat and milk)6 and bird flu.7

Around three quarters of emerging infectious diseases come from animals – both bacterial and viral.8 We must learn lessons to stop these pandemics occurring again.

If I change my diet will I be safe from coronavirus?

This coronavirus cannot be contracted through food, unless somebody who harbors the virus has coughed, sneezed or otherwise contaminated it.

But diet does play an important part in beating it, should you become infected. Since most deaths occur in people with already poor health,1 eating healthily gives us the very best chance.

There are multiple reasons why eating plant-based is the best option. This coronavirus is just one of many pathogens associated with eating animals. Campylobacter (affecting 1.5 million people in the United States2 and causing 200 deaths),3 salmonella (causing 35 million infections, 26,500 hospitalizations, and 420 deaths in the US every year)4 and E. coli (which causes 265,000 illnesses and about 100 deaths)5 often contaminate animal products.

And if we add in illness and death from obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers, which are also associated with eating animal products, we start to see the full impact of our dietary choices.

For our own health – and for the health of our communities and countries – we would do well to stop eating animal products.

Can I keep eating animals after the outbreak?

Despite the immense risk caused by farming and eating animals, there is unlikely to be a law introduced that would end these practices and so everyone will be free to choose what they eat. However, those who wish to protect their own health and to limit the chances of another global pandemic would be wise to choose plant-based foods instead of animal products.

We should remember that this coronavirus is not an isolated case, and we have known about zoonotic diseases (those that pass from animals to people) for a very long time. Tuberculosis is thought to have been acquired from the domestication of goats; whooping cough from domesticated pigs; typhoid from domesticating chickens; leprosy from water buffalo; and the cold virus from cows or horses.1 More recently, bird flu, swine flu, ‘mad cow disease’, SARS and MERS all originated from farming and eating animals. Together, these diseases have killed billions of people.

We are each free to make our own dietary choices, but doesn’t it make sense for all of us to make choices that keep us and our communities healthy?

Michael Greger MD, Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching, Lantern Books,US; 1 edition (6 Dec. 2006)

Can the virus be spread through food?

Coronavirus spreads via droplet transmission. When someone coughs or sneezes droplets of saliva and mucus can reach the mouth, nose or eyes of other people and infect them. If someone coughs or sneezes near the food you eat, or handles it with infected hands, it is possible transmission could occur, though the virus itself is not going to be in the food you eat.

The advice from Harvard Health for how we can best boost our immune systems so that we have the best chance of beating in infection, includes:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy weight1

Immunologists from the Departments of Genomic Medicine and Immunology at Warsaw Medical University have stated that there one way not to weaken our immune systems during this pandemic is to switch to a plant-based diet.2

Can vegan foods boost my immune system?

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine states that the immune system relies on white blood cells that produce antibodies to combat bacteria, viruses, and other invaders. Vegetarians have been shown to have more effective white blood cells when compared to nonvegetarians, due to a high intake of vitamins and low intake of fat.1

One study set out to determine the effect of the consumption of brightly colored vegetables on the immune system. For the first two weeks, the subjects ate basically no fruits and veggies. Then, they drank one and a half cups of tomato juice every day for two weeks, followed by two weeks of carrot juice, and then two weeks of spinach powder. Within just two weeks of a fruit- and veggie-deficient diet, immune function plummeted. However, just one and a half cups of tomato juice a day brought subjects back to health.2

Dr Michael Greger, author of Bird Flu: A Virus of our Own Hatching writes: “Those who eat more fruits and vegetables appear to have a lower risk of getting an upper respiratory tract infection like the common cold.3

Researchers have also looked at more serious respiratory infections like influenza. Studying the relationship between various risk factors and influenza-related hospitalizations in the United States, they found that a 5 percent increase in the prevalence of obesity was associated with a 6 percent increase in hospitalization rate. Physical inactivity had worse outcomes, resulting in a 7 percent increase in hospitalizations. Low fruit and vegetable consumption, however, had the most impact, increasing flu-related hospitalization rates by 8 percent.4

Harvard Health supports this and says to help our immune systems we should eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables and maintain a healthy weight.5 Despite this, the average American is still not eating sufficient fruits and vegetables.6 Choosing plant-based meals over animal-based meals will increase our intake of essential vitamins and minerals and help keep us healthy. Plus, it will help manage weight, which is important because obesity has been linked to increased risk for influenza and other infections such as pneumonia.7

Plant-based diets are effective for weight loss because they are rich in fiber, which helps fill you up, without adding extra calories. Fiber can also lower BMI, which is linked to improved immunity.8 Research shows that vegans tend to be slimmer than vegetarians, who in turn tend to be slimmer than meat eaters.9

Why isn’t eating meat from local, free-range farms okay?

While intensive farms are notorious disease incubators, farmed animals on any type of farm can develop and transmit diseases to people.

Animals reared outdoors are actually more likely to pick up pathogens from wild water birds, such as ducks, swans and geese who may not experience or display any symptoms.1 When those viruses get into farmed birds – and free-range poultry are often kept in crowded flocks of thousands and brought into cramped sheds together each night – disease can really take hold.

Farmers of free-range animals must follow a strict, multi-faceted biosecurity routine every day in order to minimise the risk, but even so it cannot be eliminated. The most effective way to end the risk of disease passing from animals to people is to stop farming and eating them altogether.

I’ve been eating meat all of my life and I haven’t got the flu or coronavirus so why should I care?

It’s great that you are fit and well, and long may it continue. However, every animal farm has the potential to incubate disease, and many people are carrying coronavirus without experiencing any symptoms at all. Like you, they feel great, but they are unknowingly going about their daily business infecting others who may not be so resilient.

We should care about others as much as ourselves. We should spare a thought for the elderly and those with compromised health or immune systems. When we buy animal products, we are supporting an industry that has repeatedly created diseases that kill people – from coronavirus to bird flu to campylobacter to ‘mad cow disease’.

By choosing plant-based foods, we can improve our own health and wellbeing, while reducing the risk that people more frail than us will die from a zoonotic disease.

Even if we go vegan, China won’t and that’s where the viruses come from, so what’s the use?

Actually, the United States is the biggest consumer of meat per capita, with citizens eating around 100kg per year. China’s consumption is under half of that.1 However, because China is the world’s most populous country, the total amount of meat eaten is obviously much bigger.

In 2016, China’s state-backed national nutrition association recommended halving the intake of meat to better support the health of the nation.2 Increasingly, experts believe meat consumption has peaked in China.3

It is true that the COVID-19 coronavirus emanated from China, but other diseases have taken hold and spread from animal farms all around the world. Today’s virus may be Asian but tomorrow’s epidemic could start closer to home, and it is our current system of livestock farming that is one of the biggest epidemiological risk factors.

We could all do nothing at all to help reduce the risk of zoonotic diseases and see what happens, but wouldn’t it be better if we all did something?

What products/medicines/vaccines can I use if I’m vegan?

Sadly, all medicines have been tested on animals. It is a legal requirement, even though there are more effective, cheaper and faster ways to test drugs these days.

Plus, some drugs come encased in a gelatine capsule or contain lactose in the pill.

While there is nothing we can do about the testing of drugs, it may be possible to obtain the medication needed in a vegan formula, and it is worth speaking to your medic to find out.

But the bottom line is this: if you need a drug, please take it.

We should be focusing on vaccines, not veganism, shouldn’t we?

A vaccine will help us end the widescale transmission of COVID-19; ending the consumption of animal products will ensure that no such pandemic occurs ever again. We must focus on both.

You’re not a medical organisation and it is irresponsible for you to give advice during a public health crisis.

We are not medics, and we do not advise on healthcare. You must speak to your own healthcare provider should you have any concerns at all about your own health and wellbeing.

However, the link between animal exploitation and global pandemics is well documented but little known. We hope to be able to share this vital information from medics, researchers and other experts, and encourage people to take actions that will prevent another disease like this spreading around the world.

Why don’t you care more about people dying than animals who aren’t even affected?

Our hearts go out to the people who lose their lives to COVID-19 and to those who lose their loved ones. It’s devastating, and we are all affected.

We don’t want to see this happen ever again, but there is no way to avoid it unless we all make some important changes in what we eat.

History is littered with similar cases of viruses and other pathogens that come from our farming and consumption of animals. Tuberculosis is thought to have been acquired from the domestication of goats; whooping cough from domesticated pigs; typhoid from domesticating chickens; leprosy from water buffalo; and the cold virus from cows or horses.1 More recently, there has been bird flu, swine flu, SARS, MERS, plus foodborne diseases like ‘mad cow disease’, campylobacter, E. coli and salmonella. Together, these diseases have killed hundreds of millions of people.

Let’s not condemn ourselves to keep making the same mistakes over and over again. We can learn, we can change, and we can protect ourselves and the people we love.

1 Michael Greger MD, Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching, Lantern Books,US; 1 edition (6 Dec. 2006)

Promoting veganism during a pandemic is insensitive towards those affected. We should all be 100 percent focused on increasing our ICU capacity and social distancing, not distracted with vegan agendas.

For those of us who do not work in frontline services, we can help stop the spread of COVID-19 by practising social distancing, washing our hands regularly, isolating as much as possible and supporting our communities as best we can.

And while we are doing that, we can educate ourselves and ask some difficult questions. How did this happen? Why did this happen? And how do we stop it from ever happening again?

It seems we have not yet learned the lessons of history. There have been countless warnings and similar cases that indicate the farming, exploitation and consumption of animals is extremely risky.

Tuberculosis is thought to have been acquired from the domestication of goats; whooping cough from domesticated pigs; typhoid from domesticating chickens; leprosy from water buffalo; and the cold virus from cows or horses.1 More recently, there has been bird flu, swine flu, SARS, MERS, plus foodborne diseases like ‘mad cow disease’, campylobacter, E.coli and salmonella. Together, these diseases have killed hundreds of millions of people.

We do not wish to be insensitive. We wish only to educate people and empower them to make changes that could benefit humanity, as well as their own health and that of their families.

70 Michael Greger MD, Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching, Lantern Books,US; 1 edition (6 Dec. 2006)

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