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Nutrition, disease, biodiversity: do we need a new relationship with animals?

3 episodes
  • 1
    Man and animals: lessons from the Ancients
  • 2
    Defaunation: 25% of the world's birds disappeared in 30 years
  • 3
    Zoonoses, diseases passing from animals to humans, have tripled in the last century
Épisode 1/3
Jean Zeid, Journalist
On December 15th, 2021
4 mins reading time
Angelo Giavatto
Angelo Giavatto
Lecturer in ancient philosophy at Université de Nantes

Key takeaways

  • Questions regarding our relationship with animals is far from new; ancient philosophers have pondered on moral aspects of eating animals for millennia.
  • Becoming a vegetarian was considered as a solution even in ancient times, with philosophers generally justifying this choice as an ethical one.
  • Moreover, in Plato’s Republic, the first Greek city model imagined by Socrates was meant to eat only plant-based food. Socrates described it as an “authentic” and “healthy” society.
  • Because of cognitive dissonance, many processes have naturally been set in motion to treat animal meat as an inanimate object. In particular, there is a need to elevate the human to a higher status than the animal.
Épisode 2/3
Jean Zeid, Journalist
On December 15th, 2021
3 mins reading time
Denis Couvet
Denis Couvet
President of the Foundation for Research on Biodiversity and Professor at Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle

Key takeaways

  • Ecosystems are extensively transformed by human activities. These changes usually have negative impacts on different wildlife species, starting with their decline. This major issue is called “defaunation”.
  • Current extinction rates are estimated to be 100 to 1,000 times faster than during so-called “normal” geological periods. They have become so intense that a species can disappear in just a few decades. European birds have thus lost 25% of their population in only 30 years, which represents a loss of 500 million birds.
  • Domestic mammals, ~20 species, account for over 90% of the total biomass of mammals, while the remaining 10% are represented by ~5,000 species of wild mammals. An observation assuredly correlated with human activities.
  • The collapse of wildlife should prompt us to question and rethink our relationship with non-humans, and their ecological, social, and cultural worth.
Épisode 3/3
James Bowers, Chief editor at Polytechnique Insights
On December 15th, 2021
5 mins reading time
Thierry LeFrancois
Thierry Lefrançois
Director of Biological Systems Department at CIRAD

Key takeaways

  • The health crisis has sped up the “One Health” movement whose objective is to combine the study of human health, animal health and ecosystem health.
  • Today, 75% of infectious diseases affecting humans are of animal origin. These are called “zoonoses” and are due to microorganisms (viruses, bacteria, or parasites) capable of infecting both humans and animals.
  • Human activities such as deforestation, intensive farming and urbanisation bring domestic animals and wild animals closer to each other, which favours the emergence of zoonotic diseases.
  • New technologies capable of detecting the places and times where new epidemics are likely to appear are under development. These can help to identify circulating pathogens that could represent a pandemic threat.

Contributors

Jean Zeid

Jean Zeid

Journalist

Journalist and radio host, notably on franceinfo, Jean Zeid is author or co-author of essays such as "Art and video games" or "Cyberpunk History(s) of an imminent future”. A philosophy graduate and former columnist, Jean Zeid also curated the "GAME" exhibition in 2017 at the EDF Foundation in Paris and "Design-moi un jeu vidéo" at the Cité du Design in Saint-Étienne in 2019. He is currently preparing a new public event around famous video game mascots made in France.

James Bowers

James Bowers

Chief editor at Polytechnique Insights

James Bowers has a PhD in molecular biology from the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle and an MSc in Science Media Production from Imperial College London. He has six years of experience creating engaging scientific media in digital, TV and other outlets in the UK and France. Most recently, James worked as a science communication consultant and trainer for a French agency, Agent Majeur, for three years where he co-authored the book, Sell Your Research: Public Speaking for Scientists published by Springer.