Animal-Borne Diseases Incubate In Factory Farms
The swine flu pandemic, which, as of May 21, had spread to 48 U.S. states and infected nearly 5,800 people, causing 9 deaths, has many people wondering whether it's wise to raise pigs and other animals for food. Officials are now calling swine flu the "H1N1 virus," claiming that there are still uncertainties about the disease and its connection to pigs, but it has become evident that animal-borne diseases like swine flu, bird flu, and MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant staph bacterium, flourish in filthy, crowded factory farms.
The current flu swine flu strain, a combination of pig, bird, and human influenzas, has been traced to Veracruz, Mexico. Residents claim that area pig farms are causing them to have respiratory problems and are contaminating the air and water and attracting swarms of flies. Lawmakers in Veracruz have acknowledged that hog and poultry operations are breeding grounds for pathogens that make people sick.
Animal Factories are Breeding Grounds for Disease
Because people like the taste of animal flesh, pigs, turkeys, chickens, cows, and other animals are mass produced in crowded, feces-ridden factory farms According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, farmed animal populations are growing rapidly, increasing the odds of disease outbreaks and environmental problems. The world's pig population alone has risen to about 1 billion from less than 750 million 30 years ago, and experts predict that the meat industry will continue to produce even more pigs, chickens, and other farmed animals as the demand for meat rises in developing countries.
So, it's no surprise that we're seeing more and more deadly animal–borne diseases. The viruses that cause swine flu and other illnesses multiply rapidly in factory farms, where tens of thousands of animals are crammed into waste-filled warehouses and sheds. The animals are dosed with antibiotics so that they can survive in the filthy, disease-producing conditions long enough to be sent to slaughterhouses, where they're eviscerated on killing floors that are covered with feces, vomit, and other bodily fluids.
A deadly H1N1 virus spread from birds to people in 1918. People then passed the virus on to pigs and it's now one of the most common causes of respiratory disease in North American pig farms. Another pig/human virus was identified on a hog farm in North Carolina in 1998. Within a year, a hybrid of a human virus, a pig virus, and a bird virus spread throughout the United States. Some experts believe that new viruses are jumping between species at an unprecedented rate.
Should We Stop Raising Pigs?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 30 percent to 50 percent of pigs raised for food in the U.S. have been infected with some strain of swine flu. Health officials have been promising people that they can't get swine flu from “properly cooked” pork, but that’s a false assurance: Meat is often not prepared "properly." According to the CDC, millions of people become sick from E. coli and other harmful food-borne bacteria each year.
The World Health Organization is now saying that pork from infected pigs should not be used for human consumption and is cautioning people who slaughter pigs to wear protective gear.
Considering that pork and other meats are high in cholesterol and saturated fat and can cause other, more common health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers—and that pigs and other animals are smart, sentient beings with unique personalities, and that meat production ravages the environment—a more encompassing solution is to stop eating meat altogether. The fewer animals we raise for food, the fewer animal-borne diseases we'll have to worry about. Then, both humans and animals will be much better off.