With the possibility that the world was on the edge of a swine flu pandemic, many questions have recently been asked about the origins of the virus. In an article in New Scientist, 29 April 2009, it was reported that:
Local reports in La Gloria (Mexico) blamed pig farms in nearby Perote owned by Granjas Carroll, a subsidiary of US hog giant Smithfield Foods. The farms produce nearly a million pigs a year.
Smithfield Foods, in a statement, insists there are "no clinical signs or symptoms" of swine flu in its pigs or workers in Mexico. That is unsurprising, as the company says it "routinely administers influenza virus vaccination to swine herds and conducts monthly tests for the presence of swine influenza." The company would not tell ‘New Scientist’ any more about recent tests. USDA researchers say that while vaccination keeps pigs from getting sick, it does not block infection or shedding of the virus.
While Smithfield Corporation, the largest pig producer in the world, denies any connection between their pigs and the outbreak of flu, the WHO has been saying for many years that “a new pandemic is inevitable” and experts from the European Commission and the FAO have cautioned that the rapid move from smallholdings to industrial pig production is in fact increasing the risk of development and transmission of disease epidemics. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that scientists still do not know the extent to which infectious compounds produced in factory farms affect human health.
Studies abound of the horrific conditions endured by pigs in concentrated large-scale operations, and the devastating economic impact on small-farmer communities of these huge operations. Smithfield itself has already been fined $12.6m and is currently under another federal investigation in the US for toxic environmental damage from pig excrement lakes.
These factory farms are places of torture for animals. Thousands of pigs are brutally crammed into dirty warehouses and sprayed with a cocktail of drugs. Sadly, because of increased global meat consumption these factories are rapidly multiplying, and along with them so are the risks to human health.
So there are three good reasons why we should be concerned and speak out against factory farming:
· animal cruelty;
· the impact on small-farmers; and
· the dangers to our health.
Write to your local Minister of Agriculture, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) asking them to investigate the operation of factory farms and to develop regulations for these farms to prevent cruelty to animals and to protect global health.