Flu pandemic may have originated in factory farms

The rapid spread of the H1N1 virus has the world in a panic, with the WHO giving it a 5 out of 6 “imminent pandemic”phpThumb_generated_thumbnailjpg rating.  In less than a week, the flu infected hundreds and caused numerous deaths.

But where did it come from?  Of course, it originally came from pigs.  Most likely, it came from pigs who were raised in overcrowded, inhumane factory farms.  As a PETA blogger puts it,

Cramming animals by the hundreds or thousands into gigantic, windowless sheds—in which the air is teeming with bacteria and the pigs’ or chickens’ throats are burned by the accumulated waste—is a recipe for spreading virulent diseases.

Simple enough.  For more details, you can read the Humane Society’s informative article.

No doubt, there are other important factors in the spread of H1N1, but the unsanitary conditions of intensive farms definitely play a role.  Besides contributing to the development of diseases, factory farms have plenty of other problems.  If you have any contact with the animal rights community at all, then you have to be aware of the mistreatment of animals that occurs in these farms.  I won’t elaborate, since PETA and the Humane Society have that area covered.

There’s also a problem in the gigantic amount of waste produced by businesses that raise millions of animals.  This waste often accumulates in filthy lagoons, which commonly pollute water sources.  In addition, livestock are big emitters of greenhouse gases, which are fueling climate change.

Still, environmental  concerns are not enough for some people.  But no one can deny the growing number of antibiotic-resistant infections.  If we overuse antibiotics on animals (human or otherwise), the strains evolve to become resistant.  While I do not know much about the human medical field, I can say with reasonable certainty that antibiotics are used too much on factory farms.  In order to keep the animals passably healthy in the conditions mentioned above, agribusinesses pump their animals full of antibiotics, becasue that’s cheaper than improving the farms.

I’m not going to preach about vegetarianism, but it’s important to be aware of the impact of our diet.  Many of the problems that we have today are a result of people pretending that actions don’t have reactions.

Interestingly, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) have introduced a bill that would restrict important classes of antibiotics for use against disease only, taking them out of the realm of subtherapeutic use or growth promotion in agriculture.

You might want to ask your Congressman to support this bill; it seems like preserving the effectiveness of medicine should be a bipartisan issue.

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2 thoughts on “Flu pandemic may have originated in factory farms

  1. You’re really right. Until people recognize that what they are doing is affecting our nature negatively, these types of things will keep happening. Really interesting blog.

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