For factory farming

In: Uncategorized

10 Jun 2009

A useful article by Vivienne Parry, a science writer and broadcaster, on “food porkies” in the June issue of Prospect.

She argues strongly against the view that factor farming is the source of many of the new diseases that are leading to pandemics:

“A study by the respected US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention seems to show that swine flu came from a “triple reassortment” of different flu virus genes—pig, avian and human—and that the pig elements also include a genetic contribution from a European strain of swine flu. Since European pigs rarely, if ever, travel as far as Mexico, the reassortment vessel—the physical body in which these various viruses combined—was likely to be human, not swine. World Health Organisation (WHO) officials think that the first case may have been a young boy in southern California, with no pig contact at all. Ultimately, human beings are more likely to have given influenza A(H1N1) to pigs than the other way round.”

However, small scale farming is often a source of the transmission of disease from animals to humans:

“Cottage industries might look nice, but smallholders are less skilled at spotting disease. Ineffective attempts at at-home treatment often mean that help only arrives when an animal is already sick, or not at all given that a vet’s bill often exceeds an animal’s purchase price many times over. Avoiding treatment in this way allows infection to entrench, and animals near death may be taken to market and sold. In parts of the world where food is scarce, carcasses may not be burnt, but left for scavengers, increasing the risk of cross-species transmission.

“Of the 40 or so new diseases that have appeared around the world in the last three decades, almost all have come from animals and jumped to human beings, and all have begun in “cottage” conditions. None, unless you count BSE, were caused by intensive production of animals.”

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