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Factory Farms Causing Disease Pandemics

01.12.10 Factory Farms Causing Disease Pandemics

I've reported here and at Non-Toxic Kids the growing concern about the environmental and safety concerns of factory farming. The Huffington Post added a scary new article to the mix just today. In it, a graduate of the Cornell University School of Agriculture and the Tufts University School of Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., who currently serves as Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States, examines how factory farming is contributing to current and future pandemics, and how we can and should stop it.  Here are a few quotes from the article, and if you want to be alarmed or lose sleep, read the whole article!

We've all heard about the inhumane and deplorable conditions animals in factory farms suffer. Now though, there is mounting proof that these kinds of conditions will have a serious effect our our nation's health and wellbeing.  

He says, "The industrialization of the chicken and pork industries is thought to have wrought these unprecedented changes in avian and swine influenza. No one even got sick from bird flu for eight decades before a new strain, H5N1, started killing children in 1997. Likewise, in pigs here in the U.S. swine flu was totally stable for 8 decades before a pig-bird-human hybrid mutant virus appeared in commercial pig populations in 1998. It was that strain that combined with a Eurasian swine flu virus ten years later to spawn the flu pandemic of 2009, sickening millions of young people around the world. The first hybrid mutant swine flu virus discovered in the United States was at a factory farm in North Carolina in which thousands of pregnant sows were confined in "gestation crates," veal crate-like metal stalls barely larger than their bodies. These kind of stressful, filthy, overcrowded conditions can provide a breeding ground for the emergence and spread of new diseases."

What to do about it? "We need to give these animals more breathing room. The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, which included a former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, concluded that industrialized animal agriculture posed "unacceptable" public health risks and called for gestation crates for pigs to be banned as they're already doing in Europe, noting that "[p]ractices that restrict natural motion, such as sow gestation crates, induce high levels of stress in the animals and threaten their health, which in turn may threaten human health."

Dr. Greger points out that eating a more plant based diet, and regulating (or eliminating!) factory farms may help stave off worldwide health pandemics. One simple way to start? Try Meatless Mondays. Go vegetarian one night a week with your family and cut down on your environmental impact and promotion of factory farms. Or buy organic, ethically raised meats, preferably from local farmers.  

Factory farms are harming our environment, are inhumane, and are causing disease.  We need a set of strict regulations to promote environmental health and food safety for our children.  


image:  Farm Sanctuary on Flickr under Creative Commons

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