The Pig, The CAFO, & The Flu

David Cassuto

tamworth pig and pigletExcellent piece here regarding the pig CAFO/swine flu link and another one here about the inefficacy of the vaccine approach to prophylaxis.  And yet another interesting piece here about the intelligence and social nature of pigs.

In light of these developments, let’s consider the American approach to pigs: mass confinement in facilities so devoid of stimulation for the animals that their tails are amputated to prevent them from biting each other.  In addition to torturing the animals, these facilities incubate disease, which our government then attempts to treat not by addressing the cause (factory farms) but rather with a mass vaccination program that will almost certainly fail, and a PR campaign to rename swine flu, H1N1.

What will we learn from this logic-defying juxtaposition?  If history is any predictor: nothing.

Swine Flu: Born in North Carolina

So it turns out that the H1N1 or (let’s call it what it is:) SWINE Flu is a Tarheel.  This outstanding post in Daily Kos tells the story about how the genes of this most recent virus are traceable to a 1998 outbreak at a Sampson County, North Carolina industrial hog facility.  The whole piece is worth reading but here’s a little taste:

Crowding thousands of pigs into cramped, filthy quarters creates ideal conditions for the fast spread of potentially dangerous viruses. The Humane Society of the United States points out that the unnatural density of such operations enables the large viral loads considered necessary for the emergence of rare flu mutations that can then spread rapidly among animals. The crowded conditions also stress the animals’ immune systems, while the enormous quantities of decaying fecal waste predisposes them to respiratory infections and the lack of sunlight allows viruses to thrive. In addition, the industry’s heavy reliance on pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines immunologically pressures the virus to mutate. And the flies and other pests attracted to such operations may be able to pick up viruses and carry them for miles.

So let’s stop all this nonsense about how pandemics like these are inevitable and that preparedness is the key.  Preparedness is certainly essential but the best way to avert deadly flu is to stop creating ideal conditions for its incubation.

–David Cassuto