7 May 2009

Swine Flu: let's look at the causes

Influenza viruses have always passed between humans and animals, and always recombined. That's what they do. It seems likely that industrial farming gives greater opportunity for that to happen - and certainly open air pig slurry may have aided spread via flies.

Photo: Cartoon doing the rounds on the emails - plus below happy outdoor pigs?

Green party leader Caroline Lucas MEP called early on for governments to investigate the causes of swine flu - including the issue of farming practices - as well as addressing the current crisis. However there seems to be a reluctance to do that. Here is my letter to the press this week:

Gordon Brown claims "Britain is among the best prepared countries in the world," in terms of the swine flu pandemic. However there is still no serious plan to examine the causes of these animal-based epidemics that can jump the species barrier to humans.

There is growing evidence that intensive, industrialised farming could be playing a role. The first hybrid combination of swine, avian and human viruses was found in an industrial pig farm in 1998 in North Carolina. Indeed in the US pigs and poultry are raised in highly intensive conditions often in adjacent sheds managed by the same staff. Similarly in Mexico intensive pig farming has grown substantially in recent years, with some vast operations raising tens of thousands of pigs at a time.

Of course Ministers need to deal with the consequences of current swine flu outbreaks. However it is now more urgent than ever that the Government sets up a commission of inquiry into the causes: a call first made by the Green Party after the avian flu outbreaks in 2006.

The good news this week is that, like with avian flu, the dangers of swine flu may well have been exaggerated. But unless we urgently address the causes of these outbreaks, we might not be so lucky a third time.

Yours Sincerely, Philip Booth

See Guardian comment here and a Green party health spokesperson blog here. See The Ecologist article here and their film 'Sick as a Pig' here.

Viva! have long campaigned against the abuse of farmed animals in factory farming. They have joined Greens in calling for an urgent enquiry into intensive farming in Britain and its effect on human health. Contact Alan Johnson (Secretary of State for Health): Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP, Department of Health, Richmond House, 79Whitehall, London, SW1A 2NS

Plus online petition from Avaaz who write: Big agrobusiness will try to obstruct and scuttle any attempts at reform, so we need a massive outcry that health authorities can't ignore. Sign the petition below for investigation and regulation of factory farms and tell your friends and family and we will deliver it to the UN agencies. If we reach 200,000 signatures we will deliver it to the WHO in Geneva with a herd of cardboard pigs. For every 1000 petition signatures we will add a pig to the herd: http://www.avaaz.org/en/swine_flu_pandemic


Philip Booth said...

Just seen this:

A recent comprehensive epidemiological study of some 61,000 confirmed cases of Spanish Flu from 1918-19 by Canadian physician, Dr. Andre Saine, shows that patients treated with a form of alternative medicine called homeopathy had death rates of 0.7 percent compared to death rates in the untreated and from conventional care of 30 percent or more. Is homeopathy something that we should be looking into as a possible source of prevention and cure for the H1N1 virus?

Philip Booth said...

More from Organic Consumers Assoc in US:

Scientists and health officials, who scared the wits out of us last week, are today trying to reassure us that the first wave of the Swine Flu--now spreading across the Northern Hemisphere--is apparently not as virulent and life-threatening as future mutated waves of this H1N1 virus might be in the Fall. Mexican health officials and the Wall Street Journal also revealed a few days ago that the pigs in Mexico that likely set off the epidemic are not native Mexican pigs, but rather pigs from Smithfield Foods' factory farms in the U.S. that were shipped to Mexico.

The rather alarming bottom line, however, is that CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) pose a deadly threat to our health (learn more).

Swine CAFOs, such as Smithfield, as well as giant poultry operations, such as those operated by Tyson Foods and Perdue, produce cheap food by cramming thousands of animals together inside hellish disease-ridden factory farms, injecting pigs and chickens with powerful vaccines and antibiotics to keep them alive, thereby putting enormous pressure on swine and bird viruses and pathogens like MRSA to evolve into dangerous killers. Filthy and disease-ridden factory farms for pigs and chickens, maintained by exploited and often unhealthy farm workers, kept in operation only with massive injections of animal drugs, are a biological time bomb set to explode. Experts are hoping a mutated H1N1 Swine/Bird Flu virus will not kill millions when it returns to the Northern Hemisphere later this year. Unfortunately, many scientists warn us that it is not a question of if, but rather when, a future swine/bird/human virus will kill millions--unless we shut down the CAFOs and transform the current insane global industrial/factory farm agriculture system into a chemical and drug-free organic system, whereby local and regional organic farms produce healthy food for local and regional markets.

Anonymous said...


are you for real?

You make me despair

I will never vote Green (a party I would otherwise vote for) while dozy idea like this are promoted.