Dependable Erection

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Followup on N&O post

Just wanted to note this article in the Guardian, especially in light of yesterday's post about the N&O's execrable reporting on animal issues. The significance of the N&O's failure to actually investigate issues of animal production is heightened, i think, by all this swine flu stuff.
Since its identification during the Great Depression, H1N1 swine flu had only drifted slightly from its original genome. Then in 1998 a highly pathogenic strain began to decimate sows on a farm in North Carolina and new, more virulent versions began to appear almost yearly, including a variant of H1N1 that contained the internal genes of H3N2 (the other type-A flu circulating among humans).

Researchers interviewed by Science worried that one of these hybrids might become a human flu (both the 1957 and 1968 pandemics are believed to have originated from the mixing of bird and human viruses inside pigs), and urged the creation of an official surveillance system for swine flu: an admonition, of course, that went unheeded in a Washington prepared to throw away billions on bioterrorism fantasies.

But what caused this acceleration of swine flu evolution? Virologists have long believed that the intensive agricultural system of southern China is the principal engine of influenza mutation: both seasonal "drift" and episodic genomic "shift". But the corporate industrialisation of livestock production has broken China's natural monopoly on influenza evolution. Animal husbandry in recent decades has been transformed into something that more closely resembles the petrochemical industry than the happy family farm depicted in school readers.

In 1965, for instance, there were 53m US hogs on more than 1m farms; today, 65m hogs are concentrated in 65,000 facilities. This has been a transition from old-fashioned pig pens to vast excremental hells, containing tens of thousands of animals with weakened immune systems suffocating in heat and manure while exchanging pathogens at blinding velocity with their fellow inmates.

Last year a commission convened by the Pew Research Center issued a report on "industrial farm animal production" that underscored the acute danger that "the continual cycling of viruses … in large herds or flocks [will] increase opportunities for the generation of novel virus through mutation or recombinant events that could result in more efficient human to human transmission." The commission also warned that promiscuous antibiotic use in hog factories (cheaper than humane environments) was sponsoring the rise of resistant staph infections, while sewage spills were producing outbreaks of E coli and pfiesteria (the protozoan that has killed 1bn fish in Carolina estuaries and made ill dozens of fishermen).

Any amelioration of this new pathogen ecology would have to confront the monstrous power of livestock conglomerates such as Smithfield Farms (pork and beef) and Tyson (chickens). The commission reported systemic obstruction of their investigation by corporations, including blatant threats to withhold funding from cooperative researchers.

Emphasis added.

The N&O may have been inadvertently correct. Meat eating "as we know it" may be undergoing some profound changes in the future. But it will come about as a result of the failures of the meat production industry itself, not because a bunch of dirty fucking hippie vegans started lobbying the legislature.

Adding, this story is worth reading too. All the way to the end.

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  • Yep, that's about right.

    The more that I read about continuing safety issues with our food supply, the more I realize that I'm going to have to seriously re-think what I eat. I've already started to make changes by choosing local and/or organic products. Currently, I put more thought and effort choosing what I feed my dogs.

    I expect that I'll either end up greatly reducing the amount of meat that I eat, going locavore, or maybe even going to the extreme of going vegetarian.

    By Blogger SteveG, at 9:54 AM  

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