Is Swine Flu the Result of Factory Farms?

Lost in the swine flu hysteria that's sweeping the nation is an important lesson. Ultimately, what's bad for the planet is bad for those of us who live on it, regardless of our species.

Surely you've heard all that you care to hear about swine flu by now –the deaths, the travel advisories, etc. However, it seems like there is a widespread lack of understanding of exactly what led to the outbreak in the first place. Swine flu didn't come to be out of thin air. The deadly disease developed and flourished partly due to perversions in the way we raise livestock.

Because of the huge swell in the human population over the past century, we have been forced to undergo radical changes in the way we produce food. No longer is food grown and consumed at the local level. Instead, worldwide food networks have sprung up. Most livestock is now raised in so called "factory farms," rather than in local meadows.

In Mexico, there are hundreds of factory farms. Inside these structures, pigs are raised in conditions that are frequently deplorable. They live in cramped, unsanitary quarters and have frequent contact with humans. Simply put, if you were a disease looking for a place to develop, you couldn't do much better than a factory farm. Sounds pretty unappealing, right? If you had pork (or beef or chicken) for dinner last night, there's a good chance it came from such a place. (It should be noted now that you can't catch swine flu from eating tainted pork, so you don't need to rush out to see your doctor.)

Even worse, aiding the spread of disease isn't the only negative impact that modern agricultural methods have on our planet. Food (both vegetables and meat from factory farms) is now shipped all over the planet, resulting in huge fuel demands. Additionally, all of this food has to be packaged, which creates garbage.

So, the next time you have to make a decision between buying cheap, mass-produced food or slightly more expensive but locally-produced and organic food, just think of swine flu.

Posted by Christie on April 29,2009 at 2:02 PM

I'll stick to local veg for now, thanks.

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