Vegetarians International Voice for Animals

Swine Flu Fuels Concerns Over Intensive Farming

Campaigning group repeats its call to end factory farming before it ends us

Release date: 
Thursday, April 30, 2009

Intensive factory farming is increasingly threatening human and animal health by providing the ideal hot-house conditions for pathogenic bacteria and viruses to develop, claims Viva!

"This is not shroud waving or scare mongering as the appallingly unhygienic and overcrowded conditions in factory farms have already caused dangerous mutations which are killing people right now," says Juliet Gellatley (BSc Zoology), founder and director of Viva! and author of a report on the British pig industry. "Pigs are the most immediate concern because of their close genetic similarity to humans. With swine flu, they again appear to have acted as a vector where a pick and mix of different flu viruses " human, bird and swine " have exchanged genetic material to produce a new version."

Research in 2007 established that the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture (pig farming being one of the greatest consumers) was the primary source of deadly antibiotic resistant bacteria. As a consequence, salmonella, campylobacter and E coli have become more virulent and more difficult to control, as has the hospital superbug VRE (vancomycin-resistant Enterococci). MRSA is also a persistent problem in many hospitals and in 2004 a new strain developed amongst intensively farmed pigs on the continent. In 1999, two new wasting diseases appeared in UK pigs " PMWS (post-weaning multisystemic wasting syndrome) and PDNS (porcine dermatitis and nephropathy).

"There is no mystery about this if you look at the conditions in which pigs are reared," continues Ms Gellatley. "They are fed a battery of drugs almost daily from weaning to slaughter to fend off a host of diseases."

"The consequence is that their immune systems are shot to pieces and their bodies have become a playground for bacteria and viruses. And sadly, it is much the same for poultry. It is no coincidence that intensive pig and chicken farming in Mexico are being implicated as the source of the current outbreak of swine flu. We know that humans would crumble in these conditions and yet producers pretend that they are satisfactory for pigs."

"This is not a disaster waiting to happen but one that has already started and Viva! is calling for a public enquiry into the factory farming of animals", Ms Gellatley concludes.

For further information contact Juliet Gellatley, Tony Wardle or Justin Kerswell on 0117 944 1000.