Our VoiceHealth & Environment

Factory Farmed Meat Can Trigger a Global Pandemic

Imagine 2050 Staff • Jan 10, 2010

Kathy Freston AlterNet posted this article on the dangers of the factory-farmed meat industry. As we’ve discussed before on this blog, the low-wage workers at meat plants are often the most vulnerable to a health hazard and also the first line of defense for the general public.

The chicken and pork industries have wrought unprecedented changes in bird and swine flu. Billions could die in a deadly flu pandemic, the likes of which we have never seen.

I was intrigued (and disturbed) by a book I just read online — www.BirdFluBook.org — by Michael Greger, M.D. about the potential of a deadly flu pandemic, the likes of which we have never seen. Greger very clearly delineates how a virus begins, mutates, and becomes dangerous. As with so many problems we are seeing lately — environmental or health — factory farmed meat seems to be a big part of the cause. A graduate of the Cornell University School of Agriculture and the Tufts University School of Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., serves as Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. An internationally recognized lecturer, he has presented at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, and was an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous “meat defamation” trial. His recent scientific publications in American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Biosecurity and Bioterrorism, Critical Reviews in Microbiology, and the International Journal of Food Safety, Nutrition, and Public Health explore the public health implications of industrialized animal agriculture.

Kathy Freston: How likely are we to have a bird or swine flu that turns into something really deadly and widespread?

Michael Greger: Unfortunately we don’t know enough about the biology of these viruses to make accurate predictions, but influenza is definitely the disease to keep an eye on. AIDS has killed millions but is only fluid-borne. Malaria has killed millions but is relatively restricted to equatorial regions. Flu viruses are the only known pathogen capable of infecting literally billions of people in a matter of months.

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