Another Disease Outbreak Threatens U.S. Pigs, But Big Ag Would Rather Talk About Bacon Prices

Martha Rosenberg

African swine fever (ASF), caused by the African swine fever virus (ASFV), has killed one-fourth of the world’s pigs this year.

Editor’s Note: This is a light­ly edit­ed ver­sion of an arti­cle that was orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished on the blog of the Organ­ic Con­sumers Asso­ci­a­tion. You can read the orig­i­nal arti­cle here.

There’s a lot the indus­tri­al fac­to­ry farm indus­try prefers to keep con­sumers in the dark about, includ­ing what hap­pens when mil­lions of con­fined, stressed out ani­mals with weak­ened immune sys­tems are exposed to disease.

What’s the lat­est food ani­mal pan­dem­ic Big Meat has been try­ing to keep out of the news? African swine fever (ASF), caused by the African swine fever virus (ASFV), a dis­ease that just this year has killed one-fourth of the world’s pigs, includ­ing half of all China’s fac­to­ry farm pigs.

So far, main­stream media’s cov­er­age of ASF has focused almost exclu­sive­ly on eco­nom­ic issues, includ­ing the disease’s poten­tial impact on glob­al trade. Ques­tions about the pan­dem­ic dis­ease poten­tials of inten­sive ani­mal agri­cul­ture are skirted.

ASF orig­i­nat­ed in East Africa and reached East­ern Europe in 2007, where it has remained. Since ASF’s out­break in Chi­na last year, in which half of the country’s pigs died and anoth­er 1 mil­lion were culled, ASF has spread to Viet­nam, Cam­bo­dia, Laos, North Korea, the Philip­pines, more of east­ern Europe and even Belgium.

It’s not a ques­tion of whether ASF reach­es Amer­i­can shores, but when,” write Thomas Par­sons, pro­fes­sor at the School of Vet­eri­nary Med­i­cine, and Scott Michael Moore, Chi­na Pro­gram Direc­tor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia, in the Hill.

Should the virus enter the U.S., your future as a pork pro­duc­er would rad­i­cal­ly change,” warns Pork Busi­ness.

In acute cas­es, the ASF virus caus­es death in one to eight days. This allows the spread of the dis­ease as ani­mals and their meat are sold, either delib­er­ate­ly or not.

This is not the first time that Big Meat has kept the facts about major ani­mal pan­demics away from con­sumers, who like­ly would be turned off to indus­tri­al­ly pro­duced meat if they knew the truth. The fac­to­ry farm meat indus­try also sup­pressed the facts about porcine epi­dem­ic diar­rhea virus (PEDv) and avian flu.

By 2014, PEDv had killed 10 per­cent of pigs con­fined in fac­to­ry farms in the U.S.

The PEDv scourge was so dev­as­tat­ing, a Ken­tucky farm fed dead pigs to oth­er pigs in an attempt to induce immu­ni­ty” in survivors.

To com­bat PEDv the gov­ern­ment gave $11.1 mil­lion of our tax dol­lars to pri­vate farm­ers who were pro­duc­ers of infect­ed herds.”

Here’s a cheap­er idea: How about giv­ing the ani­mals fresh air, space to move and no drugs?

From 2014 through mid-2015, 48 mil­lion chick­ens and turkeys were killed in the U.S. to pre­vent the spread of bird flu, and to pro­tect farmer prof­its. Yet despite the mass mur­der spree, the dis­ease resur­faced in 2017.

It’s easy to see why. To pre­vent the spread of bird flu, in many cas­es, healthy, floor-reared turkeys and broil­er chick­ens were herd­ed into enclosed areas where they were admin­is­tered propy­lene gly­col foam to suf­fo­cate them.

In oth­er cas­es, birds were killed by ven­ti­la­tion shut­down” –  – the term used when barn tem­per­a­tures are raised to at least 104°F for a min­i­mum of three hours to kill the entire flock. As report­ed by For­tune, round-the-clock incin­er­a­tors and crews in haz­mat suits” were com­mon­ly required for bird depop­u­la­tion in 2015.

When farm ani­mal dis­ease pan­demics hit in the U.S., Big Meat likes to con­trol the main­stream media’s nar­ra­tive by focus­ing the sto­ry on the price of bacon,” trade wars or farmer prof­its. With the ASF virus, main­stream media is naive­ly por­tray­ing it as a dis­ease of oth­er countries.

For exam­ple, The New York Times attrib­ut­es Chi­na’s ASF to the coun­try’s empha­sis on gov­ern­ment-dri­ven, top-down solu­tions to major prob­lems, some­times at the expense of the prac­ti­cal.” This analy­sis con­ve­nient­ly ignores the U.S.‘s recent PEDv and bird flu epidemics.

The Times also indicts Chi­na’s small farms, often packed togeth­er in crowd­ed agri­cul­tur­al areas,” for the pan­dem­ic — again con­ve­nient­ly ignor­ing the U.S.‘s own crowd­ed fac­to­ry farms, which are cer­tain­ly at risk.

The real sto­ry of ASF is this: Fac­to­ry farm ani­mal pris­ons, with their pes­ti­cides, antibi­otics and intense con­fine­ment, weak­en the immune sys­tems of ani­mals, mak­ing them high­ly sus­cep­ti­ble to pan­demics. The mod­el also caus­es egre­gious harm to work­ers, the envi­ron­ment and human consumers.

The African swine fever is just the lat­est example.

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