Does torturing our food supply result in human disease?
We know it does in cows. For example, outbreaks of mad cow disease, a disease only known in the last few decades, rose when cows were forced to eat cow. This practice was largely stopped once the connection was made – although cow blood remains part of most cattle diets. Cow leftovers are now fed to other herbivores that are then ground up and fed to cows. This may not be safer as prions, the devils of the disease, are likely tough enough to survive this protein somersault. Why are cows – adept vegetarians – being force-fed meat in the first place? Answer: To fatten, quickly.
The way industrial animals continue to be treated, crowded, fed and pumped full of antibiotics in conventional Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) not only makes them very ill, it has the potential to make us ill as well. CAFOs acidify the pH balance of a cow’s digestion system. Normally it is rather alkaline, opposite that of humans, and thus kills the bugs our bodies can’t. Without that protection we are susceptible to more illnesses, such as deadly strains of E. Coli.
So how ‘bout swine flu? Well, unlike mad cow and E. Coli, you can’t get swine flu from eating pork. But it does come from sick pigs (and humans who know a sick pig and the humans that know that human, and so on). Some are theorizing, especially among the press in Mexico, that the current outbreak began with sick pigs at one of the world’s largest pig plumper and packager, located in Vera Cruz. (Hat tip to Grist’s Tom Philpott for helping bringing this theory to US attention.) The hog production area is reported to be overcrowded and disgusting – a swamp of pig feces, swarming with flies. Similar to the descriptions of CAFOs in this country.
These outbreaks are the Revenge of the Even-Toed Ungulates.
picture by Katherine Welles