Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ban Factory Farms Spreading Deadly Flu

From the Organic Consumers Association:
Despite years of warnings by public interest organizations, such as the Organic Consumers Association and the Humane Society of the U.S., intensive confinement factory farms are incubating deadly viruses that could set off a deadly epidemic.

A dangerous and rapidly spreading strain of influenza, which combines genetic material from pigs, birds and humans in a way researchers have not seen before, has killed over 150 people in Mexico, infecting thousands, and has spread to over a dozen countries, including the United States. President Obama, himself, may have been exposed to the disease, according to the New York Times, given that a Mexican official, Felipe Solis, he met with last week subsequently died with flu-like symptoms.

The World Health Organization warned early this week that the outbreak could reach global pandemic levels. The last major global pandemic, the 1918 flu epidemic, killed 20-50 million people.

Despite company denials, a number of Mexican and U.S. news outlets are pointing to Virginia-based Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pig producer ($12 billion in annual sales), as a likely source of the deadly outbreak. Smithfield sells pork and operates massive hog-raising operations in 40 nations, including Perote, Mexico, in the state of Vera Cruz, where the outbreak originated. For months, local residents and workers in Mexico have complained of pollution, contamination, and illnesses from the Smithfield plant. For years, Smithfield has been criticized in the United States for polluting rural communities, endangering public health, and exploiting workers and farmers.

Factory farms, such as Smithfield, feed pigs massive amounts of antibiotics, resulting in swine incubating and spreading antibiotic-resistant germs. These antibiotic-resistant pathogens are considered a major human health hazard by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Given these serious public health concerns, a number of health and safety organizations have called for limits or a ban on the practice of feeding antibiotics to farm animals, including the American Public Health Association, American Medical Association, Infectious Diseases Society of America, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Contact President Obama and Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack and urge them to:
Immediately ban Confined Animal Feeding Operations (hog, beef, and chicken factory farms) across the United States and end the dangerous practice of feeding antibiotics to farm animals.
Initiate a criminal investigation of Smithfield Foods and other major factory farms.
Learn more and Take Action in OCA's Swine and Bird Flu Center


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