The young author of the long-time best-seller “Everything is Illuminated” Jonathan Safran Foer has written a new book, “Eating Animals” about the virtues of veganism.
One of his arguments has to do with the connection between the H1N1 influenza virus and large-scale concentrated animal feeding operations — defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as agricultural operations over a certain size “where animals are kept and raised in confined situations.
“This swine flu that’s now an epidemic, they’ve been able to trace it back to a farm in North Carolina,”
“A hog farm. Nobody knows this. Nobody talks about it. We’ve been told this lie that it came from Mexico.”
Mr. Safran Foer was apparently referring to research that shows that the H1N1 influenza pandemic has genetic roots in a swine-flu outbreak at a North Carolina pig farm in the late 1990s.
However Liz Wagstrom, a staff veterinarian at the National Pork Board, said the claim that the novel 2009 H1N1 virus originally came from swine farms in North Carolina is “patently false.”
Researchers at that time did find an H3N2 flu virus in pigs there, but it had a different genetic architecture than the current H1N1 pandemic virus circulating around the world. And those trying to link the H1N1 to factory farming
“are using a scare tactic to try to cast a negative light on modern pork production,”
says Ms. Wagstrom.
An article in the September issue of Environmental Health Perspectives titled
“Swine C.A.F.O.’s & Novel H1N1: Separating Facts from Fears,”
quotes Dr. Gregory Gray, the director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the University of Iowa College of Public Health:
When respiratory viruses get into these confinement facilities, they have continual opportunity to replicate, mutate, reassort and recombine into novel strains. The best surrogates we can find in the human population are prisons, military bases, ships or schools. But respiratory viruses can run quickly through these [human] populations and then burn out, whereas in C.A.F.O.s — which often have continual introductions of [unexposed] animals — there’s a much greater potential for the viruses to spread and become endemic.