Everyone has heard by now about swine flu, the newest disease to move from animals into humans, which has so far killed perhaps 150 people in Mexico and infected thousands worldwide. Today the World Health Organization warned that a pandemic is imminent as the disease continues to spread.
But while officials warn against traveling to Mexico, and some communities even in the United States have closed schools and canceled public events to prevent further transmission, no one is talking about the fact that diseases like swine flu and avian flu both come directly from the raising of animals for meat, and are exacerbated by the intensive confinement of many of those animals.
But because no government official can stand up to the agribusiness industry and recommend that we eat less meat (in fact, the World Health Organization even went out of their way to state that "there is no danger from contracting swine flu from eating pork"), or even raise animals for food in different conditions, we will continue to see dangerous viruses like this put human lives at risk--especially in poor countries like Mexico, where many of the infected will not be able to access the drugs needed to treat the infection.
A 2005 quote from Yvonne Vizzier Thaxton, executive editor of Poultry magazine, is especially illuminating about the priorities of those who make their living off of animal agriculture:
"The prospect of a virulent flu to which we have absolutely no resistance is frightening. However, to me, the threat is much greater to the poultry industry. I'm not as worried about the US human population dying from bird flu as I am that there will be no chicken to eat."