Europe is now telling travelers to avoid the USA and Mexico, and America has declared a public health emergency. Some thoughts on the swine flu outbreak, which now has sickened forty people in the US, and killed more than 100 in Mexico:
• I’m pessimistic about reform. There are a lot of things regarding the meat industry that I’m optimistic about. For instance, I really think that factory farming can be largely wiped out over the next few decades. But I’m deeply pessimistic that anything meaningful will be done regarding swine flu. It’s not like the meat industry’s suddenly going to have an attack of conscience. And we, as a society, aren’t ready to ban cheap meat, even if the stuff is likely to one day produce a pandemic.
• The reporting sucks. Every article should point out that factory farming is solely to blame for this current mess. Instead, as always, animal agriculture gets a free pass.
• If the shoe was on the other foot…if there was some vegan tofu delicacy that was at the root of this outbreak, society would justifiably rise up and ban that food overnight. They’d probably put a few vegan heads on a pike for good measure.
• Who’s the real terrorist? Why is this guy on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list when he hasn’t spilled a drop of blood? How about adding a few pig and chicken farmers to the list, seeing how this industry could potentially snuff millions of people this year? If Bin Laden was really serious about mass killing, he’d go into the chicken business.
• We’re powerless. There’s not a damned thing the vegan community can do about this. Over the next few weeks, the shit will either hit the fan or it won’t. I don’t see the payback for vegans raising the alarm, even if we turn out to be right. And if we sound the alarm and are wrong, we lose credibility.
• If I had to bet…my money would be on this particular outbreak fizzling out like SARS. But one of these years we won’t be so lucky, and millions of people will likely die.
Assuming we dodge the bullet this time around, there’s one short-term policy change that the animal rights community ought to help ram through. We need to make it illegal to raise pigs and chickens on the same property. This is an enormously reckless practice when it comes to giving the flu virus a chance to mutate. And, on this one front, the factory farming community will have to cave in under public pressure.