Mike Davis of the Guardian looks at the Swine Flu news and points to industrial ag practices as at least accomplices in the recent deadly mutation of this virus.
Since its identification during the Great Depression, H1N1 swine fluhad only drifted slightly from its original genome. Then in 1998 a highly pathogenic strain began to decimate sows on a farm in North Carolina and new, more virulent versions began to appear almost yearly, including a variant of H1N1 that contained the internal genes of H3N2 (the other type-A flu circulating among humans)...
But what caused this acceleration of swine flu evolution? Virologists have long believed that the intensive agricultural system of southern China is the principal engine of influenza mutation: both seasonal "drift" and episodic genomic "shift". But the corporate industrialisation of livestock production has broken China's natural monopoly on influenza evolution. Animal husbandry in recent decades has been transformed into something that more closely resembles the petrochemical industry than the happy family farm depicted in school readers.
In 1965, for instance, there were 53m US hogs on more than 1m farms; today, 65m hogs are concentrated in 65,000 facilities. This has been a transition from old-fashioned pig pens to vast excremental hells, containing tens of thousands of animals with weakened immune systems suffocating in heat and manure while exchanging pathogens at blinding velocity with their fellow inmates.
My farmer friends tell me that in the spectrum of farm animals, pigs are at the top of the stink and filth scale. So it doesn't take too much imaginative muscle to envision what happens when you put 10,000 hogs together in tight spaces. It gets a little extra swiney.
For happy pigs that have plenty of room to roam and good stuff to eat check out Rocky Ridge Ranch from Reardan, WA.