Have you ever heard of African swine fever (ASF) caused by the African swine fever virus (ASFV)? A fourth of the world’s pigs
have died from it just this year –– half of all of China's pigs –– but like previous food animal pandemics, the toll has been kept out of the news.
In the U.S., few mainstream stories touch on ASF. So far, the New York Times has covere
d China's pork reserves (like the U.S.'s Strategic Petroleum Reserve it says) and trade implications of the pig disease
while dodging the disease itself. Questions about the pandemic disease potentials of intensive animal agriculture are
being skirted as the pandemic grows.
in East Africa and reached Eastern Europe in 2007 where it is has remained. Since ASF's outbreak in China last year in
which half of the country’s pigs have died
and another 1 million were culled, ASF has spread to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, North Korea, the Philippines
, more of eastern Europe and even Belgium.
"It's not a question of whether ASF reaches American shores, but when," wrote Thomas Parsons, professor at the School of
Veterinary Medicine, and Scott Michael Moore, China Program Director at the University of Pennsylvania, in the Hill
this month. "Should the virus enter the U.S., your future as a pork producer would radically change," warns Pork Business.
The ASF virus causes death in 1 to 8 days in acute cases
and, in other animals, subclinical cases in which there are no symptoms. This allows the spread of the disease as
animals and their meat are sold either deliberately or not.
This is not the first time the facts of major animal pandemics have been kept away from consumers who likely would be
turned off to the meat products. The facts about porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) and avian flu in the U.S. were
By 2014, PEDv had killed 10 percent
of the U.S.' pigs, but the public never saw the dumpsters full of dead pigs. If they saw photos, people might ask what
is happening on industrial farms, why are so many animals sick and what drugs are they being given? (The drugs pigs are given
to prevent diseases is stomach turning.) Instead mainstream media protected industry profits and pretty much pretended
the pandemics weren't happening,
The PEDv scourge was so devastating, a Kentucky farm fed dead pigs
to other pigs in an attempt to induce "immunity" in survivors. To combat PEDv the government gave $11.1 million
of U.S. taxpayers' dollars to private farmers who were "producers of infected herds." Here's a cheaper idea: how about
giving them fresh air, room and no drugs?
Then there was U.S. bird flu. From 2014 through mid-2015, 48 million
chickens and turkeys were killed in the to prevent the disease’s spread and protect industry profits. Despite the
carnage, the disease resurfaced
in 2017. Again the animal pandemic images were kept from public view.
It is easy to see why. To prevent the spread of bird flu, healthy, floor-reared turkeys and broiler chickens are herded
into an enclosed area where they were administered propylene glycol foam
to suffocate them. "Ventilation shutdown" is also used –– raising the barn temperature to at least 104F for a minimum of
three hours to kill the entire flock. "Round the clock incinerators and crews in hazmat suits," were required for bird
depopulation in 2015 reported
When farm animal disease pandemics hit, it is not about the "price of bacon," trade wars or farmer profits as mainstream
media and the meat industry would have you believe. It is about a style of farming which egregiously harms animals,
workers and the environment for a product that is about as good for you as cigarettes. The African swine fever is just
the latest example.