Ethics and Politics
UserpicSwine Flu

The Rowlands family have all been struggling with swine flu this week. Two boys, one two years old, the other 9 weeks. And no extended family within 4,000 miles. It's been fun.

In a week when we have learned that H1N1 hits the airways harder than standard seasonal flu, penetrating deeper and so more likely to cause pneumonia:

I think the most important thing for us all to do at this time is to pull together and, of course, apportion blame.

So: I blame meat-eaters.

Pigs are lovely animals. In terms of intelligence, they're on a par with dogs, for whom, as I believe everyone knows by now, I have the utmost respect. I wouldn't eat a pig any more than I would eat my dog. But they are also breeding grounds for viruses that can easily mutate into ones capable of human-to-human transmission. This is well known and has been for a long time.

So, when you have intensive farming of pigs - like Smithfield's facility near La Gloria, Mexico, reputedly the ground zero of the current outbreak - then it really is only a matter of time.

Hindsight is 20/20. Yes it is. But I also predicted something similar in my 2002 book, Animals Like Us.

There really is no need to eat meat. We don't need to. The animal husbandry industry is the largest single producer of greenhouse emissions, outstripping all forms of transport combined. If you don't want to take my word for it, take the word of a 2006 United Nations report:

The current outbreak is the result of two things. We eat meat - hence the farming of animals used for meat. There are too many of us - hence the intensive farming of animals used for meat

What is it going to take for us to change our ways? Pigs developing Ebola and passing it on to humans? Oh wait, that's already happened ... 

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