What if we stopped raising pigs? Easy answer: we would stop the swine flu.
We pay a very high price from raising pigs and, of course, the pigs do as well. A big part of that price is the swine flu. U.S. health officials are tracking a newly discovered strain of swine flu in China they say has the characteristics of viruses with potential to cause another human pandemic. Although the virus has not yet been detected in the U.S. or shown human to human transition, doctors have reason to worry it could spell trouble.
Here’s why they’re worried. The new virus appears to grow well in the cells lining the human airway, and possesses all the essential hallmarks of being highly adapted to infect humans, according to a recent study.
Pigs are considered as important hosts or “mixing vessels” for the generation of pandemic influenza viruses. Systematic surveillance of influenza viruses in pigs is essential for early warning and preparedness for the next potential pandemic.
The virus, which scientists are calling G4 EA H1N1 is exhibiting “reassortment capabilities.” When you get a brand new virus that turns out to be a pandemic virus, it’s either due to mutations and/or the reassortment or exchanges of genes. This virus has characteristics of the 2009 H1N1 virus, and of the original 1918 Flu which some other flu viruses have, as well as segments from pigs. The H1N1 swine flu and 1918 pandemic flu were both considered very dangerous viruses that spread across the globe.
Most pigs are raised in very harsh over crowded conditions on what’s known as factory farms. But if we didn’t raise pigs, almost all the threat of swine flu would disappear. How many people could be saved from sickness and death? Is bacon really worth all the suffering and death? Learn more about the flu and how it arises on factory chicken and pig farms.
Close the wet markets! Doctor Anthony Fauci says that there should be a global shut down of wet markets. Fauci is the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, and is considered by many to be the world’s top expert on infectious disease. He is a chief medical advisor on the president’s coronavirus taskforce.
Wet markets, common in China and other south Asian countries, sell live poultry, fish, reptiles, and mammals of every kind. Add the daily human contacts (including children) with the live animals, and conditions are optimal for the transfer of infectious disease agents that can make sick or even kill humans, as we explained last month. Read more
It hurts to be sick, and animals are no exception. When animals are raised in factory farm conditions, they are usually crammed into small spaces, and held in very unhygienic conditions, such that diseases can run rampant. Sometimes these diseases spread from one factory to another causing a pandemic. Unfortunately farm animal disease pandemics plague our food system, destabilizing trade and markets and causing product shortages, and multiplying the amount of suffering that the animals themselves experience exponentially. Read more
On April 30 the World Dog Show supposedly had a “joyful gathering for dog lovers and lovely dogs across the world” in Shanghai, China. The presence of a celebratory canine event in a country where some still sell and consume dog meat, had many animal lovers outraged.
According to Humane Society International (HSI), their partner group in Shanghai found dog meat for sale in restaurants less than 12 miles away from the expo center where the “joyous” dog show was held. At least one of the offending restaurants had “a sign boasting that its dog meat is supplied by slaughterhouses in Xuzhou city, notorious for the country’s biggest dog meat processing industry” reports HSI.
HSI’s Chinese activist partner recently visited one of the slaughterhouses in Peixian and discovered 22 filthy, injured dogs. The animal organization believes these animals used to be people’s pets because they also found a pile of “pet collars discarded in the corner” near where the canines were caged. HSI’s Chinese partner was able to negotiate the release of these 22 canines, many purebred dogs, and is currently caring for the pets.
This investigation exposes the horrifying way that millions of China’s dogs are abused for the meat trade. HSI hope that by exposing the cruel reality of the dog meat trade, China will decide to put an end of this outdated industry.
David Yeung wants to take a bite out of China’s massive market for pork. As founder of Green Common, a vegetarian grocery store and casual dining chain in Hong Kong, he started bringing plant-based burgers and other meatless products to Asia, and he saw an opportunity. According to Yeung, “One of the most consumed meats in the world is actually overlooked – that is pork”. Pork accounts for nearly 40% of worldwide meat consumption, and in China it’s by far the highest consumed meat. With this in mind, he launched a new product called Omnipork which he hopes will change people’s diets in mainland China. Read more
It’s a diabetes disaster! Rapidly escalating levels of meat, poultry, fish and egg consumption have combined to give China the highest rates of diabetes in the world. Yes, their rate of this so called “western disease” is now even higher than ours.
The statistics are both startling and sobering. 12% of Chinese now have diabetes and 50% of Chinese now have pre-diabetes, technically known as metabolic syndrome, which means 114 million Chinese adults are diabetic and another 493 million are pre-diabetic, according to the latest study. ”Diabetes in China has become a catastrophe” said Paul Zimmet, president of the International Diabetes Federation.”
China’s levels of meat consumption doubled between 1990 and 2002. Today the average Chinese eats an astounding 215 pounds of meat, poultry, fish and eggs every year. Back in 1961, the Chinese consumed just a few pounds of animal products each year. Even as recently as 1980, they still following a mostly traditional, nearly vegetarian, diet, and the diabetes rate in China was only 1 percent. But consuming animal products, especially those high in saturated fats, can dramatically increase the risk of diabetes.
There’s a financial cost to all of this as well. The booming level of meat consumption in China has brought with it a medical problem which could bankrupt their health system. Covering all the new and emerging cases of diabetes will consume more than half of its annual healthcare budget.
And then there’s all the complications diabetes sufferers face. The researchers recently warned, in a Journal of the American Medical Association report, that China will also have to face “a major epidemic of diabetes-related complications” including cardiovascular disease, stroke, and chronic kidney disease, in the near future, without an effective national intervention.
Just as China has turned to western, meat-centered diets, it has also turned to western ways of handling the problem. China’s rising prevalence of diabetes has helped fuel a 20% per year growth in drug sales, stoking the need for medications from drug companies. China’s government is trying to fight the scourge by expanding basic medical coverage, buying medicines in bulk to lower costs, and conducting a corruption inquiry into international drug makers, including GlaxoSmithKline.
Yet the real solution to this epidemic, like so many others, is a vegetarian solution. Not only is a vegetarian diet powerful in preventing diabetes, but several studies now show it is also powerful in reversing it. Let’s hope the Chinese government realize this quickly, before the situation gets any worse.
Vegetarians are making a comeback in China, yes, China! While we have lamented the sky rocketing meat consumption in China, the growing popularity of meat-based, fast-food restaurants such as McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken, and have been dismayed by the China’s purchase of the world’s largest pork producer and processor, Smithfield, there is a silver lining to this darkening cloud.
A deepening environmental crisis, marked by growing levels of water pollution on the local level and climate change on the global level, combined with counterfeit food and adulteration scandals of the very worst kind, endangering the health of all and sickening many, has motivated a small but growing number of Chinese to return to a traditional vegetarian diet.
One such person is Long Kuan, an early follower of urban China’s growing vegan trend. “It started when global warming was a big issue, and I looked into a lot of information about food’s impact on the environment,” she said. “I didn’t know anything about it before. I was just loving the animals and didn’t want to eat them.” Four years ago, Long Kuan was a pop singer, pixie-faced, in her late 20s, with little pig tails. A song of hers out at the time, “LOHAS Queen,” was an ode to LOHAS – “lifestyles of health and sustainability.” She decided to switch from just being vegetarian to being vegan, after reading a United Nations report that said that raising, slaughtering and processing livestock produces more greenhouse gases than cars. And these days, she says, it’s a lot easier to be a vegetarian or vegan in China than it used to be.
With this growing trend towards the veg-diet, there has been an upsurge in vegetarian and veg-friendly restaurants. One example is Beijing’s Gingko Tree café with its vegan buffet, and flavorful dishes, offering all the taste but none of the meat that many Chinese love. On the menu at Gingko Tree are lamb kebobs with cumin, fish with black bean sauce, a salad, spring rolls and rice — all vegan. Chinese vegetarian cooks have ingenious ways of making tofu taste like meat. And while some purists may feel that defeats the purpose of giving up meat, Long Kuan celebrates having so many different flavors to choose from, with less harm to animals and the planet.
Another example is Shanghai’s Jen Dow buffet style restaurant offering over 200 different dishes. A rich compliment of meat substitute dishes, such as duck legs made out of mushrooms, are complemented with numerous vegetables just as they are – powerfully adaptable ingredients that make some delicious dishes, with no need for artifice. A selection of colorful skewers of vegetables and tofu for hotpot, and a seemingly endless row of stir-fried vegetables, including white asparagus, bamboo shoots, and burdock, and all sorts of melon, are to be found in this popular vegetarian hot spot.
China once had one of the highest rates of vegetarianism in the world, rivaling even India, having been sparked by the influx of Buddhism over 1,000 years ago. This continued until very recently, and it wasn’t very long ago that T. Colin Campbell was able to document the health advantages of a plant-based diet in his famous book, The China Study. Today, with many Chinese viewing a meat diet as a sign of success, and with a growing middle class, a strong shift away from the more traditional plant-based diet occurred. But with that change towards a western diet, a surge in the incidence of western lifestyle diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, has taken place.
While statistics on the number of vegetarians in China are hard to come by, one analyst placed the number at around 50 million people. While that’s not much compared to the one and a half billion people in China, many think it is more than enough to spark a renaissance of its once flourishing vegetarian diet.