Swine Flu: Who's to Blame?

As I read about swine flu over the weekend, I was again disappointed by the media's coverage of zoonoses (diseases spread by animals to humans), something I've written about extensively in State of the World 2005 and Happier Meals: Rethinking the Global Meat Industry. While Andrew Revkin of The New York Times did mention in his blog the potential role of industrial livestock agriculture in the spread of zoonoses, like swine flu, most reporters are choosing to focus their attention on small farmers raising pigs in rural Mexico. Most articles have said nothing about the increasing size and intensity of pork production in that country-about half of the pigs raised in the country live on factory farms, with some located very close to cities.

Tom Philpott at Grist also points out that the connection between industrial pig operations and swine flu is being made in Mexico, but not here, something that became evident to me over the weekend. A member of the Mexican Congress wrote me message on Facebook (gotta love technology), asking me to come address a Congressional briefing on the meat industry's role in swine flu and other animal diseases that can spread from livestock to people. Too bad that policymakers in the United States aren't making the same links--yet.