Many TreeHugger readers are probably aware that overuse of antibiotics on factory farms is leading to resistant diseases, so-called superbugs. But a new report in Science Now (h/t Mother Jones) shows that medicines to prevent viral infections in the impossibly cramped, inhumane conditions of factory farms are also leading to viruses that are resistant to the vaccines administered to prevent them.
Vaccines aren't supposed to cause disease. But that appears to be what's happening on Australian farms. Scientists have found that two virus strains used to vaccinate chickens there may have recombined to form a virus that is sickening and killing the animals. "This shows that recombination of such strains can happen and people need to think about it," says Glenn Browning, a veterinary microbiologist at the University of Melbourne, Parkville, in Australia and one of the co-authors on the paper.
Read either the Science Now piece or Tom Philpott's analysis in Mother Jones for more details on the suspected reasons for the virus recombination, if you're so inclined, but the nut of the situation is this (in Philpott's words):
If vaccinations are indeed driving new mutilations, then I see a gaping dilemma presented by industrial-scale hog farming: If we insist on raising animals in massive concentrations, we're forced to choose between a vaccination treadmill, which reduces the incidence level of flu in CAFOs but predictably generates novel, vaccine-resistant strains, or not vaccinating at all, which would allow flu to run rampant among millions of hogs. There is, of course, a third option: Stop raising animals under industrial-scale, dense conditions.
It's this third option that we clearly must take.
No need to rehash the myriad animal welfare problems and environmental pollution that concentrated animal feeding operations necessarily create, rather just add this bit of news the overwhelming stinking pile of horrors that factory farming is. No reform of this cruel system is possible; abolition of factory farms and evolution towards cruelty-free methods of animal raising (which I do think is possible, whatever strict vegans may argue) is the only solution here.