Pork Chops Won't Give You Swine Flu, but Here Are Other Reasons to Abstain

Chickens Pigs Cows graphic
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Watching this graphic live is mesmerizing and dismaying. Via Animal Visuals.

At TreeHugger we try to walk a narrow and perilous line that simultaneously supports people's efforts to eat more organically, locally, sustainably and ethically and yet avoids hewing to a strict vegetarian/vegan orthodoxy. With swine flu now getting closer but not yet classified a pandemic, it seems important not to jump to conclusions while we read the sometimes scary headlines. One thing is currently clear: The swine flu virus, according to news reports, dies when heated to 70 degrees Celsius, which means properly cooked pork will not cause virus transmission. However, in the spirit of meatless Mondays, there are some other reasons you might want to consider a pork vacation.1. Worldwide, pork production creates the conditions for pandemic.
As Carolina Lucas points out in today's Guardian, the last time swine flu broke out in 1988, the finger was pointed to confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) as one of the culprits - close quarters and cramped conditions with human handlers moving in and among the animals are all ready ways for contagion to spread. As Lucas comments, consolidation in the industry has meant ever fewer farms with more and more hogs - increasing even more the ability for disease to rapidly spread. Smithfield's Granja Carroll operations in Veracruz in Mexico processes about one million pigs per year. The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production concluded last year that these conditions are also conducive to recombination of different virus strains.
2. CAFOs are a cruel way for a pig (or chicken, or cow) to live.
Nicolette Hahn Niman is a livestock rancher and author of the book Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Good Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms. And, she's a vegetarian! Niman doesn't believe that meat is "inherently" ethically problematic. CAFOs, however, according to Niman, are totally unsustainable, harmful to human, animal, and environmental health. "Righteous" farming as Niman envisions it, would take us to newer forms of traditional farming.

3. Reducing meat consumption can lower your CO2 footprint...immediately. Of course, in Niman's view, we will seek out higher quality meats from sustainable operations. Which will make necessary that we reduce our consumption somewhat, not only to be able to afford periodic meat eating, and not only to reduce our CO2 footprint, but also to allow the developing peoples of the world to also get their share of sustainable protein.