Posts Tagged ‘health’

Turf kicked up in government U-turn

26 November, 2009

Grass-fed livestock… animals that the Lancet forgot!

A government u-turn was swiftly undertaken yesterday, following a report published in The Lancet. Embarrasing conflicts of opinion emerged from different UK goverment departments. 

The health department funded a study which proposed we should eat less meat, to reduce numbers of ruminant livestock (which belch out methane, a powerful greenhouse gas) and therefore counteract the health hazards of both climate change, and heart disease!

Alan Dangour, one of the authors of the report and a senior lecturer at the London School of School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that a dramatic change could be made without giving up meat.
“We are not saying become vegetarian, we are just saying cut back on the amount of meat and meat products you eat.” “Even cutting back by a third, as we suggest, would still mean that the average adult was still eating one meat based meal every day.”

The report recommended cutting ruminant livestock by almost one-third, saying this would allow the agricultural sector to meet its share of targets to cut carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2030.

Defra, however, had not been consulted. They have now pointed out that British farmers won’t be happy about the idea of less livestock in the UK. They also highlight the fact that cutting Britain’s cattle and sheep should not necessarily be prioritised ahead of reductions in the more damaging phenomenon of rainforest-clearance beef herds in tropical regions.

The Defra panic –  BBC News (25 Nov)

James Landale reports that Defra had to act to calm worried farmers: ‘A senior official sent out an email telling them not to worry about the Lancet report: “This, as we know, rather over-simplifies a complex issue and I don’t think that Andy Burnham has actually said anything that supports the headline that govt supports a 30% reduction in farm animals.”’

Soil Association comment:

The Soil Association’s report on soil carbon, released today, shows that grass-fed livestock has a critical role to play in minimising carbon emissions from farming – which should be set against the methane emissions from cattle and sheep. This is because grasslands for grazing livestock represent vitally important carbon stores.

Sheepdrove comment:

Grass-fed animals on permanent pastures in Britain are far more sustainable than grain-fed livestock in the USA, for example. Therefore eating less meat is too simple a concept. It is more important than ever to choose carefully where your meat comes from. Read more about grass-fed livestock…


Polluted people

28 July, 2009

The pollution of your body started early in life.

Swine Flu renamed and re-assessed

30 April, 2009

The latest updates:

  • 30 April 2009 — From today, World Health Organisation. (W.H.O.) will refer to the new influenza virus as influenza A(H1N1).
  • Despite being previously named ‘Swine Flu’ the latest Pandemic Influenza is actually a quadruple combined virus – partly American and European pig flu, bird flu and human flu.
  • Yesterday the combined H1N1 influenza was stepped up to PHASE 5 on the Pandemic scale, defined by W.H.O.
  • H1N1 flu virus link to USA pig industry

    30 April, 2009

    CDC Confirms link to USA pig industry

    by Michael Greger, MD

    Michael Greger, MD

    Michael Greger, MD

    Factory farming and long-distance live animal transport apparently led to the emergence of the ancestors of the current swine flu threat.

    A preliminary analysis of the H1N1 swine flu virus isolated from human cases in California and Texas reveals that six of the eight viral gene segments arose from North American swine flu strains circulating since 1998, when a new strain was first identified on a factory farm in North Carolina.

    This analysis, first released by Columbia University’s Center for Computation Biology, has now been reportedly confirmed by researchers at the University of Edinburgh, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and virologist Ruben Donis, chief of the molecular virology and vaccines branch at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Robert Webster, the director of the U.S. Collaborating Center of the World Health Organization, and considered the “godfather of flu research,”[1] is reported as saying “The triple reassortant in pigs [first discovered in the U.S. in 1998] seems to be the precursor.”

    Plaguing People and Pigs

    The worst plague in human history was triggered by an H1N1 avian flu virus, which jumped the species barrier from birds to humans[2] and went on to kill as many as 50 to 100 million people in the 1918 flu pandemic.[3] We then passed the virus to pigs, where it has continued to circulate, becoming one of the most common causes of respiratory disease on North American pig farms.[4]

    Tracing the Origins of Today’s Virus

    Since the progenitor of the swine flu virus currently threatening to trigger a human pandemic has now been identified, it is critical to explore what led to its original emergence and spread. Scientists postulate that a human flu virus may have starting circulating in U.S. pig farms as early as 1995, but “by mutation or simply by obtaining a critical density, caused disease in pigs and began to spread rapidly through swine herds in North America. [emphasis added]”[9] It is therefore likely no coincidence that the virus emerged in North Carolina, the home of the nation’s largest pig production operation. North Carolina has the densest pig population in North America and reportedly boasts more than twice as many corporate pig mega-factories as any other state.[10]

    The year of emergence, 1998, was the year North Carolina’s pig population hit ten million, up from two million just six years earlier.[11] Concurrently, the number of pig farms was decreasing, from 15,000 in 1986 to 3,600 in 2000.[12] How can five times more animals be raised on almost five times fewer farms? By crowding about 25 times more pigs into each operation.

    In the 1980s, more than 85% of all North Carolina pig farms had fewer than 100 animals. By the end of the 1990s, operations confining more than 1,000 animals controlled about 99% of the state’s pig population.[13] Given that the primary route of swine flu transmission is thought to be the same as human flu—via droplets or aerosols of infected nasal secretions[14]—it’s no wonder experts blame overcrowding for the emergence of new flu virus mutants.

    “A Recipe for Disaster”

    The European Commission’s agricultural directorate warns that the “concentration of production is giving rise to an increasing risk of disease epidemics.”[26] Concern over epidemic disease is so great that Danish laws have capped the number of pigs per farm and put a ceiling on the total number of pigs allowed to be raised in the country.[27]

    No such limit exists in the United States or in Mexico. The fact that the first confirmed human case of swine flu appeared in close proximity to the largest pig factory in Mexico, which slaughters nearly a million pigs a year (out of a country-wide total of 15 million), may not have been a coincidence.

    Warnings Unheeded

    The public health community has been warning about the risks posed by factory farms for years. More than five years ago, in 2003, the American Public Health Association, the largest and oldest association of public health professionals in the world, called for a moratorium on factory farming.[28] In 2005, the United Nations urged that “[g]overnments, local authorities and international agencies need to take a greatly increased role in combating the role of factory-farming,” which, they said, combined with live animal markets, “provide ideal conditions for the [influenza] virus to spread and mutate into a more dangerous form.”[29]

    Last April, the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production released its final report. The prestigious, independent panel chaired by a former Kansas Governor and including a former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, former Assistant Surgeon General, and the Dean of the University of Iowa College of Public Health, concluded that industrialized animal agriculture posed “unacceptable” public health risks: “Due to the large numbers of animals housed in close quarters in typical [industrial farm animal production] facilities there are many opportunities for animals to be infected by several strains of pathogens, leading to increased chance for a strain to emerge that can infect and spread in humans.”[30]

    Specific to the veal crate-like metal stalls that confine breeding pigs like those on the North Carolina factory from which the first hybrid swine flu virus was discovered in North America, the Pew Commission asserted that “[p]ractices that restrict natural motion, such as sow gestation crates, induce high levels of stress in the animals and threaten their health, which in turn may threaten human health.”[31] Unfortunately we don’t tend to “shore up the levees” until after the disaster, but now that we know swine flu viruses can evolve to efficiently transmit human-to-human we need to follow the Pew Commission’s recommendations to abolish extreme confinement practices like gestation crates as they’re already doing in Europe, and to follow the advice of the American Public Health Association to declare a moratorium on factory farms.

    A “Reservoir of Viruses” in the U.S.

    With massive concentrations of farm animals within whom to mutate, these new swine flu viruses in North America seem to be on an evolutionary fast track, jumping and reassorting between species at an unprecedented rate.[32] This reassorting, Webster’s team concludes, makes the 65 million strong U.S. pig population an “increasingly important reservoir of viruses with human pandemic potential.”[33] “We used to think that the only important source of genetic change in swine influenza was in Southeast Asia,” said Christopher Olsen, a molecular virologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Now, “we need to look in our own backyard for where the next pandemic may appear.”[34]

    Dr. Michael Greger is director of public health and animal agriculture for The Humane Society of the United States.



    [1] Council on Foreign Relations. 2005. Session 1: Avian flu-where do we stand? Conference on the Global Threat of Pandemic Influenza, November 16.…uenza_session_1.html

    [2] Belshe RB. 2005. The origins of pandemic influenza-lessons from the 1918 virus. New England Journal of Medicine 353(21):2209-11.

    [3] Johnson NPAS, Mueller J. Updating the accounts: global mortality of the 1918–1920 “Spanish” influenza pandemic. Bull Hist Med. 2002;76:105–15.

    [4] Zhou NN, Senne DA, Landgraf JS, et al. 1999. Genetic reassortment of avian, swine, and human influenza A viruses in American pigs. Journal of Virology 73:8851-6.

    [5] Wuethrich B. 2003. Chasing the fickle swine flu. Science 299:1502-5.

    [6] Zhou NN, Senne DA, Landgraf JS, et al. 1999. Genetic reassortment of avian, swine, and human influenza A viruses in American pigs. Journal of Virology 73:8851-6.

    [7] Webby RJ, Swenson SL, Krauss SL, Gerrish PJ, Goyal SM, and Webster RG. 2000. Evolution of swine H3N2 influenza viruses in the United States. Journal of Virology 74:8243-51.

    [8] Rabadan, R. 2009. Influenza A (H1N1) “swine flu”: worldwide (04) [1] ProMED Digest 2009. 28 April. Volume 2009 : Number 196.,F2400_P1001_

    [9] Webby RJ, Swenson SL, Krauss SL, Gerrish PJ, Goyal SM, and Webster RG. 2000. Evolution of swine H3N2 influenza viruses in the United States. Journal of Virology 74:8243-51.

    [10] Environmental Defense. 2000. Factory hog farming: the big picture. November.

    [11] Duke University Center on Globalization, Governance and Competitiveness. 2006. Hog farming overview. February 23.

    [12] North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. 2001. North Carolina agriculture overview. February 23.

    [13] Wuethrich B. 2003. Chasing the fickle swine flu. Science 299:1502-5.

    [14] Brown IH. 2000. The epidemiology and evolution of influenza viruses in pigs. Veterinary Medicine 74:29-46.

    [15] 1993. Overcrowding pigs pays-if it’s managed properly. National Hog Farmer, November 15.

    [16] Wuethrich B. 2003. Chasing the fickle swine flu. Science 299:1502-5.

    [17] Webster RG and Hulse DJ. 2004. Microbial adaptation and change: avian influenza. Revue Scientifique et Technique 23(2):453-65.

    [18] USDA. 2009. Poultry Slaughter 2008. Annual Summary.

    [19] USDA. 2009. Chickens and Eggs 2008 Summary.

    [20] Wuethrich B. 2003. Chasing the fickle swine flu. Science 299:1502-5.

    [21] Shields DA and Mathews KH Jr. 2003. Interstate livestock movements. USDA Economic Research Service: Electronic Outlook Report from the Economic Research Service, June.

    [22] MacKenzie D. 1998. This little piggy fell ill. New Scientist, September 12.

    [23] Ibid.

    [24] Delgado C, Rosegrant M, Steinfeld H, Ehui S, and Courbois C. 1999. Livestock to 2020: the next food revolution. Food, Agriculture, and the Environment Discussion Paper 28. For the International Food Policy Research Institute, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the International Livestock Research Institute.

    [25] Webster RG, Sharp GB, and Claas CJ. 1995. Interspecies transmission of influenza viruses. Americal Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine 152:525-30.

    [26] MacKenzie D. 1998. This little piggy fell ill. New Scientist, September 12, p. 1818.

    [27] Ibid.

    [28] American Public Health Association. 2003. Precautionary moratorium on new concentrated animal feed operations. Policy number 20037.

    [29] United Nations. 2005. UN task forces battle misconceptions of avian flu, mount Indonesian campaign. UN News Centre, October 24.

    [30] Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. 2008. Expert panel highlights serious public health threats from industrial animal agriculture. Press release issued April 11.  Accessed August 26, 2008.

    [31] Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. 2008. Putting meat on the table: industrial farm animal production in America. Executive summary, p. 13.  Accessed August 26, 2008.

    [32] Wuethrich B. 2003. Chasing the fickle swine flu. Science 299:1502-5.

    [33] Webby RJ, Rossow K, Erickson G, Sims Y, and Webster R. 2004. Multiple lineages of antigenically and genetically diverse influenza A virus co-circulate in the United States swine population. Virus Research 103:67-73.

    [34] Wuethrich B. 2003. Chasing the fickle swine flu. Science 299:1502-5.

    Flu Pandemic Prevention FREE DVD

    30 April, 2009

    A new strain of influenza – Swine Flu – has arrived in the UK.
    Sheepdrove Organic Farm wants you to have the information you need to understand the potential for influenza pandemics, and how we can do something to prevent them.

    We believe factory farms are a wholly unnatural situation that favours the flu virus. Trade routes carry animal diseases around the world, and today’s air travel can create a global pandemic in record time.

    flu_dvd_mainWe are giving away the Pandemic Prevention DVD, featuring Dr Michael Greger. His presentation shows that industrialised agriculture – with densely populated warehouses of animals – provides the opportunity for influenza to mutate at a faster rate than the human race has ever witnessed before.

    Greger points out that pandemic prevention is possible. More than ever, it is vital for the human race to think carefully about how they treat their domesticated livestock.

    Send off for your free DVD

    Simply send a stamped (post-paid) self addressed envelope to: Free Pandemic Prevention DVD offer, Sheepdrove Organic Farm, Sheepdrove Road, Lambourn, Berkshire, RG17 7UU.


    Book recommendation

    Bird Flu – a virus of our own hatching by Dr Michael Greger is ideal if you want to know more about the threat from animal-human flu viruses, and what to do about it. The scientific facts are disturbing, but the book also offers advice on how to deal with a pandemic situation.

    What’s more, Greger points out that pandemic prevention is possible. More than ever, it is vital for the human race to think carefully about how they treat their domesticated livestock.

    Where do these diseases come from?

    Micahel Greger introduces a brief history of major diseases.

    Vote for the same rights as bees!

    14 November, 2008

    Georgina Downs’ landmark decision at the High Court today shows that when it comes to pesticide protection – humans are worse off than honeybees!

    In his ruling, Mr Justice Collins said it was interesting to note that the 1986 Control of Pesticides Regulations requires that beekeepers must be given 48 hours’ notice if pesticides harmful to bees are to be used.
    “It is difficult to see why residents should be in a worse position,” he said.

    Collins said the government had failed to comply with a European directive to protect rural residents. He ruled that Georgina Downs had produced “solid evidence” that residents had suffered harm.

    How have successive UK governments been able to get away with having such a poor sense of balance when it comes to pesticides? And why did the NFU respond so badly to the court’s ruling? Sprays and seed treatments which harm honeybees are being brought into the spotlight as scientists try to discover the causes behind colony collapse. But of course Ms Downs was campaigning many years before bees exhibited colony collapse syndrome and now only this legal battle seems to have won the goverment’s attention.

    Antibiotics in farming create superbugs like MRSA

    22 August, 2008

    Sheepdrove Organic Farm has written before about the huge problem of antibiotics in farming. We avoid them, as an organic farm. Our customers appreciate this, as do many food experts.

    If you were worried about MRSA consider this – industrial food production is making things worse. Researchers are finding mulit-resistant bacteria in all sorts of places, and it is linked with the over-use of antibiotics in farm animal care.

    New government figures show approximately 64% of all farm antibiotic use is in pigs, 32% in poultry, 3% in cattle, 1% in fish and less than 0.5% in sheep. [10] This demonstrates the huge reliance of the intensive pig and poultry industries on antibiotics. Grazing animals like cattle and sheep, on the other hand, are generally farmed less intensively, with greater access to the outdoors. As a result, they develop fewer diseases and do not need as many antibiotics. But some modern farms feed antibiotics as a matter of course – not just to cure an illness, which is the intended purpose.

    The Soil Association has just made a press release about it. Richard Young, Soil Association policy adviser, said:

    “We estimate that a move to less intensive, more health-oriented livestock farming, could reduce farm antibiotic use by up to 75%. This would help to safeguard the future effectiveness of critically important drugs, and over the coming years, save countless human lives.

    “The Government needs to get a grip on the situation quickly. Despite a warning from the House of Lords in 1998 on the veterinary use of fluoroquinolones and the increasing concern of the WHO and European regulators more recently, it has taken no effective action, and the use of these life-saving drugs is now increasing exponentially, year after year.

    “We accept there are occasions when these antibiotics should legitimately be used on farms to prevent the death or suffering of large mammals like cattle and pigs. But it is quite clear that through ignorance of the long-term consequences, many vets and farmers are still choosing them just because they are modern medicines, when for most conditions there are equally effective alternatives.”

    Government figures just published show another big jump in the veterinary use of two of the most important classes of antibiotics in human medicine. This is the sixth time in the last seven years that both fluoroquinolone and cephalosporin use has increased. In comparison with 2001, fluoroquinolone use in 2007 is up by 48% and cephalosporin use up by 138%. This despite large falls in livestock numbers over the same period. Since 2001 [4] pig numbers have fallen by 17%, poultry by 7%, cattle by 3% and sheep by 8%. [5]

    Click here for the full press release and free downloads. (source: Soil Association)

    The Cleaner Chicken Revolution starts here!

    3 July, 2008

    Here at Sheepdrove Organic Farm we have a new system for processing chickens which gives you a cleaner bird ready for the table.

    Our ‘hotbox’ should change forever the way poultry is processed commercially. Here’s how. Once chickens are on the processing line, they pass through a steamer to fluff up the feathers ready for plucking. This ensures they have cleaner skin than your average chicken.

    Why is that? Currently the industry standard is very different. Birds are dipped into a hot water bath called a scald tank. This water might be clean at the start of the day but gradually gets filthy as hundreds of chickens per minute wash through. This coats each bird in bacteria from the preceding birds.

    Sheepdrove’s hot box system is a healthier alternative to these baths, which we hope will be consigned to the past. Microbiological results are astounding – they show half as many bacteria on hotbox birds compared to those which have gone through a scald tank.

    Read all about it! Sheepdrove’s hotbox system had a feature story in the Guardian yesterday, written by ethical food campaigner Felicity Lawrence.