Factory Farming Spreading
Disease Worldwide

Factory farming 'spreading disease around the world'

Felicity Lawrence, consumer affairs correspondent
Wednesday August 21, 2002
The Guardian (UK)

The worldwide spread of factory farming is increasing poverty and
threatening health, according to a report yesterday by Compassion in World
Farming.

The report collated for the first time data on livestock production in
developing countries and economic analysis from World Bank and UN reports.
The animal welfare organisation also examined figures on disease transmitted
through food production around the world.

It concluded that the "live stock revolution" was putting small farmers out
of business, thereby compromising developing countries' ability to feed
themselves, and leading to a global increase in antibiotic-resistant
infections.

"In developed northern countries we are moving away from this sort of
intensive farming - as we realise the extent of the environmental problems,
and the cost to human health - but we are exporting these problems to
developing countries instead," wrote Leah Garces, author of the report,
Detrimental Impacts of Industrial Animal Agriculture.

Global demand for meat is expected to double over 20 years, with developing
countries becoming the main producers for the rest of the world. But as
developing countries industrialise their livestock, their ability to feed
themselves declines as small rural farmers are forced out of business, the
report argued.

A case study showed how, until the 1970s, Brazil's livestock had been reared
on small farms where animals and crops were interdependent and
self-sustaining, with animals providing cash for food in years of poor
harvest. By 1991, the industry was "vertically integrated", a few companies
controlling meat processing, production of grain for feed, and farming
itself. Thousands of small farmers could no longer compete.

This pattern was repeated across Asia, Africa and Central America, and was
driving urban migration and environmental degradation.

Industrial animal farming also had implications for human health and food
safety. Animals were often kept in overcrowded, poorly ventilated, dirty
conditions - the ideal climate for disease.

Although the EU had banned use of animal parts in animal feed because of
BSE, in many countries industrial livestock was still fed animal material,
and meat from them was imported into the EU.

Use of antibiotics to promote growth and prevent disease was routine.
Nevertheless, food-borne illness, almost exclusively associated with animal
products, was rising dramatically. Estimates by the UK public health
laboratory service suggested 30% of raw chicken was contaminated with
salmonella, and 75% was contaminated with campylobacter. In the Netherlands,
supplying much of the UK market, 85% of pigs sampled were found to be
infected with campylobacter.

Mirroring the rise in food-borne illness, was an increase in
antibiotic-resistant infections. Their impact in developing countries could
be devastating, the report said. Tests by Compassion in World Farming on
factory chickens sold near Cape Town, South Africa, found they were
contaminated by bacteria that caused severe diarrhoea, skin ulceration, and
even typhoid. The bacteria were 100% resistant to common antibiotics.

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