Odds & Ends: Flu Factories, Shelter "Pets" & JVM

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Here are a few links I’ve been sitting on for awhile. So much to discuss, so little time. Oh, the life of a B-list blogger!

In no particular order:

1. Flu Factories: Tracing the Origins of the Swine Flu Pandemic

Dr. Greger, whose Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching I reviewed several years back, was kind enough to send me a copy of his latest project, Flu Factories: Tracing the Origins of the Swine Flu Pandemic. Flu Factories is a one-hour presentation by Dr. Greger on the H1N1 influenza pandemic; it’s available for purchase on DVD, or for free viewing (in 40 parts!) on the HSUS’s website.

While I haven’t yet had a chance to view the entire video, if it’s anything like Bird Flu (and, judging from the chapter titles, there looks to be much crossover, particularly in the areas of biology and history), it’s bound to be both illuminating and terrifying. Although Dr. Greger doesn’t take an explicitly animal rights/vegan position in Bird Flu (nor do I know anything about his personal politics, his position at the HSUS notwithstanding), he does emphasize the role that factory farming – and, to a lesser extent, animal agriculture in general – plays in zoonotic diseases, including the influenza (avian and swine). If you can ignore the speciesism (e.g., in the quoted resources), it’s well worth a watch.

Embedded above is a clip from the presentation: Chapter 2, the 1918 Flu Pandemic.

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: Bird Flu by Michael Greger (2006)

Thursday, January 25th, 2007

Well, it took me long enough, but I’ve finally read and reviewed Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching, by Michael Greger (2006). The review is posted on Amazon, but in the spirit of supporting independent publishing, if you decide to buy a copy, hop on over to Lantern Books to make your purchase. Dr. Greger has also made the book, in its entirety, available for free online: http://birdflubook.com – so really, you’ve got no reason not to read it.

Just to add to the review I posted on Amazon – a longer version of which I included after the jump – this is one of the rare books I’d recommend to anyone, veg*n or omni, ARA or anti. Greger does address animal welfare issues in the animal agriculture industry, however, this isn’t his main focus. Rather, he explains how our mistreatment of animals actually comes back to bite us in the arse, time and time again. For example, commonplace factory farming practices make livestock more susceptible to disease. Because of various anatomical and biological similarities that chicken and pigs (in particular) share with humans, these diseases reproduce, mutate and evolve in their avian and swine hosts until they’re capable of infecting people. Case in point: bird flu, which may very well cause the next global pandemic.

Given that Greger is the is Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture for the HSUS and was previously Farm Sanctuary’s Chief Medical Investigator, I think it’s safe to say that he’s a vegetarian or vegan, with at least a strong animal welfare streak. Even so, he avoids calling for the worldwide adoption of veganism. His most radical suggestion is a global moratorium on (chicken) meat/egg production: cycle through the existing flocks of broiler and laying birds, and then simply stop breeding more in order to eradicate bird flu from all domestic bird sources. Implicit in the plan is the eventual return to chicken and egg production, albeit on a less intensive scale (read: no more factory farming and artificially cheap meat). Not exactly ideal by animals rights standards, but still too radical to actually happen anytime soon.

So, while the book isn’t explicitly an animal rights (or even welfare) treatise, it does make a very compelling case for the humane treatment of animals – if not for their sake, then for our own. And, quite frankly, self-preservation might be the only argument to sway some hard-core omnivores.

If you’d like to learn more, Dr. Greger will be updating the online version of the book; he’s already noted some important corrections, such as how Tamiflu cannot be readministered through urine (!). He also maintains a newsletter, “Dr. Greger’s Pandemic Updates”, over at Google Groups. And do check out Dr. Karen Davis (of United Poultry Concerns) and Dr. John Oxford’s (.pdf; Centre for Infectious Diseases) reviews, too.

And, of course, a video summary for the bibliophobic among us:

If anyone needs me, I’ll be in my basement bunker fortress of solitude, rearranging my canned corn.

(More below the fold…)

Priorities, anyone?

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

“The prospect of a virulent flu to which we have absolutely no resistance is frightening. However, to me, the threat is much greater to the poultry industry. I’m not as worried about the U.S. human population dying from bird flu as I am that there will be no chicken to eat.

– The executive editor of Poultry magazine, in a 2005 editorial, as quoted by Michael Greger in Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching.

FYI: Review and discussion coming soon. I just finished reading it today, and want to do some additional research before jumping in. Great book, though – check it out online if you’ve got a chance!

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My very first shout-out!

Monday, November 13th, 2006

I received my first package of swag in the mail Friday, so here comes the promised shout-out.

Colbert Report Shout-Out

Sorry, I had to do that. Really.

Anywho – the good folks at Lantern Books sent me copies of Dr. Michael Greger’s newest book, Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching (tbr November 15),

Bird Flu by Michael Greger

as well as Hillary Rettig’s recent release, The Lifelong Activist: How to Change the World Without Losing Your Way.

The Lifelong Activist by Hillary Rettig

Thanks, guys!

So far I’ve only had a chance to skim each, but they both look like good reads. Reviews forthcoming – I’ll post them here and on Amazon when I’m done.

BTW, if you haven’t yet, go check out Lantern Books. Their catalog focuses on a number of progressive topics, including animal advocacy, vegetarianism, nature and environment, and social thought. They also maintain a mailing list for animal advocates and NYC residents (sign up to receive notices of NYC events, and watch while this Kansan turns green with envy).

As always, if you’ve got a book, CD, movie, etc. that you’d like me to mention here and/or review – I like stuff. Especially free stuff. Details and contact info here.

An interesting aside on Bird Flu – one of my biggest gripes with the mainstream media is their (collective) bad habit of not following up on stories. I was recently considering this in relation to the whole bird flu scare (remember how the bird flu reports practically disappeared after 2004, even though the virus is still spreading today?), when I happened to spot a mention of the bird flu on the CNN ticker.

The general gist of it:

The U.S. government has approved the use of firefighting foam to kill chickens quickly if there is an outbreak of deadly bird flu in commercial poultry.

The Agriculture Department says water-based foam can be an alternative to carbon dioxide, which has traditionally been used to quickly kill large quantities of birds.

Foam can be used to suffocate floor-reared flocks _ chickens and turkeys raised primarily for meat _ to contain deadly bird flu, said APHIS spokeswoman Karen Eggert. Foam also can be used in outbreaks of rapidly spreading disease such as Exotic Newcastle, a fatal respiratory virus in birds, when state or federal officials deem it necessary.

And it can be used when birds are in structurally unsound buildings, such as a building damaged by a hurricane or other natural disaster, she said.

But in Canada, a senior official with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said this form of killing is not considered humane and Canada will not adopt the practice.

“The information that we have at this point in time suggests that rather than humanely destroying the birds, they in effect drown from inhaling the material, the water in it.”

The practice has other critics. Animal rights advocates argue against using the foam because it suffocates the animals, and they are urging authorities to use gases instead.

Lovely. And in their true lazy, ADD-addled fashion, nary a word of this was said on CNN. Apparently, only the intern who operates the ticker thought that widespread, government-endorsed animal cruelty was worth a mention.

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