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Daily Newscasts

Swine Flu: Some Point to Factory Farms as Super Incubators for Virus

April 30, 2009

There are many unanswered questions relating to the outbreak of swine flu, mainly 'Where did it start?' and 'How is the virus spreading?' Some observers think industrial animal feeding operations are to blame.

Bob Martin, senior officer with Pew Environment Group, says he’s not surprised by the outbreak. His group warned last year that industrial pig farms could become breeding grounds for new strains of flu.

"It’s very sad when this kind of thing happens, especially when a year ago we released a report saying this is a very strong concern. At the time, we were saying it’s not a matter of if, but when."

Martin blames "perfect" conditions for the development of the novel virus, including warm weather and the close proximity of animals, which passed viruses back and forth and then on to farm workers.

California is leading the way in new farming systems. Last year, voters passed Proposition 2, which bans gestation crates for swine and chickens, adds Martin.

"That kind of production system has been banned in California thanks to Proposition 2. What that will lead to is rules requiring more space for pigs. It’ll probably go to a pen system, which is a much more beneficial alternative."

The report recommends antibiotics be used sparingly with swine and that farm workers be tested regularly.

More information is available at

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA