As the world faces a global pandemic of swine flu, a major BBC Radio Four documentary has highlighted the potential links between swine flu and industrial pig farming which we revealed in our recent report The Role of Factory Farming in the Cause and Spread of Swine Influenza ( 59.60KB).
BBC File on 4 which will be broadcast again at 5pm on Sunday 14 June, asked why public health bodies were not aware of and prepared for the risks of a potential swine flu outbreak. It emphasised the links between swine flu in pigs and the human virus now circulating; and it echoed Compassion's call for the role of industrial farming in the chain of causation of the flu pandemic to be made clear.
The programme investigated claims that industrial pig farms in America played a key role in the development of the swine flu virus. It revealed further evidence that the current H1N1 virus has close genetic links to the 1998 swine flu virus which spread like wildfire through the United States pig population.
The Pew Commission, members of the National Institute for Infectious Diseases and Dr Richard Webby, a leading US virologist were among those interviewed for the programme, as was Sir Liam Donaldson, the UK's Chief Medical Advisor.
Responding to questions about the role of intensive farming of pigs and whether it could amplify the transmission of viruses, Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer replied: "Well all of those factors do make animals more susceptible to infection, so those are all things that need to be taken account of as we look to the future."
Compassion in World Farming has renewed its call on global authorities to identify the source of the current swine flu virus and to determine its links to factory farming.
Philip Lymbery, Chief Executive of Compassion in World Farming said: "This pandemic is a global wake-up call. The scientific and public health communities have known for years that the cramped and squalid conditions on factory farms can present a significant danger to human health. Intensive farming is cruel and unnatural. These appalling industrial facilities are at odds with the most fundamental principles of animal health and welfare - and could potentially be a threat to global public health."