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Zoonotic diseases

Zoonotic diseases:
the dire consequences of factory farming

The intensification of modern farming is an increasing hazard for human health - the stark message of a report commissioned by Compassion in World Farming with support from the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and Tubney Charitable Trust.

The report, Zoonotic Diseases, Human Health and Farm Animal Welfare, summarises 5 reports written by experts in their field on Campylobacter, Salmonella, E. coli, Avian and Swine influenza.

Key findings

  • The dramatic rise in meat consumption, particularly chicken and pig meat, increases the risk of exposure to dangerous food borne pathogens.
  • The risk of E. coli and Salmonella infection is often greater in intensive production systems and long distance transport of animals also increases the risk of infection of these bacteria and Campylobacter.
  • There is a risk of emerging new strains of influenza viruses as a result of the long distance transport of animals, with potentially devastating impacts for human health.
  • The risk from zoonotic diseases can be reduced by using animal breeds, diets and management conditions that minimise stress to the animals.

Increasing productivity: at what cost?

The bacteria Campylobacter, Salmonella and E. coli all cause serious disease in people, and can even be fatal. Intensive farming practices are increasing the risk of these bacteria in our food, as stressed animals become more susceptible to infection.

The report finds the risk of swine and bird flu pandemics could be increased by intensive pig and poultry farms. These farms are often in the same area, having concentrated numbers of confined animals, potentially enhancing the risk of avian influenza transferring to pigs. The re-assortment of the virus can lead to new strains that are infectious to humans. Additionally, the transporting of animals over long distances also increases the risk of spread and mixing of virus strains between them.

Compassion in World Farming calls on Governments, Inter-Governmental Organisations (IGOs) and the food production industry to urgently work together to implement the following recommendations:

  • Ensure health – by developing farming policies for humane sustainable food supplies that ensure the health of animals and people. This includes using animal breeds, diets and management conditions that minimise stress and optimise animal welfare and immunity.
  • Surveillance and vaccination – helping minimise the spread of disease.
  • Limit transport – ensuring animals are slaughtered humanely on or near to the farm where they were raised.
  • Invest in research and knowledge transfer – helping support farmers to develop and implement higher welfare livestock systems.
  • Reduce non–therapeutic antibiotic use – limiting the risk of antibiotic resistance.
  • Encourage consumers to eat less and higher welfare meat – reducing the risk of exposure to food infected with Salmonella, Campylobacter or E. Coli.

Download the report

Download the original reports

Zoonotic diseases

The dire consequences of factory farming

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