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Camel farm

Pig farm

Production of beef, poultry, pork and other meats tripled between 1980 and 2010 and will likely double again by 2050. This ever increasing meat consumption in a world of more than 7 billion people is already taking a staggering toll on wildlife, habitat, water resources, air quality and the climate.


Broiler chickens have been selectively bred for rapid growth to market weight                                                                               In 1920, a chicken reached 1 kg in 16 weeks, but today’s broiler chicken strains may now reach 2.6 kg, a size large enough for slaughter, in only 6 weeks. Daily growth rates have increased from 25 g to 100 g in the past 50 years — an increase of more than 300%. Genetic selection is so intense that the age by which broiler chickens reach market weight and are slaughtered has decreased by as much as one day every year. Ongoing selection for rapid growth is a severe welfare problem as it has resulted in poor bone health, leg disorders including deformities, lameness, tibial dyschondroplasia (TD), and ruptured tendons, and has been correlated with metabolic disorders such as ascites and sudden death syndrome. Heavier broilers (>2400g) are more likely to be lame. In some cases birds become completely unable to walk. Every year 45 billion chickens pass through the world, along with 1 billion pigs, which may have contact with an estimated 50 billion great reservoir of waterfowl. Never before has the avian influenza A virus had so many potential “stepping stones” from which to choose.

Broiler meat products are highly contaminated

Broilers and broiler meat products are highly contaminated with multiresistant Escherichia coli and are considered to be a source for human infections. The percentage of infected birds at Dutch broiler farms increased within the first week from 0–24% to 96–100% independent of the use of antibiotics and stayed 100% until slaughter. Multidrug-resistant enteric bacteria were isolated from turkey, cattle, and chicken farms and retail meat products in Oklahoma. Among the isolated species, multidrug-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae was prevalently isolated from most of the collected samples. All isolates were resistant to ampicillin, tetracycline, streptomycin, gentamycin, and kanamycin. In Germany multi resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) was detected in samples of turkey (40%) and broiler fattening farms (25%). The increasing availability of antibiotics in the 1950s and 1960s led many authority to predict the ‘beginning of the end’ for infection. Nothing could be further from the truth! Resistance is increasing and the output of novel antimicrobial compounds is decreasing. However hard we try and however clever we are, there is no question that organisms that have been around for 3 billion years, and have adapted to survive under the most extreme conditions, will always overcome whatever we decide to throw at them.


Poultry slaughterhouses and processing plants

Oncogenic viruses are commonly found in chickens and turkeys and cause tumors in them. Commercial chickens are positive for antibodies, but a proportion actually carry infectious virus. Virus may be present in chicken products and in eggs, therefore human exposure is universal and virtually unavoidable.The viruses show little potential in producing infectious particles in mammalian cells; nevertheless, they still have the capacity to infect and transform human cells. Serological evidence of antibodies in human blood sera of workers in poultry slaughterhouses to avian leukemia sarcoma viruses (ALSV) and to reticuloendotheliosis viruses (REV) has been found. The involvement of these animal oncogenic viruses in human cancer is indicated by epidemiological and experimental studies. Cancer mortality has been studied in the largest cohort to date, 20,132 workers in poultry slaughterhouses and processing plants, a group with the highest human exposures to these viruses. Mortality in poultry workers was compared with that in the US general population through the estimation of standardized mortality ratios. Significantly increased risks were observed for several sites: cancers of the buccal cavity and pharynx; pancreas; trachea/bronchus/lung; brain; cervix; lymphoid leukemia; monocytic leukemia; and tumors of the hemopoietic and lymphatic systems.This large study provides evidence that a human group with high exposure to poultry oncogenic viruses has a higher risk of death from several cancers.


Avian Influenza

There have been three great flu pandemics in recent history. In 1918, Spanish flu swept the globe, killing 40 million people before disappearing as mysteriously as it arrived. World War I did not cause the flu, but the close troop quarters and massive troop movements hastened the pandemic and probably both increased transmission and augmented mutation. The virus appeared for the first time in March 1918 at the military base Fort Funston in Kansas and spread from there to other military bases in the USA. The bird virus mutated spontaneously in Fort Riley, Kansas. At this fort they bred chickens and pigs for their own use. A cook could have become infected with the virus, that from the chickens via the pigs thus arrived in humans. Mutation by the virus was able to create contamination from man to man. Some speculate the soldier's immune systems were weakened by bad nourishment, as well as the stresses of combat and chemical attacks, increasing their susceptibility. A large factor in the worldwide occurrence of this flu was increased travel. Modern transportation systems made it easier for soldiers, sailors, and civilian travelers to spread the disease. With the unfolding of the seriously U.S. forces shipments to Europe, began its journey across the globe. In Spain, where there was no censorship in the media during the war, hit the big news- papers alarm when several people died from the virus. This gave the virus its rather misleading name Spanish flu. The death occurred in a few days of fever from influenza. The Spanish flu began with high fever, cough, sore throat and muscle aches followed by extreme fatigue and dizziness. One lost so much energy that they could not eat and drink.The breathing became increasingly difficult and within a few days came to death. The Spanish flu had remarkable ability to affect young adults. In August 1918, half of American soldiers in Europe the disease: 43,000 men did not survive. The disease quickly spread to other army corps, also the German. During World War I eventually died more than twice as many people to the Spanish flu than in the war operations. In september 2005, microbiologists from the U.S. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology managed to re-create the virus. The study was based on viral RNA from the lung of a soldier who died in 1918. The protein coat of the virus had H1N1 structure.

Avian flu strains caused two smaller pandemics in 1957 and 1968, which each killed over a million people. Highly pathogenic bird flu have strong links with intensified poultry breeding. The H5N1 virus emerged during a time of massive expansion of the poultry industry in the Far East. Birds are virus disseminators above all other animals.Waterfowl spread avian influenza. There have been outbreaks of avian influenza on egg farms. Free-range birds came into contact with the battery egg-layer hens, so one might come to

the conclusion that the infection was via virus-shedding wild birds. Wild ducks spread all avian influenza virus strains.

Between February and May 2003, an avian flu outbreak occurred in the Netherlands. A highly pathogenic avian influenza A virus of subtype H7N7 was isolated from chickens. The same virus was detected subsequently in 86 humans who handled affected poultry and in three of their family members. Of these 89 patients, 78 presented with conjunctivitis, 5 presented with conjunctivitis and influenza-like illness, 2 presented with influenza-like illness, and 4 did not fit the case definitions. Influenza-like illnesses were generally mild, but a fatal case of pneumonia in combination with acute respiratory distress syndrome occurred. 

Aquatic birds of the world are the reservoirs for all influenza A viruses; the virus is spread by fecal-oral transmission in untreated water. Influenza A viruses are frequently transmitted to domestic poultry and two of the 15 subtypes H5 and H7 can become highly pathogenic and have the capacity to decimate commercial poultry flocks. Because of the increasing demand for cheap animal protein the intensification of global poultry factories is seen as a major threat for the rise of highly pathogenic bird flu from poultry. Once avian influenza viruses have established in men they are transmitted by the respiratory airborne route.

South East Asia is a big potential mixing vessel of avian and human influenza viruses. The highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses H5N1, H7N2 and H7N9 claim more and more victims. These viruses come from domestic waterfowl like ducks and geese in South East Asia.

Live Animal Markets

Chickens were considered such atypical hosts that although virology surveillance in pigs in China, at the time human H5N1 infection was first recognized in 1997, the estimated 1,000 live animal markets in Hong Kong were not under surveillance. Hong Kong has a large number of markets where live poultry is slaughtered.The A (H5N1) bird flu was first recognized in Hong Kong in 1997, when chickens in poultry markets began dying and 18 people fell ill, 6 of them fatally. The government in Hong Kong destroyed the country’s entire poultry industry - killing more than a million birds - in just a few days. Buddhist monks and nuns in Hong Kong prayed for the souls of slaughtered chickens, and world health officials praised Hong Kong for averting a potential pandemic.

Poultry is sold live and slaughtered in the market ......

But the virus persisted in other parts of Asia, and reached Europe and Africa. That outbreak worried scientists, because most bird flues emerged briefly and then vanished. Millions of infected birds have died, and many millions more have been slaughtered. Since 1997, about 600 humans have been infected, and more than half died. Even the notorious Spanish flu pandemic (1918) killed only 2 percent of patients. The A (H5N1) bird flu kills more than 50% of infected humans and would be the ultimate organism to destruct the world population.


Our Western industrial processed food contains a high proportion of liquid chicken proteins that are in some cases processed unheated. The eggs are released on crushers, yolk and white are separated, eggshells and hail cords are stopped by filtration and it is heated up to 56 º Celsius. In the Netherlands (1983), 20,000 tons of liquid chicken protein was produced for the industry, which was marginally pasteurized and in some case was processed unheated. The pastry baker processes large number of products containing raw eggs. This may be the pasteurized protein product or he processes fresh eggs. The “whites” are collected in a special bin. Also housewives occasionally come in contact with raw egg whites when making cake batter or baking at home. Or when they beat the whites until they are fluffy.


In practically all poultry farms retroviruses, which are closely related to mouse mammary tumor retrovirus (MMTV), can be found. Laying hens hav e a high rate of ovarian tumors, but such tumors are uncommon in hens less than two years old. Oviductal and ovarian tumors are generally not differentiated, and genital tumors occur mainly in hens above the age at which most are slaughtered. In commercial poultry operations, hens are usually sacrificed after their first year as layers, aged between 22 and 24 months. Humans are commonly exposed to potentially oncogenic viruses that naturally infect and are frequently endemic in animals, which are part of the food chain, such as laying hens, chickens and eggs. Battery-egg laying hens attract retroviruses of mice on the grain stocks. Eggs are therefore permanently infected. Retrovirus secreting mice also come into contact with free-range chickens. Free-range chickens are often kept outdoors so that the risk of contamination through the pollution of food on the ground may be greater from mice feces. In the winter months, mice more than likely go to aviaries and poultry farms to collect scraps of food. Virus bearing and virus-secreting mice, cereals, chicken feed, poultry infection, vertical transmission of retroviruses via eggs and processing of raw protein in Bavarian cream and other confectionery products occur, man being the terminus. By consumption of undercooked egg-proteins, there is an increase of ovarian cancer, breast and prostate cancer in humans. The highest incidence of human breast cancer worldwide occurs in lands where the house mouse (Mus domesticus) is the native resident (Stewart TH 2000)


Fatter beef meat, chicken meat and pig meat contain more saturated animal fat and cause more welfare diseases like cerebrovascular disease, obesity and diabetes. Intensive cattle, pig and poultry farming by feeding the animals with soya meal and even fish meal and low doses of hormones and antibiotic growth promoters fatten the animals and let them grow faster.  As we have seen before, when chickens and pigs are bred and raised in the same environment the risk of migration from avian influenza virus to humans exists. China’s global dominance in animal agriculture is unparalleled and may impact pandemic risk. The world’s principal pork producer, reportedly possessing some of the largest industrial pig units in the world, confining as many as 250,000 pigs in single, six-story, concrete buildings. China also produces more than 70% of the world’s tonnage of duck meat and more than 90% of global goose meat. Given this annual mix of hundreds of millions of pigs and billions of domestic waterfowl, China has been described as a nationwide “reassortment laboratory” for avian influenza viruses. Colistin is widely used in Chinese livestock food, and this use probably led bactera to evolve and gain resistance to the drug. Colistin -resistant E.coli bacteria are already found in China. The deadly pandrug resistant strain was later discovered in Europe, Africa, South America and Canada.


Multiresistant bacteria in pork meat

The occurrence of MRSA (livestock-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) and/or plasmid-mediated AmpC beta-lactamase-producing (AmpC) Enterobacteriaceae in healthy livestock herds is known for some time. MRSA was detected in samples of turkey (40%) and broiler fattening farms (25%) as well as in pig farms with higher detection frequencies in fattening farms (73.3%) than in breeding farms (33.3%). ESBL/AmpC-producing E. coli was found in all investigated eight broiler farms (100%), in nine out of 16 (56.3%) breeding pig as well as in six out of 10 (60%) dairy cattle herds and in seven of 16 (43.8%) fattening pig holdings. Fecal emissions from animal husbandry seem to be one possible route for the spread of these resistant microorganisms in the environment.

Multiresistant bacteria in pig farms in The Netherlands

The prevalence of MRSA bacteria among pig herds is high (71%). A study on 24 of the 49 organic pig herds in the Netherlands reported 21% MRSA positive herds. Pigs do not live naturally. In factory farming animals in large numbers live close together. Organic farmers work in a more natural way and do not use toxic pesticides and no fertilizer. Their animals do have more space, but do not come out. Farmers have the most nature in fields and pastures changed. There is no natural balance. Often grows only one type of plant. The financial industry encourage farmers to use the released land to grow corn or other crops. The farmer uses pesticides and fertilizers to grow plants. The main underlying problem is that the pig farmers get so little for their piglets and pigs, there is no money to do more with animal welfare. The supermarkets squeeze their suppliers.


BBQ meat and hepatitis E virus

One in 10 sausages and processed pork meat products in England and Wales could cause hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection if undercooked, experts warn. Sausages should be cooked for 20 minutes at 70 degrees Celsius to kill the virus, they said. There has been an "abrupt rise" in the number of cases in England and Wales as people do not realize the risk, scientists advising the government say.


Rabbits are the second most farmed animal in Europe                                                                                                 – over 330 million are reared every year (that’s more than all of the EU’s pigs and cows combined). More than a billion rabbits are slaughtered each year worldwide – most for their meat, a few for their fur. China accounts for about half of that figure but the EU slaughters more than 326 million rabbits annually, mostly in France, Spain and Italy. Most live out their lives in a small area. The majority are crammed into barren sheds containing between 10,000 and 20,000 animals. The amount of space typically allowed for each rabbit is less than an A4 sheet of paper. While a well-cared for rabbit will live for about eight years or more, rabbits raised for meat are slaughtered at just three months old. Naturally they are able to hop about 70cm but, far from being able to jump, most commercially farmed rabbits aren’t even able to stretch or sit upright. Because of the low height of their cages, some can’t even raise their ears.

Female rabbits kept for breeding suffer particular problems. Those not used for nursing are kept on a restricted diet and often left to go hungry. On average, female rabbits are artificially inseminated just 11 days after giving birth.The impact of such a strain on their bodies is devastating, resulting in disease and death.

Hepatitis E virus (HEV) strains from farmed rabbits indicate that these mammals may be a reservoir for HEVs that cause infection in humans. The host range of HEV in Europe is expanding and zoonotic transmission of HEV from rabbits is possible.


Beef and dairy 

Intensive animal farming practices involve very large numbers of animals raised on limited land which require large amount of food and water. Veterinary input and medicaments are required to keep the animals healthy in crowded conditions. Cattle are kept constantly impregnated so their milk will never stop flowing, while their newborn calves are carted off to become veal. To produce milk and cheese mother cows, should put calves on the world and preferably at full stretch. Female calves grow up to dairy cow, the bulls go to the meat industry. Milk, cheese and meat production are inextricably linked.

Factory farming since the late 1950’s

The discovery of antibiotics and vaccines facilitated raising livestock in large numbers. According to the BBC, the era factory farming per se in Britain began in 1947 when a new Agriculture Act granted subsidies to farmers to encourage greater output by introducing new technology, in order to reduce Britain's reliance on imported meat. In the US, chickens were raised primarily on family farms until roughly 1960. Originally, the primary value in poultry was eggs, and meat was considered a byproduct of egg production. Its supply was less than the demand, and poultry was expensive. Except in hot weather, eggs could be shipped and stored without refrigeration for some time before going bad; this was important in the days before widespread refrigeration. In 1960s North America, pigs and cows began to be raised on factory farms. From its American and West European heartland factory farming became globalised in the later years of the 20th century and is still expanding and replacing traditional practices of stock rearing in an increasing number of countries. In 1990 factory farming accounted for 30% of world meat production and by 2005 this had risen to 40%. The practice of industrial animal agriculture is a relatively recent development. The discovery of vitamins and their role in animal nutrition, in the first two decades of the 20th century, led to vitamin supplements, which allowed chickens to be raised indoors. The discovery of antibiotics and vaccines facilitated raising livestock in larger numbers by reducing disease. Chemicals developed for use in World War II gave rise to synthetic pesticides. Developments in shipping networks and technology have made long-distance distribution of agricultural produce feasible. Factory farms hold large numbers of animals, typically cows, pigs, turkeys, or chickens, often indoors, typically at high densities. The aim of the operation is to produce large quantities of meat, eggs, or milk at the lowest possible cost. Food is supplied in place. Methods employed to maintain health and improve production may include some combination of disinfectants, antimicrobial agents, anthelmintics, hormones and vaccines; protein, mineral and vitamin supplements; frequent health inspections; biosecurity; climate-controlled facilities and other measures. Physical restraints, e.g. fences or creeps, are used to control movement or actions regarded as undesirable. Breeding programs are used to produce animals more suited to the confined conditions and able to provide a consistent food product.Intensive production of livestock and poultry is widespread in developed nations. Industrial production was estimated to account for 42 percent of pork, 67% of poultry meat and 50 percent of total egg production.

Farm flocks tended to be small because the hens largely fed themselves through foraging, with some supplementation of grain, scraps, and waste products from other farm ventures. Such feedstuffs were in limited supply, especially in the winter, and this tended to regulate the size of the farm flocks. Soon after poultry keeping gained the attention of agricultural researchers (around 1896), improvements in nutrition and management made poultry keeping more profitable and businesslike. Prior to about 1910, chicken was served primarily on special occasions or Sunday dinner. Poultry was shipped live or killed, plucked, and packed on ice (but not eviscerated). The "whole, ready-to-cook broiler" was not popular until the 1950s, when end-to-end refrigeration and sanitary practices gave consumers more confidence. Before this, poultry were often cleaned by the neighborhood butcher, though cleaning poultry at home was a commonplace kitchen skill. Two kinds of poultry were generally used: broilers or "spring chickens"; young male chickens, a byproduct of the egg industry, which were sold when still young and tender (generally under 3 pounds live weight), and "stewing hens", also a byproduct of the egg industry, which were old hens past their prime for laying.

The major milestone in 20th century poultry production was the discovery of vitamin D, which made it possible to keep chickens in confinement year-round. Before this, chickens did not thrive during the winter (due to lack of sunlight), and egg production, incubation, and meat production in the off-season were all very difficult, making poultry a seasonal and expensive proposition.Year-round production lowered costs, especially for broilers. Improvements in production and quality were accompanied by lower labor requirements. In the 1930s through the early 1950s, 1,500 hens was considered to be a full-time job for a farm family. In the late 1950s, egg prices had fallen so dramatically that farmers typically tripled the number of hens they kept, putting three hens into what had been a single-bird cage or converting their floor-confinement houses from a single deck of roosts to triple-decker roosts. Not long after this, prices fell still further and large numbers of egg farmers left the business. This fall in profitability was accompanied by a general fall in prices to the consumer, allowing poultry and eggs to lose their status as luxury foods.

By the late 1950s, poultry production had changed dramatically. Large farms and packing plants could grow birds by the tens of thousands. Chickens could be sent to slaughterhouses for butchering and processing into prepackaged commercial products to be frozen or shipped fresh to markets or wholesalers. Meat-type chickens currently grow to market weight in six to seven weeks, whereas only fifty years ago it took three times as long. Once a meat consumed only occasionally, the common availability and lower cost has made chicken a common meat product within developed nations.

Today, eggs are produced on large egg ranches on which environmental parameters are well controlled. Chickens are exposed to artificial light cycles to stimulate egg production year-round. In addition, it is a common practice to induce molting through careful manipulation of light and the amount of food they receive in order to further increase egg size and production. On average, a chicken lays one egg a day, but not on every day of the year. This varies with the breed and time of year. In 1900, average egg production was 83 eggs per hen per year. In 2000, it was well over 300. In the United States, laying hens are butchered after their second egg laying season. In Europe, they are generally butchered after a single season. The laying period begins when the hen is about 18–20 weeks old (depending on breed and season). Males of the egg-type breeds have little commercial value at any age, and all those not used for breeding (roughly fifty percent of all egg-type chickens) are killed soon after hatching. The old hens also have little commercial value. Thus, the main sources of poultry meat 100 years ago (spring chickens and stewing hens) have both been entirely supplanted by meat-type broiler chickens.

Soya meal, fish meal and antibiotics as cattle feed

Intensive cattle, pig and poultry farming by feeding the animals with soya meal and even fish meal and low doses of antibiotic growth promoters fatten the animals and let them grow faster. Anchovies from the southeastern Pacific Ocean are sold for animal feed in Europe’s factory farms. Chicken nuggets or pork chops can have a strange aroma. Around one third of the total fish catch is being fed to farmed animals, usually farmed fish, pigs and chickens. The animals fatten and grow faster in order to gain more profit and to shorten the slaughter time. Fatter beef -, chicken - and pig meat contains more saturated animal fat and cause more welfare diseases like cerebro-vascular disease, obesity and diabetes.

With drives from southern Spain to the Netherlands, I increasingly saw hundreds of new feed silos and larger pig and livestock farms. Much is invested to increase meat production. Larger gains are still achieved. Water consumption and pollution of these animals for consumption is also increasing dramatically. There is likely a very painful economic situation to emerge as the meat industry collapses through kilo bangers, climate impacts and environmental pollution. The farmers are already dissatisfied with the bad milk and meat prices. 


Bovine infectious factors in colorectal cancer

An increased risk for colorectal cancer has been consistently reported for long-time consumption of cooked and processed red meat. Long-time fish or poultry consumption apparently does not increase the risk, although similar or higher concentrations of chemical carcinogens were recorded in their preparation for consumption. In Japan and Korea, large scale beef and pork imports started after World War II or after the Korean War. A steep rise in colorectal cancer incidence was noted after 1970 in Japan and 1990 in Korea. The consumption of undercooked beef (e.g., shabu-shabu, Korean yukhoe and Japanese yukke) became very popular in both countries. A specific beef factor, suspected to be one or more thermoresistant potentially oncogenic bovine viruses (e.g., polyoma-, papilloma- or single-stranded DNA viruses) may contaminate beef preparations and lead to latent infections in the colorectal tract. Exposure to chemical carcinogens arising during cooking procedures should result in increased risk for colorectal cancer synergistic with these infections.


Camel meat. Dromedary camel flu is endemic amongst young dromedary camels in Saudi Arabia

Sick dromedary camels shed corona viruses from their nose and sometimes in stool. Only recently people and dromedary camels share the same corona viruses. Could it be that the corona virus first adapted in the herds of the camel breeders, with greater concentrations of young livestock dromedary camels. The breeding and weaning season could be a factor. Young camels are more susceptible to camel flu, because of their lower immunity status, and they facilitate virus amplification. Nowadays the MERS-CoV circulates from human to human and is less virulent. These humanized corona viruses pass through the airways and become more and more prevalent in society. Without stopping transmission from camels, we will continue to see more human cases in the Middle East, some of whom will travel outside of the region. On the Arabian Peninsula camels are rarely used as a means of transport. The Saudis ride the most luxurious cars. Dromedary camels are bred for their milk and meat and to participate in camel races. The Saudi Kingdom has implemented a multifaceted program to provide the vast supplies of water, necessary to achieve the spectacular growth of the agricultural sector. Vast underground water reservoirs have been tapped through deep wells. So the desert was transformed into fertile farmland.

Since June 2012, there are 1118 laboratory confirmed cases of MERS-CoV reported by Saudi Arabia, with 483 deaths. Reported case fatality rate 43.2 percent. After a relative silence in case reports, during July and August 2014, are again in September every other day new cases. In September, is already the 4th case reported in Taif, located in the province of Mecca. It is a health professional, which indicates that the disease is also transmitted more frequently from human to human. It seems like there is now a renewed cycle of MERS-CoV in Saudi Arabia gaining ground - a cause for concern with the yearly Hajj period, when a visit to Saudi Arabia will bring millions of pilgrims.

With the annual Hajj Pilgrimage to Mecca in October, more than 2 millions of Muslims, from more than 180 countries, are at risk to catch MERS-CoV and spread it out. Saudi authorities are warning their citizens not to drink raw unpasteurized camel milk and to wear gloves when caring for the beasts. The ubiquity of the animals, their importance to the region’s economy and their popularity suggest camel-to-person transmission of MERS-CoV will continue to occur.