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April 26, 2009

HSUS Statement on Swine Flu Public Health Emergency

The Humane Society of the United States

Michael Greger, M.D., director, public health and animal agriculture for The Humane Society of the United States, issued the following statement in reaction to the World Health Organization and the United States Government declaring swine flu a public health emergency:

"Breeding sows confined in crates so narrow they can't even turn around produce lower levels of antibodies in response to experimental challenges. [i] Measures as simple as providing straw bedding for pigs improves immune function, presumably by eliminating the immunosuppressive stress of lying on bare concrete for virtually their entire lives. [ii] This minimal act — providing straw — has been shown to decrease the risk of swine flu infection, [iii] which may play a role in the emergence of human influenza pandemics. [iv]

"The industry needs to move away from a reactive fire-fighting approach to infectious disease, towards a more proactive preventive health approach that makes animals less susceptible — and even resilient — to disease in the first place[v] and begin shifting to more humane and less stressful housing systems. Until that happens, we should follow the recommendation of the largest and oldest organization of public health professionals in the world, the American Public Health Association, and demand a moratorium on new factory farms in the United States. [vi]"

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[i] 1 Siegel HS. 1987. Effects of behavioural and physical stressors on immune responses. In: Wiepkema PR and van Adrichem PWM (eds). Biology of Stress in Farm Animals (New York: Springer, pp. 39-54).

[ii] Tuyttens FAM. 2005. The importance of straw for pig and cattle welfare: a review. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 92(3):261-82In: Saeed AM, Gast RK, Potter ME, and Wall PG (eds.), Salmonella enterica Serovar Enteritidis in Humans and Animals: Epidemiology, Pathogenesis, and Control (Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press, pp. xi-xiii.

[iii] Ewald C, Heer A, and Havenith U. 1994. Factors associated with the occurrence of influenza A virus infections in fattening swine. Berliner und Münchener tierärztliche Wochenschrift 107(8):256-62.

[iv] Scholtissek C. 1990. Pigs as 'mixing vessels' for the creation of new pandemic influenza A viruses. Medical Principles and Practice 2(2):65-71.

[v] Soil Association. 2007. Policy document: animal health—the prevention of infectious livestock diseases. Written evidence from the Soil Association to the Royal Society, for the inquiry into infectious livestock diseases, January 2002. soilassociation.org/web/sa/saweb.nsf/89d058cc4dbeb16d80256a73005a2866/b8d955cfc228edaf802572a40059f0a9/$FILE/evidence to royal inquiry - infectious livestock diseases.pdf.

[vi] American Public Health Association. 2003. Precautionary moratorium on new concentrated animal feed operations. Policy number 20037. apha.org/advocacy/policy/policysearch/default.htm?id=1243

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