| Whether you are a veggie or
a meat-eater, Looking-Glass offers a pragmatic viewpoint ...
How rationality should be nurtured and stupidity held firmly at bay.
Irrational behaviour in the event
of a viral outbreak is one of those classic dumbing-down traits
As fear-induced adrenaline runs high during a potential or imminent
pandemic, it's often no thanks to rumour, gossip and headlines that
it's everyone for themselves; from governments dishing out slapdash
solutions and misguided advice, right down to the mindless actions
of the most foolish individuals. Chaos reigns.
In fact, most of us can be held responsible for initiating hysteria
or acting on bad advice, because panicking is what we do best.
But there is an inherent reason as to what causes such potentially
dangerous transpositions of animal-originated diseases. This Looking-Glass
viewpoint aims to unravel the panic in pandemics and inspire pro-active
solutions ... without cruelty.
BSE, SARS, Avian Flu (bird flu), Swine
Flu ... and Aids; these are words that conjure up nightmare scenarios
of death and global devastation.
Who is to blame for the mutation, spread and mismanagement of these
infections in the first place? If you think it's animals, then you
In all cases it's we humans; A
group of hominids unable to act rationally in the event of a viral
threat to its own species. We are supposedly an intelligent species,
but we are equally a grossly self-serving society, which has created
an ecological mechanism of perpetual cause-and-ill-effect.
It's due to this behaviour that the human psyche hovers
close by a mass-destruction button labelled "Blame it on the
Animals", and we'll use it without question. "Kill the
animals ... that'll solve it!" ... Whether it be an insect
having its lunch on a sunflower crop to a bird eating a fisherman's
quota - or in this case an animal harboring a virus.
But this is the most ignorant move
that humanity could make.
From the beginning of life on earth,
all species have been prone to disease. As generations have evolved
over millennia, many potentially damaging viruses have actually
become less or even completely harmless.
Natural selection is the simple answer.
While one animal or human may have died from disease, others survived
because they carried the necessary antibodies to fight the virus.
The survivors then passed on their virus-resistant genes to their
offspring. And this is how natural immunity to diseases we didn't
even know existed developed over time.
So today there are hundreds of viruses circulating across the planet
- even hanging around in the air we breath. We are now immune to
a lot of them, but 10,000 years ago - or even just hundreds of years
ago, some of these same viruses could have harmed us, even fatally.
These viruses were no different then than they are now, but in the
early days we hadn't developed a natural defence or immunity against
them. Then, people would die of a contagious virus while others
lived, who were in-turn building up a natural resistance to the
virus to pass on to future, healthier generations who live longer
partly as a result of viral immunity. Biologists today may not even
be able to determine what viruses may have threatened our health
over such long time-spans, i.e. what we were resistant to, and what
killed us thousands of years ago could be anybody's guess.
Even by the early 20th century there were still some viruses circulating
that were killing or causing irreparable illness to humans. But
as science and medicine developed during that time, more and more
vaccines became available. By giving a person (or an animal) a very
mild micro-version of a disease, usually via injection, this triggers
off an immunity response. This immunity ("memory") that
stays in your body is what you need to resist the disease if you
ever came into contact with it for real.
And so vaccination became the medical revolution of modern society,
stopping people from developing a host of common, and some deadly
diseases, many which today are consigned to history.
The introduction of the vaccine changed the way in which humanity
struggled to win over contagious infection. Instead, humans were
now in control of their own destiny in the battle against many diseases.
Although a triumph in the short-term, vaccinations meant that humans
(and even domestic animals) were inadvertently no longer able to
build up natural resistance to viruses over a long, "evolutionary"
period. We had created a prevention through science, but it now
meant that we would forevermore be dependent on finding biological
solutions in the laboratory to stop us catching diseases; vaccines
could now prevent the spread of infection within a scientist's own
life-span, instead of waiting to build up natural immunity over
The important thing to remember is that a vaccine prevents the disease
from developing inside us - In most cases it doesn't mean the virus
has disappeared off the face of the earth. For example, there are
some diseases which have recently made a comeback, such as tuberculosis.
A BCG vaccination can stop humans from developing tuberculosis,
but slack social welfare programs and bad parenting in some major
cities means that more and more children are not being vaccinated.
This has meant that a disease, which had been almost completely
eradicated by the 1970's, is now nearing epidemic proportions in
some parts of the world. Even polio, which had almost been confined
to history has reestablished itself in many poor countries.
The man-made rise and rise
of infectious disease
But while biologists are battling
with the forces of nature as they try to eradicate disease, humans
are at the same time creating far more dangerous diseases that would
ever have occurred in the natural world, and we are not talking
about biological warfare either!
Enter bird flu and swine flu.
Influenza, or flu affects many species and has done so throughout
the evolution of life. For example we are used to hearing of dog
and cat flu, and off course human flu. Now we are getting used to
the term "Avian flu" or "bird flu" and swine
flu . And while many strains of flu can exist in the wild without
any dramatic risk of causing epidemic or even pandemic outbreaks,
the type of flu which is "condensed" no thanks to humans
cramming birds and animals into confined spaces, causes strengthening
variants of the virus and therefore potential danger to humans.
Before we go on, let's just to turn the tables around for a minute;
a pet hamster can catch human flu and die from it. When zoologists
study groups of animals in remote parts of the wild - they will
never get too close in case they transmit human diseases to the
Bird Flu and Swine Flu and how does
it spread to humans?
All scientific research historically
suggests that human flu was a variant generated from an originally
harmless strain of bird flu, which then developed a cross-infectious
strain through domestic foul crammed into to small, confined spaces
no thanks to humans. In this chain of flu variants (crossing over
between domestic animals), it appears that pigs were cross-carriers
which could also pass it on to humans. This is because pigs have
biological similarities to humans, so the jump was a lot easier
to establish. This is why swine flu H1N1 (transmitted directly to
humans who are in close contact with pigs), can also be easily transfered
from human to human. The reason why the virus has developed ever-increasing
strains within the pig population is because of the close cramped
conditions huge numbers of these animals for slaughter and food
consumption are kept in. When humans catch the strain, the same
situation arises in densely populated areas, whereby transmission
between one human and another can be fast and at the same time the
virus can mutate in new strains which can be either milder or deadlier
in some cases.
Who is to Blame?
Certainly not the animals ... As
mentioned, It's only when densely packed groups of domestic poultry
or pigs, are exposed to a strain of flu that things begin to get
out of control.
In the following section we focus on wild-bird flu but some points
also relate to swine flu:
It's not the original strain of wild-bird flu virus that is "potentially"
fatal to humans, but the strain generated by domestic foul (and
other animals) which have been squeezed together in confined spaces
by humans. This entirely unnatural "living arrangement"
then causes a dangerous mutation of the strain, which, in turn can
infect wild-birds. Hence, the "man-made" vicious circle.
So to recap; mutations of a flu virus that crosses species is initially
caused by birds and animals being kept in very confined spaces -
and with different species mixed together, the virus strengthens
as it mutates, enabling it to jump species.
Obviously, cramming birds and animals into close proximity with
each other is a very unnatural arrangement - and doing so with different
species as well makes matters infinitely worse. It's no wonder why
such a virus can be so easily passed on and adapt so quickly, through
multiple contamination when birds and animals are trapped in tiny
These flu viruses begin in China and Southeast Asia, who are notorious
for raising livestock in minute spaces and in filthy conditions.
Sellers then squeeze hundreds of live birds and animals into tiny
cages and take them to markets ... thousands of cages piled on top
of each other. What would normally be a fairly harmless virus in
the wild then becomes a powerfully adaptive disease, eventually
passing over to humans who are in close contact with the animals.
Within months, flu viruses will have traveled the world.
Different strains of flu do the rounds each year, while medical
researchers try to beat each strain with the appropriate flu vaccination,
which may or may not be effective.
How can we get all this back into
sensible control? - What you can do to help.
In today's over-sterilized westernized
society, more and more humans are growing up with allergies and
with poor resistance to everyday infections. This is due to babies
and infants being overprotected from bacteria which they would have
otherwise normally come into contact with. It's now even suggested
that by regularly allowing an infant to crawl about in fields and
farm yards - and basically get its hands dirty - is the best possible
way to help the child build up a natural resistance to allergies
and infections for later life. This makes complete sense, and health
authorities should take heed of this advice and hammer it in to
By overprotecting ourselves to such extremes now, we are systematically
weakening our own race as humans, and at the same time destroying
other species who would otherwise build up their own resistance
- if left alone.
Meanwhile, while farmers around the
world continue to pack together thousands of live birds and animals
into extremely confined areas ... whether indoors or outdoors, viruses
will continue to spread and mutate ... and worst of all, crossing
from one species to another. Therefore it is entirely up to people
to deal with the root of the problem - and that means stopping others
from treating animals in such an irrational manner.
Even if it's just to protect yourself or you local community, you
need to tell your neighbouring farmer or smallholder to stop confining
their animals in such a way that triggers off these diseases in
the first place. Farmers must provide far more space for animals
than they currently do. Make sure that anyone you know who feeds
"livestock" is feeding them with a vegetarian diet. Chickens
for example should never be fed chicken (or any meat) amongst the
feed that they are given. Cows, foul, sheep, pigs etc. are all naturally
vegetarian species. None of these animals should ever be force-fed
meat. Remember, this is what triggers off Scabies, BSE and CJD etc.)
Even if you don't live in a rural area, pass on this information
to others that do own farms etc. And whenever you visit countries
in the far east, the Americas or Africa, spend some time trying
to reason with the local people about the cause and effect of keeping
poultry and animals in unsuitable conditions. Tell them how they
can improve, not only the welfare of their animals, but their own
health, through careful animal / bird management and handling.
Live transportation, exports and live animal markets must be stopped
for good, as this will also help limit the mutation and spread of
viruses in confined conditions.
If a flu pandemic in humans does occur
or has the potential to occur, listen to the advice of your country's
government as well as using your own commonsense initiatives. For
example, to help lessen the spread at the first signs of a potential
pandemic, and even if your country hasn't advised it, you should
take the following simple precautions to help minimize cross-infection:
- Only leave your home when it's
absolutely necessary - Stock up with more long-lasting food items
so it becomes less necessary to make so many frequent trips to
- If you have to travel on planes
or subways (a melting-pot of internationally spread gems and viruses),
or any other public transport, it may be advisable to wear a surgical
mask. There is no room for vanity in situations like a potential
threat to world health, and even if everyone on the aircraft looks
at you as if you are mad, then don't let it bother you. It may
be up to those people to follow your example, because prevention
is better than the potentially dire consequences that can arise
from contamination due to being stuck in confined spaces. There
are mixed opinions about whether or not a face mask makes any
difference. But wearing one in confined situations for short periods
may help keep contaminated airborn moisture (through coughs, sneezes
and nose blowing) spreading either from you or to you from others.
Be aware though that a face mask might be of no effect once it
becomes damp from your own mouth moisture. Also remember to remove
it with clean hands - dispose of it sensibly and wash your hands
- Lifts are also breeding grounds
for virus germs. Take the stairs if you can and clean your hands
after touching stair rails. If you have to take the lift clean
your hands after pressing buttons etc.
touch anything in public places if you can help it. If you have
to, then wash or spray your hands with an antibacterial gel straight
after touching door handles, petrol pumps, light switches, cash
/ pin number machines, ticket barriers, counters, desks and anything
else frequently handled by others. This can also include goods
in shops often handled by others, as well as potential hazards
in cafes, bars and restaurants: Cups, glasses, plates, cutlery,
table surfaces and chairs. If you think that the food and drink
containers in public eating and drinking places may not be sufficiently
clear of germs then wipe drinking areas of cups with an odorless
alcohol-based antibacterial wipe before drinking and do the same
with knives, forks and spoons.
- Money, whether it be notes or loose
change, carries a host of germs. After handling wash your hands.
- Exercise the same precautions as
above even in your own home. Other members of the family and visitors
all need to help protect each other and themselves from potentially
harmful flu germs.
- Young children are often more contagious,
and for longer periods than adults. Exercise all the precautions
listed here and also keep them well away from people such as the
elderly or people with weak health conditions.
- To ensure you don't spread any
potential germs to others, never sneeze or cough without putting
your hand in front of your mouth. Wash your hands straight after.
- Do NOT shake hands or hug in greeting
- If you do become unwell with a
suspected case of a pandemic flu, stay at home and follow the
advice of your local health authority. They may suggest that you
aim to keep your house well ventilated with plenty of fresh circulating
air and to drink plenty of fluids. If you live with others who
are not infected make sure you refer to all the relevant suggestions
above to help reduce cross-infection within the household.
also Advice During a Bird Flu Crisis
How do we reduce the threat
of animal diseases?
Habitual meat-eaters are continually
adding fuel to the fire, and the situation with the bird and swine
flu viruses are a classic examples. To reduce the possibility of
a bird flu pandemic the simple solution is to stop the consumption
of poultry worldwide for at least two or three years. Let the bird
flu virus burn itself out, instead of creating constant demand for
bird-meat. If farmers are inclined to continue farming millions
of birds and therefore allowing the disease to spread and
mutate into more lethal variants, then the problem will never completely
go away. The same solution would apply to any other virus originating
from mass-farmed animals such as pigs (Swine Flu).
The long-term answer is simple ... Stop farming animals in mass,
which leads to them living and been transported in unatural, unhealthy
cramped conditions ... And to truely help lessen or perhaps stop
the problem completely, the answer is simple ... Stop eating them.
Minimal demand for meat will mean minimal negative consequences
for animals and humankind alike.
Also do the sums ... the Veggiebite at the top right of this page
Animal Diseases for
Dummies © 2006/7 - VeggieGlobal and Looking-Glass
about viruses and diseases caused through mismanagement of animals
3: What you should and should not do in a bird flu crisis
H5N1 Outbreak in 2007
Useful info on swine flu:
Useful info on bird flu:
Help to educate third world countries
about the importance of wearing condoms as well as abstinence to
help stop the spread of Aids: