Monday, November 19, 2007

Growth in animal farming increases disease risks for humans, says FAO

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has issued a serious warning against animal farming, especially intensive animal farming, for its risks to human health in a report entitled Industrial Livestock Production and Global Health Risks, published in September 2007 .

“The risk of disease transmission from animals to humans will increase in the future due to human and livestock population growth, dynamic changes in livestock production, the emergence of worldwide agro-food networks and a significant increase in the mobility of people and goods,” writes FAO in this policy brief [emphasis added].

Excessive concentration of animals in large scale industrial production units should be avoided, said Joachim Otte, FAO livestock policy expert.

The FAO stresses the reality of the enormous growth in both demand for meat and industrial animal rearing in recent years due to their expansion in Third World countries. In Asia, South America and parts of Africa, traditional animal farming methods are being replaced by intensive ones.

“These developments have potentially serious consequences for local and global disease risks, which, so far, have not been widely recognized by policy makers,” observed Joseph Domenech, FAO Chief Veterinary Officer.

Internationally, pig and poultry productions are the fastest growing and industrializing of all animal farming sectors, and industrial pig and poultry productions depend on a great movement of live animals. The movement of animals and the concentration of a high number of confined animals increases the likelihood of transfer of pathogens (disease-causing agents). In addition, confined animal houses produce a lot of waste, which may contain great quantities of pathogens and is disposed of on land without treatment, posing an infection risk for wild mammals and birds.

The highly pathogenic H5N1 virus is now a major international concern, but the ‘silent’ circulation of influenza A viruses (IAVs) in poultry and pigs should also be closely monitored globally, said FAO. Some IAVs are now widespread in commercial poultry and pigs and could lead to the emergence of a human influenza pandemic.

Although generally speaking this is in no way earth-shattering news in the sense that it’s what the animal rights movement has been saying for decades, it’s interesting to note that the body responsible for issuing these warnings is now a United Nations organization, with no concern for animal equality but purely for human health.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Eating bacon and sausages every day increases cancer risk by 20%, new authoritative report says

A comprehensive, authoritative, 517-page new study published this Wednesday by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research points to three major lifestyle factors contributing to a much greater danger of contracting cancer: obesity, alcohol and not least red meat, especially processed or cured meats.

The cancer risk from processed meats is now considered to be comparable to that from smoking as a long recognised risk for lung cancer.

Eating 50 grams of cured meat a day increases the risk of colorectal (bowel) cancer by 21%. Compare that to tobacco: smoking 20 cigarettes every day increases the risk of lung cancer 20 to 40 fold.

The study simply recommends to avoid all processed meats like bacon, ham, sausages, salami and similar meats. For them there is no safe level of consumption, says Martin Wiseman, project director of the report.

This report represents the most comprehensive review of the evidence on the subject, and is considered a landmark. It is the result of five years of work by nine teams of 21 scientists who are world experts on cancer, who reviewed 7,000 studies on diet, weight, exercise, and their links to cancer.

Several types of food carry a risk of tumour, but nothing is as dangerous as cured or processed meat, because the bad effect of red meat is enhanced by the curing process. Bacon, ham, sausages, salami are particularly harmful.

It’s nothing fundamentally new. In fact the conclusions of the study are in harmony with the dietary recommendations of the World Health Organization, medical bodies, health experts, governments health departments: eat lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains and reduce or avoid red meats, dairy products and fats if you wish to protect yourself against heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

But it’s something that most people still do not know well enough.

The American Institute for Cancer Research also published a survey of 1,000 American adults showing that the majority do not understand these risks. 71 per cent of the people interviewed still incorrectly think that pesticides are a major cancer risk, whereas in fact they are not even remotely the biggest culprit, given the infinitesimal amount in which they are normally ingested by human consumers. There is no evidence that pesticides are a risk factor in cancer.

But the “nice” foods that the general population of the West has grown up believing to be good for them are actually the worst killers, comparable to tobacco.

Of the people polled in the survey, just 38 per cent was aware of the link between cured meats and cancer, and only 49 per cent knew that diets poor in fruits and vegetables increased the risk of cancer.

"Americans are increasingly likely to attribute cancer to factors over which they have no control, and for which no proven links to the disease exist," the survey concludes. "This reflects an 'everything causes cancer' mindset".

It’s easy to see why: it’s harder to take control over one’s life, and make difficult choices and changes. This despite the fact that lifestyle causes of cancer are actually good news, because they mean that we can influence our future at least to a certain extent.

"We need to think about cancer as the product of many long term influences, not as something that 'just happens,'" said Dr Walter Willett, a nutrition expert at the Harvard School of Public Health in Massachusetts.

Incidentally, the new study on nutrition advises to avoid dietary supplements, which could represent a problem for vegans.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

New Global Network Against the Fur Industry

There is a new international network of organizations against fur, which includes groups and individual activists from the animal rights/liberation movements from various countries: Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom.

It is called Global Network Against the Fur Industry, it was formed this autumn and it’s started its activity with a campaign against the ESCADA group.

Escada is a high fashion international company, with headquarters in Aschheim/Munich, Germany. It is involved in many stages of the process of fur garments production and sales: from designing its own collections to producing them in its own factories, to selling them in its own shops, in shop-in-shops and in concessions in department stores.

The ESCADA Group owns a sussidiary company called Primera, which in turn owns other brands: apriori, BiBA, cavita and Laurèl. All these companies and brands use fur for their collections.

There are 240 ESCADA stores all over the world, mainly in Europe (130), Asia (86) and North America (25), with a few in South America, Africa, Australia. In addition, there are the stores of other brands owned by the company: almost 400 stores, mostly in Europe but also worldwide.

The choice of ESCADA as a target is due to the fact that this is a company which has a huge influence on the catwalks of the world; if Escada stops using fur, this will send a signal to the fashion industry as a whole.

The Global Network Against the Fur Industry has organized a first weekend of international action against ESCADA’s fur trade on 12th – 14th October 2007. Many protests have taken places worldwide.

In Florence, the Escada store remained closed all day on Sunday 14th October, to avoid bad publicity in view of the protest, with consequent loss of revenue. As a result, the campaigners moved their protest to a department store, COIN, to force them to stop selling fur following the example of two other major Italian department stores chains, La Rinascente and UPIM.

The ZARA, Guess, H&M campaigns show how important global cooperation of anti-fur organizations is and how effective it can be in changing the policies of major retail groups.

Visit the Global Network Against the Fur Industry new website.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Human health and animal ethics

Human health and animal ethics posts

Human health & animal ethics: an introduction to this Category
Mesothelioma and asbestos
Carcinogens, food poisoning and meat
The greatest scientific event of the millennium
Thalidomide tragedy, side effects, history
Carcinogenicity studies on animals
Cancer and animals
The half vegan monks who are the world's healthiest people
Eating bacon and sausages every day increases cancer risk by 20%, new authoritative report says
Growth in animal farming increases disease risks for humans, says FAO
Meat workers health problems

Human health & animal ethics: an introduction to this Category

Of all the major areas of animal exploitation, two of them, animal experimentation and farming, have two fundamental characteristics in common, which will make them, in my opinion, the real battleground on which the case for animal rights and equality will be fought.

What vivisection and farming have in common is: 1) they involve an enormous number of animals, far superior, at least in the case of farming, to other areas of animal abuse; 2) there is an appearance (I underline “appearance”) of genuine conflict between the liberation of animals from these two forms of abuse and human health, which in many people’s minds, unfortunately, justifies them on moral grounds.

For this reason I’ve created a special category in the current blog, Human health and animal ethics, to explore this assumed conflict between human and non-human animal interests. In animal testing, the conflict is purported to be in the fact that renouncing it would deprive medicine of an irreplaceable tool of immense value, or at least this is the claim. In animal farming, the conflict is said to derive from the fact that humans need to eat animal flesh products to stay healthy, believed by many people to be true despite the repeated assertions to the contrary by the most prestigious medical authorities and organizations in the world, who say that the opposite is true and vegetarianism is indeed a healthier option.

All other forms of animal exploitation do not involve any real, important human interest. Nobody can claim that they will die or become ill without a fur coat (not even Eskimos), if they don’t attend circuses, if they don’t visit zoos, don’t go fishing or hunting.

The lame excuses of some of these animal abusers, like hunters justifying torturing foxes to death because they are “pests”, are only seriously believed or appeared to be believed by themselves and their close supporters.

But with vivisection and animal farming, the belief that they are necessary for human health is widely held by a majority, so it needs to be addressed with empirical and logical instruments. I’ll do that in this category, which has the advantage of tackling both major areas of animal abuse with one common approach useful for both, and I will also explore the tricky question of whether veganism can really be suitable for human health: on this issue I have to say that I am not convinced myself. People wouldn’t need vitamin tablets to supplement a vegan diet if the latter were an appropriate, fully well-balanced diet. And if you look at it from a naturalistic viewpoint, the human species is not a herbivorous species: we use a similar argument against meat-eating when we say that humans are not a carnivorous species, so it seems to me that, if we are intellectually honest, we recognize that the argument cuts both ways.

Friday, October 12, 2007

San Marino bans vivisection

Maybe a small step, but it seems highly significant to me: the Republic of San Marino, an independent state lying entirely in north-east Italy, has abolished all experiments on animals.

This tiny country on the Adriatic Coast, which already has the record of being the oldest republic in the world, now can be proud of another record in the history of civilization: to be the first country on the globe to totally forbid animal experimentation.

In February of this year the Associazione Sammarinese Protezione Animali (A.P.A.S.) presented a law proposal supported by citizens’ signatures to ban vivisection, which on the 20th September 2007 has been approved by the General Council, San Marino’s legislative body.

Now San Marino can call itself a “cruelty-free country”, at least as far as animal experimentation is concerned.

"We are very happy of this result, so good and quick" say Marina Berati from and Massimo Tettamanti, Europe manager for I-CARE (Centro Internazionale per le Alternative nella Ricerca e nella Didattica), who, along with Stefano Cagno from Rome’s Lega Anti-Vivisezione, have been helping to achieve this outcome, "and A.P.A.S. volunteers have been extremely determined and successful. From now on San Marino will be off-limits for chemical and pharmaceutical companies carrying out animal tests and for all research institutions, both public and private, often funded by unaware members of the public, which base their research on vivisection".

A.P.A.S. Press Office says that thanks to this new law, which heavily punishes animal experimenters, San Marino Republic will represent a pole of attraction for companies using methods alternative to vivisection, which are better, more reliable and cheaper too.

I don’t know how many animal tests were conducted in San Marino before the introduction of this law. But I don’t think that the number of animals saved is the only issue here. I believe that this is a breakthrough anyway, because it establishes a precedent and has great historical significance, morally and politically.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ethical wool

British sheep and lamb
There is a British company producing wool garments, Izzy Lane, that is actually doing good to animals. So, if you like wool but don’t want to contribute to the exploitation and abuse of sheep, here is the solution. In the words of the founder, Isobel Davies, in her interview to London’s Sunday Times Magazine, “The more successful our clothes are, the more sheep we can save.”

This is because Isobel Davies, former member of the indie band Edith Strategy and now 45, had the idea of starting a label selling knitwear made with wool from sheep rescued from slaughter.

She became a vegetarian at 17 when she first met a vegetarian and discovered that it’s not necessary to eat meat. “From that second,” she says, “I never touched it again.”

The idea for the label Izzy Lane originated when Davies discovered that British farmers were discarding the wool from slaughtered sheep while Britain imports wool from Australia and New Zealand. She thought of using British wool and at the same time saving animals from the meat market.

So, now, whenever they hear of sheep going to be slaughtered, her company Izzy Lane buys them. They buy sheep destined to the abattoir for being male, lame, too old, or having ”blemishes” like black spots.

Her flock of Wensleydale and Shetland sheep is now living happy lives (if not treated like breeding machines, they can live for 15 years or so) in their Sheep Sanctuary. In July, when they shear them, the sheep “are relieved to be rid of their fleeces and seem rejuvenated”, as Davies put it.

Isobel says on her company’s website “As a longstanding vegetarian I have always been confronted with the argument that sheep would not exist if we didn’t eat them. Izzy Lane hopes to demonstrate an economic model whereby sheep can exist, be valued and have a place in our world without becoming meat. It offers another way.”