Factory Farms Breed Dangerous Flu Viruses

Pat Kenschaft 

Note by HealthWrights staff


factory-farmingOne of the major threats to global health is the probability of a lethal flue pandemic that will kill millions if not billions of human beings. There are two human activities that create this threat: the deliberate creation of a lethal form of the flue that could be released accidentally or intensionally into the environment, and factory farming.


Regarding the first activity, apparently a lethal variety of the flue that would be highly contagious by air-born pathogens has already been created. See this article . With regard to the global health ramifications of factory farming, see the article below. It is also highly recommenced that you take an hour to see a well researched and very clearly presented video by Dr. Gregor that reveals just why factory farming is so dangerous to the health not just of animals that are raised in brutal and filthy conditions, but to human beings as well.


As we explores the probability of a lethal global flu epidemic, we see once again the same three modern horsemen of the unfolding apocalypse:


  1. Unregulated capitalism that puts greed and profit before the health and welfare of humanity.
  2. A disregard for the ecological integrity of the biosphere.
  3. National imperialism – primarily as practiced by the United States – which is fueling the production of conventional, nuclear and biological weapons that are likely to be unleashed on humanity through accident, miscalculation or design.


These three horsemen re-enforce each other, and in doing so they create a dangerous synergy. The articles and the video linked to above provide us with an informative case study in which one can clearly see the dynamics of this lethal synergy at work.

The Main Article


The impression I had from the promos for “Flu Factories,” that the movie wasn’t relevant to my selfish concerns because I am a vegetarian, turned out to be totally wrong. The thesis of the movie is that factory farms provide an incubator for new flu viruses that endanger the lives of
all of us, and possibly even our species.

In nature there is a limit that deadly mutations can do because “a dead bird doesn’t fly very far.” But in a factory farm a dead bird doesn’t have to fly at all to infect other birds with the same new mutant of a disease germ. This is especially true if chicken and pig factory farms are close together because our three species seem to have a special propensity to share influenza.

The film first related the modern history of flu. There were horrifying images of the 1918 epidemic when tens of millions died worldwide. That is the frightening example of what might happen again. In 1957 and 1968 new mutants caused much milder outbreaks of flu that were serious at the time but nothing comparable to 1918. Then flu worries died down until 1997, with the emergence of a new bird flu virus killing children in Hong Kong, and 1998 when a new human-pig mutant arose in a North Carolina factory farm of over 6000 pigs. A triple-species human-bird-pig virus soon spread rapidly to pig herds throughout around the country, transferred by humans who had been in contact with infected chickens or pigs. In 1989 North Carolina had only three million pigs in factory farms, but by 1998 there were over ten million. Now 95% of the egg-laying chickens in the country live in factory farms, where the living conditions are appalling, causing disease and making it easy to spread.

There was a quote that the transition from “Old MacDonald’s Farm” to the “new McDonald’s farming practices” was the biggest change in the human-animal interface in 10,000 years.

The World Health Organization made strong statements opposing factory farms as a source of disease. Only thirty percent of United States’ antibiotics are now administered direction to people; the others are given to animals in close proximity to each other in an attempt to prevent disease. This mass feeding of antibiotics to farm animals fosters the emergence of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.” People who eat the resulting meat get accustomed to having antibiotics in their bodies and they lose their effect to counter disease. Experts have called such practices “a death warrant for future patients.”

Nearly every health organization in our country, including the American Medical Association and many other health organizations around the world have condemned the practice of feeding antibiotics to livestock just to fatten them faster. At the same time many poultry-farming, pig-farming,and other professional farm organizations took a strong stand in favor of factory farming. We saw a quote from “National Hog Farmer” magazine saying that intense living conditions for pigs “pays.”

The film listed ten reasons that factory farms foster disease, including overcrowding, stress, lack of fresh air, lack of sunlight, cesspools of waste, flies and other vectors that take the diseases far afield, and long distance live animal transport. The great quantity means they are not all eaten locally. Red meat travels an average of 1000 miles “on the hoof” before it makes its way to consumers.

The stress of pigs is greatly helped by giving them straw in their tiny units, so they don’t have to lie directly on cement or metal and their waste. It can cut disease in half, but is not widely used, nevertheless.

The EU and six states have taken steps to phase out factory farm practices. “Flu Factories” makes repeated eloquent pleas for restoring family farms, which provide much safer meat for omnivores and also lower the chance of widespread disaster for all of us. One scientist is quoted saying that if we continue to breed dangerous viruses, we may have a worldwide disaster reminiscent of the European disaster caused by the Black Plague, when a third of Europe’s population died.

Except for one 30-second spot of renowned flu scientist, Dr. Robert Webster, the film is narrated by Dr. Michael Greger, a graduate of Cornell’s School of Agriculture and Tufts School of Medicine. He is a good teacher, and his narration is remarkably absorbing. He invites us to get more information by emailing him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Dr. Greger’s book Bird Flu is available at no cost online at birdflubook.org. He strongly urges us to eat as little meat as we can, and that sparked animated conversation after the film ended.

“Flu Factory” was the November feature in the Montclair Green Film Series. It is available here..