Food Security: Largest Animal Epidemic in History Is Due to Industrial Farming

June 16, 2019 in News by RBN Staff


Jerri-Lynn here. This Real News Network interview with Rob Wallace of the Agroecology and Rural Economics Research Corps discusses what’s caused the current outbreak of African swine flu – the largest animal epidemic in history –  which is currently rampaging throughout China and other parts of Asia. Pork prices have shot up 40% globally. This epidemic is just one pressure on food prices; others include India’s drought and the US midwest floods (which Lambert has posted about here and here).


GREG WILPERT: It’s The Real News Network and I’m Greg Wilpert in Baltimore.

What some are calling the largest animal disease outbreak in history is currently ravaging pig farms in China and in other Asian countries. The disease is known as African Swine Fever and has a similar effect on pigs as Ebola has on humans, causing massive internal hemorrhaging and very high death rate. So far, over one million pigs in China have been culled–slaughtered, that is–to stop the spread of the disease. However, China has over 440 million pigs, half of the world’s total pig population, and experts estimate that up to 200 million pigs will have to be killed this year alone to slow down the spread of the disease.

African Swine Fever does not affect humans, but it is bound to have a devastating effect on food security in Asia, which depends on pork for much of its meat consumption. In Vietnam, for example, 75 percent of meat consumption is pork. Already, pork prices have risen by as much as forty percent globally. The disease has been spreading slowly since the 1970s; first in Africa, then in Europe, and most recently in Asia, where it has turned into an epidemic.

Joining me now to discuss the causes, consequences, and solutions to African Swine Fever is Rob Wallace. Rob is a public health phylogeographer at the Agroecology and Rural Economics Research Corps in Minnesota. He’s the author of Big Farms Make Big Flu. Thanks for joining us today, Rob.

ROB WALLACE: Hello. I would say it was a pleasure to be here, but I think when Real News’ audience sees me, they know that some terrible disease has happened out there somewhere.

GREG WILPERT: Right. So one of the big problems in containing the African Swine Fever is that it is dormant for up to two weeks and that a tiny amount of the virus can cause infection. In other words, it is extremely contagious. As I mentioned, it does not infect humans, but what are the dangers for humans of this outbreak?