Friday, September 9, 2011

Do You Want "Contagion" With That? Birke Baehr. Pigs Before People. TX Wildfires.


Global Pandemic the Subject of New Thriller "Contagion"

HSUS’s Dr. Greger explains why intensive confinement of farm animals can pose a public health menace

  • Matt Damon as Mitch Emhoff in the thriller "Contagion," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. ©2011 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

  • Gwyneth Paltrow as Beth Emhoff. ©2011 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

  • Jude Law as Alan Krumwiede. ©2011 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

  • Kate Winslet as Dr. Erin Mears. ©2011 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

  • Laurence Fishburne as Dr. Ellis Cheever. ©2011 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

"In the film “Contagion,” opening in theaters September 9, a killer virus is spread when (spoiler alert!) an infected bat interacts with a pig, and then humans come in contact with the now infected slaughtered pig. Soon, a global pandemic is born.

In the film, how the virus starts is just a plot point. The real nail-biting action is in the horrifying spread of the disease, and the race for a cure. The villain in the fight to contain the disease is the close quarters in which humans live, work, and travel. Michael Greger, M.D., HSUS director of public health and animal agriculture, says there’s as much potential fact as fiction in the scenario, but his focus is on how, and where, such a virus is likely to be born.

Ironically, according to Dr. Greger, close quarters is also a potential villain in real life. An expert on the human health implications of industrial animal agriculture and author of “Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching" he says factory farms create a ‘perfect storm’ environment for the emergence and spread of new superstrains of influenza. “When we overcrowd thousands of animals into cramped, filthy, football-field sized sheds to lie snout to snout or beak to beak atop their own waste, it’s a breeding ground for disease.”
Learn more about the issues in Take Part: Contagion
He cites six factors that can make intensive confinement farms such a public health menace:
  • Because swine flu, for example, is transmitted just like human flu—via infected nasal secretions and respiratory droplets—the overcrowding on pig farms allows for large infectious doses to be passed back and forth
  • Combined with the sheer numbers of animals in one place, a virus can get thousands of spins on the genetic roulette wheel to acquire rare mutations
  • The stress caused by extreme confinement conditions can cripple animals’ immune systems
  • The dankness from the lack of fresh air, along with the lack of sunlight, can keep pathogens alive longer. The UV rays in sunlight are actually quite effective in destroying the influenza virus. Thirty minutes in direct sunlight completely inactivates the flu virus, but it can last for days in the shade and weeks in moist manure.
  • The ammonia from the decomposing fecal waste can burn animals' respiratory tracts, predisposing them to respiratory infection
  • Long-distance live animal transport can spread animal diseases with the potential to affect humans around the world. Pandemics can happen when pigs fly.
Dr. Greger adds, “Basically, we need to give these animals more breathing room. Studies have shown that measures as simple as providing straw for pigs so they don’t have the immunosuppressive stress of living on bare concrete their whole lives can significantly cut down on swine flu transmission rates. But in the long run, we need to follow the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production's recommendations to abolish extreme confinement practices like gestation crates as they're already doing in Europe, and to follow the advice of the American Public Health Association to call for no more factory farms.”

The HSUS joins a number of health organizations in presenting information relevant to the theme of “Contagion” on It’s a great opportunity, says Dr. Greger. “A high-profile theatrical film like ‘Contagion’ can help us raise awareness about how failing to provide more humane care for animals really can result in a disastrous situation, not just for the animals, but for us all.” "

“Contagion” is directed by Academy Award® winner Steven Soderbergh and features a stellar international ensemble cast including Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Kate Winslett, Laurence Fishburne, and many others.

Food fighter and future farmer

Birke Baehr is a young man on a mission. That mission is to tell the world just what is in our food.

Young Changemaker: Birke Baehr: We Need to Fix Our Food System
"If pundits, politicians and people in charge can't figure out what's wrong with our food system in the U.S., do we have any hope? Yes, we do. Just turn to 11 year-old Birke Baehr, who, in 5 minutes, outlines a whole slew of our food policy challenges, including:
  • marketing that tries to "get parents to buy stuff that isn't good for us or the planet
  • genetically modified foods
  • factory farming
  • synthetic pesticides & fertilizers
  • food irradiation
  • expensive organic food
Birke's plan? Instead of joining the NFL, as he originally planned, he's decided to become an organic farmer, so that he can "have a greater impact on the world.""

"This kid already knows what most Americans never consider about our current food system. For decades, our model has delivered more food, more cheaply, at greater convenience than we can even consume domestically. We're pushing this crap outside our borders, and it's starting to show."
More about Birke Baehr:

Groups Sue FDA for Putting Pigs Before People

"Force-feeding prescription drugs to healthy people, just to make them grow faster, would be considered ludicrous by any doctor. Possibly even criminal.

That’s why the Natural Resources Defense Council, Union of Concerned Scientists, and other health and science groups filed suit yesterday against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for allowing factory farms to do just that — waste our precious antibiotics on healthy livestock, just to help them grow fatter faster.

Here’s the disturbing truth. Approximately 70% of all antibiotics in our country are being squandered on healthy cows, pigs and chickens for unnecessary (and unnatural!) reasons like growth promotion, creating vast amounts of drug-resistant superbugs that put our children and families at risk.

For decades, antibiotics have saved us from diseases that were once a death sentence, ranging from bacterial meningitis to tuberculosis and pneumonia. But now, multi-drug resistant infections are on the rise, while the development of costly new antibiotics has slowed to a snail’s pace. Around the world, leading health organizations are warning that we’re on the verge of a global public health crisis.

And industrial agriculture keeps pouring gasoline on the fire, by regularly feeding important human antibiotics to our food animals at doses too low to treat disease — but perfect for breeding drug-resistant, dangerous bacteria.

The problem is so big and so bad that even our government officials openly admit that squandering antibiotics on livestock is a major threat to public health — and that we will not be able to win the battle against drug-resistance unless we end the practice.

Take it straight from the National Academy of Sciences:

A decrease in the inappropriate use of antimicrobials in human medicine alone is not enough. Substantial efforts must be made to decrease inappropriate overuse of antimicrobials in animals and agriculture as well.
Translation? The insanity has to stop now.

And that’s where FDA comes into the picture.
Even though FDA has known for decades that giving human antibiotics to healthy animals can breed monster bacteria that threaten human health, and even though the agency has a legal obligation to take action — FDA has done nothing.

Thank goodness they’re not getting away with it. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), together with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT), and Public Citizen, filed suit to make the FDA get off the sidelines and into the game, doing its job to protect the health of our families.

The coalition lawsuit will force the FDA to pull its head out of the sand and address this serious threat to public health now.
It will not only make the agency withdraw approval for giving penicillins and tetracyclines to healthy animals, but will also make FDA reevaluate whether it is safe to keep feeding ANY antibiotics important for human medicine to healthy animals.

The lawsuit couldn’t come at a more urgent time. Currently, while your family doctor carefully weighs the options before prescribing an antibiotic to your sick child, industrial farms are doling out the same antibiotics to animals like candy, undermining their ability to protect our health.

Maybe factory farms think they can stuff 25 million pounds of antibiotics into animal feed and water, and we won’t notice. Or maybe they think we won’t care.
But they’re wrong.     We’ve noticed and we’re not staying quiet.

In fact, according to a survey conducted by PEW Charitable Trusts, 80 percent of moms are concerned about antibiotics being used in meat production.
Why? Because, even if big agriculture doesn’t get it, parents know the value of a working antibiotic. We’ve stayed up all night with sick kids, worrying about whether a fever will break or when a doctor’s prescription will kick in. We know firsthand that ending this dangerous practice is about common sense, preparedness, and putting the health of people first.

There are no more excuses for delay. The science is in. More than 300 of the world’s leading health and consumer organizations have already come forward to demand that this practice come to an end.

Countries around the globe — including all 27 member states of the European Union — have already banned the use of important human antibiotics for growth promotion.

And it’s time for us to do the same here at home.
Learn more about this life threatening issue from NRDC."



The wildfires are still being fanned by winds here in the tri-county area of Montgomery, Grimes and Waller.

The wolf sanctuary ( ) is being threatened by the fire, and the wolves can't just be farmed out to foster homes, like domesticated animals.  From what I understand the fire dept. will come and hose the whole place down, and hope for the best.

test4Residents await return to homes in Magnolia

A dog walks through the scene of a home destroyed by the wildfire.
Pets: Montgomery County Animal Shelter will handle displaced animals. Please call 936.442.7738 to request assistance.

The Texas Renaissance Festival which starts soon, is very near the fire:

"In the meantime, there were concerns the very popular Texas Renaissance Festival grounds would be scorched before the big event. For now it is safe, but the same cannot be said by the dozens of homes in the path of the humongous grass fire.

The Texas Renaissance Festival grounds was used as a staging area for emergency responders preparing to battle the approaching wildfire."
Read more:

Claudia's daughter is still unable to go back to her home.  Her subdivision is listed as 'threatened', on the ticker tape running at the bottom of the news. 
She heard that embers had blown in her yard, hopefully they fell in the pool.

Her ex-husband lost his home, boat and Corvette in the fire.  No news about his truck or toy-hauler travel trailer, maybe he left with them.  After all, that is when RVs are the most useful.

These pictures were taken when I visited them last Thanksgiving.  They were divorced after that.

As Pepper, her dog, is still at Claudia's, and I groomed him yesterday.

Shay just called me, and said that she could see smoke right here in our subdivision.  She thought it might be coming from Steve's house farther down across the street.  I went out of my back door, as I can see that area better than she can.  Sure enough, about two roads over there is smoke lingering in between the pine trees.  If someone has ignored the fire ban, I hope they watered down the area very well.

Our fire department will be over in Magnolia, helping with that big wildfire.    A fire!!    That's all we need in this dry pine treed area.  Surely they left a few firemen and a truck available for this area.  They have to come past my house, and I haven't heard any sirens yet.

Area of the tri-county fire:  Wait for it to load.  We are near the 'e' in Lake Conroe.

"Basic Stats -- Entire Riley Road/Magnolia Fire
Acres burned: approx. 12,500 (3,700 acres in Montgomery Co.)
Homes lost: 55+/- (most in Waller County; 4 homes destroyed in Montgomery Co.)
Containment: 50% (according to Magnolia Command Post)"
Read more:

Those are the latest stats for today.


PS. I just drove around the subdivision, and the smoke can't be pinpointed.  It is everywhere.  It must be blowing over here from the Magnolia area.
  • A burned out house and cars are seen in the Remington Forest subdivision near Magnolia, Texas, on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011. A large blaze burning in forests in Montgomery, Waller and Grimes counties north and west of Houston contributed to  more than 1,000 homes that have been destroyed in at least 57 Texas fires. Photo: Houston Chronicle, Smiley N. Pool / © 2011  Houston Chronicle Blackened forest and burnt out houses, are left behind as wildfire burns on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011, near Magnolia, Texas. The blaze near Magnolia has charred 3,000 acres.
  • Photo: Houston Chronicle, Smiley N. Pool / © 2011 Houston Chronicle.

1 comment:

Dizzy-Dick said...

When we went to the Wal*Mart in Conroe, the smoke was so thick in town it looked like fog and limited the distance you could see. Smell was really strong. About an hour and half later when we came out, it was all gone. Looked like it blew on down south of here.