DEAR READERS: African swine fever is a contagious viral disease, usually fatal to pigs, for which there is no treatment or vaccine. It has been found in pigs in at least 36 countries since June 2018, including Vietnam, Laos, China and Hong Kong, and has now been reported in the Philippines.
The only way to control its spread is through depopulation. It does not infect people.
Since African swine fever was first reported in China in August of last year, that country has lost or culled millions of animals. China may lose up to 50 percent of its pigs (around 200 million animals) before the disease is contained. Already, 100 million pigs have died from this disease, and many more have been killed to prevent its further spread. Many pigs have been buried alive in deep pits in regions where humane means of killing infected and exposed animals were either not available, or too inconvenient.
The European and American pork industries are on alert, and import restrictions and quarantine measures are in place. Bacon and pork dog treats from China, as well as pet foods, could be from infected pigs, which could put the U.S. pork industry at risk.
This is a predictable tragedy for these poor creatures confined to factory-like buildings around the world, and in poor communities where free-ranging and wild pigs contract and spread this disease across borders. Animal husbandry practices with high concentrations of animals create ideal conditions for such plagues. I see this as nature’s own “bioweapon” against monocultures. It is a hard lesson for humanity to begin to farm more ecologically and humanely, and to find alternatives to pork and other animal products in their diets. Millions of acres of good, arable land at home and abroad are used -- and wildlife habitat, including the Amazon rainforest, destroyed -- to raise corn and soybeans for pig and other factory-farmed animal feed.
As for the U.S. pork industry, which uses thousands of tons of antibiotics: According to the Environmental Working Group, 71% of pork chops carried antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The same was true for 79% of ground turkey.
Public health, consumer risks, environmental impacts and animal suffering involved in satisfying the demand for meat must be addressed by civil society leaders and advocates. Rising consumption of meat is a major contributor to the climate crisis we now all face.
A BOOK THAT INSPIRES AND INFORMS
“It’s the Little Things: The Pocket Pigs’ Guide to Living Your Best Life.” Photographs by Richard Austin; published by Workman Publishing, 2019.
Winston Churchill once said, “Dogs look up to you, cats look down on you. Give me a pig! He looks you in the eye and treats you as an equal.”
This beautifully illustrated book with photos of happy pocket piglets from a farm in Devon, England, offers words of inspiration to help us through these challenging times, and also provides insights about pigs’ intelligence and social behavior.
Pigs who can play are healthier and grow faster than those raised in factory pens. I especially like this book’s statement -- under the heading, “It’s OK to Feel Things Deeply” -- that pigs “cry real tears when they are sad or grieving.” And when separated from their families, they become depressed and refuse to eat.
This book is a fine gift for people of all ages -- a superior alternative to buying a pork chop, or a pig as a pet! Many who are raised to be in-house companions become too big to manage; many suffer boredom, become destructive and are prone to obesity and related maladies.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have a 3-year-old female cat named Bijoux. She weighs 16 pounds -- very overweight, yes, I know. She is constantly hungry. I have been feeding her Meow Mix Tender Centers.
My vet did a blood test on her, and her triglycerides came back with a number of 1,044. I was told that this was serious and could lead to many complications.
I am extremely worried about her. What can I do to help my cat? -- L.M., West Palm Beach, Florida
DEAR L.M.: This is a very common problem with cats on dry kibble -- they can become food addicts, refuse to eat other kinds of cat food and wind up with various health complications. These include metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, fatty liver disease, high blood pressure and heart problems.
The kind of manufactured food you are giving her is in the “junk food” category. You should transition her to a canned cat food such as Halo, Wellness or Friskies, grain-free -- or, ideally, my home-prepared diet or the Honest Kitchen’s freeze-dried cat food.
Try different varieties of moist, grain- and soy-free cat foods. Feed her a heaped teaspoon only, on a regular schedule, six to eight times a day. Weigh her every three to four weeks, and if she is not losing weight, make it a level teaspoon.
Most cats do best having several small meals daily on a clean plate, well-washed to remove any odor of old food. Avoid all dry and semi-moist cat foods.
Let me know how you progress. For more information, visit feline-nutrition.org.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)