Swine Flu and CAFOs – Any Connection?

Swine flu is certainly getting people’s attention, and raising a lot of discussion about factory farming and its possible impacts on our health, as well as the environment. We’ve just published a few satellite views of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) near La Gloria, the town in the state of Veracruz, Mexico, where the first case of swine flu associated with the April, 2009 outbreak was identified. Large hog-farming operations near town have been implicated by local residents as a possible cause, but as of now (4/30/09) no evidence has emerged to support any such link. These pictures were derived from Google satellite images taken in 2003 and 2006.

We’re not sure if these facilities are hog farms; chicken farms look similar, although in the U.S. chicken farms typically don’t have such large open waste lagoons. Write a comment to let us know what you think (and why). On-the-ground photos of a hog farm near La gloria, clearly showing the metal sheds and large waste lagoons, are here and here. And to see closeup air photos of hog farming facilities in Canada for comparison to these Google satellite images, peruse this gallery.

The incredible volumes of manure produced at CAFOs that raise cattle, hogs and chickens pose a threat to water quality wherever the manure is improperly stored or over-applied as fertilizer. To learn more about CAFOs, check in with the folks at Waterkeeper Alliance and browse this report from NRDC; and look over these possible solutions to the hog-waste problem proposed by Environmental Defense Fund.