Nipha infection : Peta urges Kerala Minister to close down pig farms in state

Thiruvananthapuram : People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India has urged Kerala Animal Husbandry and Dairy Development Minister J Chinchurani to close down pig farms in the state to prevent further spread of the Nipha infection and a potential pandemic.

PETA India said this in a letter to Mr Chinchurani in the wake of the death of a 12-year-old child in Kerala to Nipah virus and other Nipah infections in healthcare workers in the state, a release said here on Wednesday.

PETA India’s request comes within two months of the group’s placement of a warning billboard in Delhi about the meat industry’s link to the spread of bird flu. There, an 11-year-old boy had succumbed to complications of H5N1 bird flu, an infection with a 60% mortality rate, in July.

“The crowded animal farms of the meat industry create hotspots for zoonotic diseases. These killer facilities need to be shut down immediately and permanently, before they cost more lives,” PETA India Vegan Foods and Nutrition Specialist Dr Kiran Ahuja said.

He said “Vegetables never caused a pandemic.”

As the World Organization for Animal Health warns, Nipah virus is highly contagious in pigs and has devastating zoonotic potential, meaning that it can infect humans from other animals. It was first observed in farmed pigs in Malaysia and Singapore in 1998 and 1999 and resulted in 257 cases of febrile encephalitis, including 100 deaths, as of April 27, 1999 in Malaysia alone.

Most human cases were then found to have been caused by exposure to pig farms. The pigs in Malaysia had become infected by bats who were attracted to nearby fruit trees.

PETA India warns that the farmed pig population in Kerala could easily become infected with the Nipah virus through native fruit bat droppings or saliva.

As a result of the killing of wildlife and intensive animal farming practices, zoonotic diseases have caused outbreaks or pandemics in recent years, including the deadly H1N1 swine flu, which humans contracted from farmed pigs, and COVID-19, believed by most scientists to have spread from a live-animal market in China, as well as other poor health outcomes.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warns, “Over 30 new human pathogens have been detected in the last three decades, 75 per cent of which have originated in animals.”

Numerous zoonotic diseases, including the Nipah virus, which has an estimated fatality rate of 40% to 75% in humans, prove that crowding animals together for rearing or slaughter allows diseases to spread among them and to humans easily.

In addition to helping to prevent the spread of diseases, meat-free meals spare animals immense suffering. In today’s meat industry, billions of animals are raised inside vast warehouses in severe confinement and their throats are often cut while they’re still conscious, the release added.