The harm generated by confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) continues to increase – this time by generating a breeding ground for the superbug MRSA – methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. We usually think of MRSA as occurring in hospitals, nursing homes, or other health-care institutions where bacteria may flourish in residents with weakened immune systems and where the inhabitants are heavily-antibiotic reliant.
Ordinarily, healthy human beings play host to the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, which are found in the nose and on the skin and which usually do not cause problems. But our preoccupation with dosing up with antibiotics has led the somewhat benign regular Staph bacteria to turn on us and mutate into what is known as a superbug – MRSA.
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The bug has become resistent to our antibiotics, and the more antibiotics consumed, the better the bug gets at retooling itself to survive. Now MRSA has been found thriving in swine CAFOs. Factory farming operations confine a large number of animals to relatively small areas. These operations require both antibiotics and pesticides to reduce the spread of disease and pestilence. An excessive reliance on antibiotics can result in the incubation of virulent, resistant bacterial strains.
If pig feces and urine swirling around in manure lagoons, if air fouled by the smell of thousands of animals crammed into metal buildings, if manure seeping into the rivers and aquifers, if the blatant cruelty of confining these animals into close quarters never to see the outdoors aren’t enough to raise the alarm bell about CAFOs, maybe the fact that the superbug is lurking in their confines will do it. Just one more reason that CAFOs are harmful to our environment.