Swine Fever: Part of the Deal

by , under Current Affairs

The outbreak of swine fever that has originated in Mexico and has now spread pretty much throughout the word appears shocking. The mounting deaths are terrible, but we shouldn’t pretend that this is somehow something new and sinister. Its’ not.

Ever since we left our hunter-gatherer roots and began to domesticate crops and animals, we have made a pact with our food supplies that carries a cost. Animals provide us with an amazingly rich source of protein, but working closely with animals, and using their milk and meat and pelts, means that we are open to attack from their viruses too. Avian flu, swine flu, AIDS – just the tip of a mass of diseases that we have bought into with our insistence on being master of beasts.

Those who couldn’t survive this close contact soon died out, and initially those in the Middle East evolved tolerance to most animal diseases. When we eventually pushed out into the new world, it was germs, not guns, that killed most of the Inca.

It brings a new dimension to this metaphor of ‘the Lamb of God.’ With that slaughter and blood, comes infection. We are changed forever. There is no return.


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  1. Daniel

    Really Kester? I thought you above tasteless –and worse, lame– metaphors…

  2. KB

    You’re right – the metaphors were lame. Trying to press too quickly, with other things going on.

    But I was trying to simply present a dispassionate view of a situation that has been repeated throughout history, and one that we are simply going to have to accept given our species’ unique relationship to other animals. No other animal (by choice) drinks another’s milk. No other animal so intensive herds and slaughters and involves itself in other animal’s physiology.

    If we want to get away from these animal-based fever pandemics then we are either going to have to radically change our animal husbandry practices, or all become vegetarian. That’s not going to happen for economic reasons (we all like cheap meat too much) nor for cultural reasons (we have a very strong relationship to eating meat) – and the lame metaphors were a crap attempt to begin to suggest that we aren’t going to for religious reasons either. Our rituals are deeply intertwined with our diet; what we present to God is what we cherish. So meat and sacrifice and blood have become central to our theology – something I was trying to get away from in these posts on the Hunter-Gatherer Eucharist.

    Still that’s no excuse for lazy/speed blogging. Which ironically was because a bunch of the family have gone down with a fever /-§