In the midst of a potential swine flu pandemic, we are being reassured that it’s okay to eat pork. News releases from the government and industry declare that swine flu is not transmitted by eating pork, and my fellow dietitians are busy advising consumers about safe pork cooking practices.

Pork is safe? Doesn’t this miss the point completely?

We have factory farms because there is no other way to satisfy appetites of Americans and other westerners for meat. Among their other horrors—which include environmental destruction and horrendous animal cruelty—factory farms are breeding grounds for disease. So now we have swine flu. And the response from the farm industry and even from health experts is to encourage people to engage in the very habits that caused it in the first place.

It may be true that you can’t get swine flu directly by eating a piece of bacon. But the only real protection from swine flu and other viruses poised to make the leap from animals to humans, is to do away with factory farms.

(Please make sure you check my examiner column today, too. It’s a short article on my two favorite brands of vegan sausage!)