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Go vegetarian to stop SARS..

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Singapore, April 28


Another reason to become vegetarian:


An animal rights advocacy group urged Asians Monday to go vegetarian amid fears that the SARS epidemic ravaging the region may have originated from livestock in southern China.


"Stop eating meat," the US-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said in a statement sent with a mock medical mask adorned with the pink face of a piglet and the slogan "Say No to Pig-Farm Germs".


The global death toll from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is about 320 with some 5,000 cases reported, mostly in East Asia.


PETA, which advocates a vegetarian diet as the answer to many human ailments, said "intensively confining animals create filth that allows diseases to spread like wildfire".


"As people in Asia eat more meat, they are putting the rest of the world at risk," the statement said, citing a "highly healthy" trend in the West toward vegetarian diets.


PETA's Asia representative Jason Baker said "the battle against SARS and other diseases begins on our dinner plates".


"No more meat means no more factory farms and no more outbreaks of diseases spread by intensively raised animals, whether from germs or from the cholesterol and fat in their flesh."


Scientists are looking into the possibility that livestock in southern China may have been the source of the SARS virus, noting that in some rural parts of Guangdong province people live in close proximity to pigs, chickens and other animals.

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From China's Provinces, a Crafty Germ Spreads



SHUNDE, China — An hour south of Guangzhou, the Dongyuan animal market presents endless opportunities for an emerging germ. In hundreds of cramped stalls that stink of blood and guts, wholesale food vendors tend to veritable zoos that will grace Guangdong Province's tables: snakes, chickens, cats, turtles, badgers, frogs. And, in summer, sometimes rats, too.


They are all stacked in cages one on top of another — which in turn serve as seats, card tables and dining quarters for the poor migrants who work there. On a recent morning, near stall 17, there were beheaded snakes, disemboweled frogs and feathers flying as a half-alive headless bird was plunked into a basket.


If you were a corona virus, like the one that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, known as SARS, it would be easy to move from animals to humans in the kitchens and food stalls of Guangdong, a province notorious for exotic cuisine prepared with freshly killed beasts.


Indeed, preliminary studies of early SARS victims here in Guangdong have found that an unusually high percentage were in the catering profession — a tantalizing clue, perhaps, to how a germ that genetically most resembles chicken and rodent viruses has gained the ability to infect thousands of humans.


One of the earliest cases, last December, was a seller of snakes and birds here who died at Shunde's First People's Hospital of severe pneumonia. His wife and a several members of the hospital staff contracted it as well, setting off an outbreak that now sounds eerily familiar.


"Oh yes, I heard that a guy here died of that pneumonia," said Li Songyu, a 40-year-old wearing a neat tan blouse, as she filleted live frogs and dumped them into a basket. "But it is very safe and sanitary now."


Around the same time in December, Huang Xinchu, a chef, was admitted to the Heyuan People's Hospital, 100 miles to the north, ultimately infecting eight doctors there. On Jan. 2, another desperately ill chef was hospitalized in the city of Zhongshan, south of Shunde, setting off an outbreak.


But if such early outbreaks present scientific hints about the origin of SARS, they also provide painful political lessons in how a disease that has spread worldwide could have been prevented.


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