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Norton 

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International Kiss-a-Pig Day...................


In the past few days, I have devoted my thoughts to the pressing problem of pandemic pig-flu. As you are doubtless aware, a hybrid influenza virus has emerged in the Americas, containing genes from human and avian strains that make it contagious and lethal to Mankind, but expressing a coat of proteins hitherto found only in porcine influenza - making it effectively invisible to the human immune system.

There is apparently no prospect of a vaccine becoming available for several months, and even then there are doubts that it would be effectively (or fairly) distributed and administered. Bluntly, our species and our civilisation are at risk - not, perhaps of extermination, and nothing even close to it; but grave losses and economic dislocation seem certain if the current strain continues to spread.

However... Swine flu is not an immunologically-unfamiliar parasite to a certain class of human: workers on pig farms are exposed to it all the time. Mostly, it's harmless - the malign hybridisation is a mercifully rare event - and they all have a healthy immune response to the circulating strains of pig flu.

In other words, pig farmers have been naturally vaccinated.

So if each of us were to rush out and kiss a pig tomorrow - an action which would have a fair chance of exposing us to porcine viruses - we'd each have a small but measurable chance of becoming 'vaccinated' too. Better still, even if you or I didn't personally benefit by becoming immune, our collective effort would raise the human herd immunity to a level at which the potentially-pandemic virus might well be unable to spread.

Studies must be done - and soon - to determine the optimum intensity of interspecies gestures of affection: is a mere peck on the cheek sufficient? A lick? A proper 'smooch' ? Or full-on snogging with tongues? It is certain that some people will go too far, but we don't discuss That Sort Of Thing.

The numbers? There are approximately 125 million pigs in the European Union and 500 million people. That is to say: one pig between four. This means that the risk of spreading our own diseases by kissing a pig that hundreds of other citizens have slobbered on before our turn is negligible, greatly reducing the probability that we'd end up spreading all of our existing diseases to each other and killing more people than a putative aporkalypse.

That being said, distribution problems in the major cities will certainly mean that more than four people end up kissing the same pig: I recommend the use of lipstick, so that each of us can see exactly where our fellow-citizens have kissed a problematically-promiscuous porker, and we can carefully place our pucker-marks a precautionary distance apart from theirs.

It is also vitally important that we all perform our unhygienic homage on the same day: with millions of pig-and-human interactions, some pigs are going to catch flu off of us, making it possible - certain, even - that another pig-human hybrid flu will emerge. However, hybridisation doesn't happen instantaneously, and keeping the time-window as short as possible protects us all.

...Protects us, that is, if we then slaughter 99% of the pigs immediately to halt the incubation of new hybrids, and proceed to consume the world's largest meal of bacon sandwiches; the surviving 1% will rebuild the breeding stock as a pampered herd raised on a ruthless regime of Tamiflu and daily testing for influenza antigens.

The alternative, of course, is to restrict pig-kissing to a privileged minority - a sort of immunological aristocracy - but this will reproduce the unseemly scramble for Tamiflu, whereby the rich, the quick and the well-connected have seized and stockpiled all of it, leaving nothing for the public health systems of the World. I do not doubt that the emergence of an effective vaccine will be greeted by similar outbreaks of medical totalitarianism driven by economic privilege.

We are a civilised society and we can do better than that; and, despite some peoples' religious objections, being nice to pigs is sure to be a rewarding experience and good karma to us all.

I look forward to your suggestions on improving the process of prophylactic pig-snogging, and hope that it brings you all great joy.
 

Jenxy 

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I don't think I would have the nerve to rey and kiss a pig.... They bite!
 

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