Who Hijacked Our Country

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Factory Farms and Swine Flu — Is There a Connection?

You don’t have to be a PETA fanatic to think that factory farming is a horrible practice. Pigs are smarter than cats and dogs. It should be unthinkable to have them crammed together into tiny pens to wallow in their own shit.

And now there’s a possibility that factory farm pollution is the cause of the current swine flu epidemic. There’s no proof, but there’s a lot of smoke out there, whether there’s any fire or not. Google “factory farms swine flu” and see how many links come up. I first read about this on MSNBC.com, but when I went back to the same link the next day, the story had disappeared.

Smithfield Foods — the world’s largest hog producer — has a huge factory farm in Perote, Vera Cruz, Mexico. This operation raises and “processes” (don’t even go there) 950,000 hogs per year. And the town of Perote is where the swine flu outbreak originated. Coincidence?

Smithfield Foods is an American company. Their factory farm operation in Perote, Mexico is called Granjas Carroll. Now if this factory farm turns out to be the swine flu culprit (notice I said IF) — there’s a certain irony. When this swine flu epidemic first became public, rightwing bloggers and pundits went ballistic, calling Mexicans every racial slur you’ve ever heard (and probably a few new ones). Swine flu was all THEIR fault — those dirty feelthy stinking F#$%^&#!$&#s came into our country and infected us with their filth and disease!

So…Do these wingtards have anything they’d like to rephrase? I’m not providing links to any of these assholes; you know who I’m talking about.

For more information about Smithfield Foods, check this out.

cross-posted at Bring It On!

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Blogger Enemy of the Republic said...

I've been signing a lot of petitions about factory farming. There is a correlation of this illness to pig herding and farming as you explain here.

May 13, 2009 at 4:48 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Enemy: I've signed a lot of petitions about this too. I think the whole thing is sick.

May 13, 2009 at 6:07 PM  
Anonymous Kvatch said...

OK... I'm convinced! I'm raising our 'Christmas Pig' in the backyard, and I'm going to call him 'lunch'.

But seriously... it is very difficult, even here in 'locavore heaven' to tell where your meat comes from. So even if one is of a mind to try and avoid factory farmed meat, it can be difficult.

May 13, 2009 at 7:01 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Kvatch: Northwestern Washington is a big locavore area too. We have local farms that raise poultry and sell it in local shops; pork I'm not sure about.

May 13, 2009 at 7:20 PM  
Blogger Demeur said...

A good post Tom. I couldn't have done a better job. If you think factory pig farming is bad you should look into the beef and chicken industries.
As for the massive wastes we're not doing much better with our own human wastes. At present we're building a very large waste treatment plant in Woodenville,Wa. with a massive dump pipe that goes out one mile into the pudget sound. But here's a bit of info you probably didn't know. The Canadians dump their sewage into the sound untreated. At least that is what I learned at one of my recert classes a few years back. Whether they have changed their methods since then I do not know.
It's sad to think that they couldn't process the waste into electricity and clean out the toxics.
We won't be able to eliminate factory farming as the world population increases but I'm sure there are better methods.

May 13, 2009 at 7:20 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Demeur: Thanks. No doubt all factory farms are atrocious. California voters passed a referendum last November to improve conditions at poultry farms. I don't know whether it's made any difference or not.

Yes, Victoria B.C. still dumps their raw sewage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. I live right across the Strait from them. I think they're "planning" to fix that problem, but they haven't yet as far as I know.

May 13, 2009 at 7:28 PM  
Blogger rockync said...

"Factory" farming has long been a concern for me. Here, we have a proliferation of chicken "farms". I hate to associate the word farm with these operations.
The chickens are crowded into chicken houses where they trample some to death, get fed in troughs and live in their own excrement until they are loaded into cages on a truck and driven down the highway at 70 miles an hour to the slaughter houses.
These large operations, be it pigs, chickens or cattle, are breeding grounds for disease and then there are all the various hormones added to their food. It's nauseating.
I am fortunate that I can shop for meat at a small, family run meat processing store that runs a retail butcher shop. The meat comes from small local growers who raise their animals without all the additives.
We have lost a valuable source of healthy food with the demise of the family farms.

May 13, 2009 at 8:40 PM  
Blogger The Rambling Taoist said...

I'm glad I'm a vegetarian! Of course, I realize I'm not safe because more and more corporate farming outfits are using diseased manure and the like on the plants I eat. Even if I luck out on this front, I can still catch the damn flu. Hell, there's no escaping it these days. ;(

May 13, 2009 at 9:37 PM  
Anonymous S.W. anderson said...

The orgininal Pure Food and Drug Act that ushered in the era of govt regulation of industry began because people were being sickened by food they bought. Tainted meat from unclean workers in filthy slaughterhouses, improperly processed canned goods and so on. Corners cut all over the place, and innocent people being sickened and even dying because of it.

Now, it's factory farming, faulty waste handling and probably, as over a century ago, poor hygiene and lack of training and proper supervision of some or all of the workers.

This isn't a war against public health menaces that can be won and then we all move on. It's a series of battles that must be fought over and over. We clearly need more and better agriculture and food inspectors, stiffer regulations — and people at the top who believe in regulation and oversight.

This is especially true because we import a remarkable amount of foods now and will probably increase the amount over time. For one thing, the number of small farms keeps shrinking at an alarming rate. So, unfortunately, more of our food is sure to come from from factory farms, many of them in other countries. It will be helpful all around if we can secure agreements that allow our inspectors into foreign factory farms and food processors.

May 13, 2009 at 10:58 PM  
Blogger Benjamin Solah said...

Excellent post and thanks for the Rolling Stone article.

Socialist Worker had a similar piece - http://socialistworker.org/2009/05/06/smithfields-dirty-secrets - wouldn't you just love to work at a place like that?!

May 13, 2009 at 11:40 PM  
Blogger Randal Graves said...

I knew it was all the fault of those damn Mexicans! Build that wall! Build that wall!

May 14, 2009 at 10:42 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Rockync: I too hate to associate the word "farm" with those sickening operations. I worked on a dairy farm one summer during high school. It really was a family farm, straight out of all the story books and archetypes. There was plenty of hard work, but it was such an idyllic setting.

TRT: I don't eat much meat, but lots of fish. They're probably farmed too, unless it says on the label that it's "wild caught." Unfortunately the flu doesn't discriminate.

SW: It's funny how the same battles have to keep being fought over and over. This could be the late 1800s and early 1900s all over again, with people being killed by tainted food, and corporations and robber barons yelling "Communist!" at every attempt to regulate things.

Like you said, "It's a series of battles that must be fought over and over."

Benjamin: Thanks for the link. Ah yes, those halcyon memories of the old Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO).

Randal: You'd be surprised at how many wingnuts are actually saying exactly that. Or maybe it's not surprising.

May 14, 2009 at 2:48 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

There is definitely a connection: factory farms are owned and run by swine (human swine, that is).

May 14, 2009 at 4:03 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Snave: That's the truth.

May 14, 2009 at 5:51 PM  
Blogger Benjamin Solah said...

What I want to ask is why hasn't the Blogosphere had more jokes about the Swine Flu and Cops.

I'm waiting for a chant at an anti-capitalist demo to chant something at the cops about giving us Swine Flu.

May 14, 2009 at 5:53 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Benjamin: I don't know about Australia, but that sounds sort of dangerous in this country. On blogs would be one thing, but out in public you'd probably find yourself on the business end of a Taser or a billy club.

May 14, 2009 at 11:09 PM  
Blogger Benjamin Solah said...

Very true. Australia's a bit tamer but I've already almost found myself at the business end of a cop weapon before for doing basically nothing.

And by the looks of things in the UK, you only need to be walking home from work, inconveniently near a protest, to get killed.

May 14, 2009 at 11:11 PM  
Blogger bob said...

I'd like to be slightly off-topic and suggest that in the future, the media needs to be more responsible with that they report. While its not joke that people died from this flu, the media wound up blowing the thing out of proportion and scaring the living crap out of everybody before it was soon found that the flu itself is basically slightly more aggressive than the typical flu that takes place all the time. People were in an outright panic over this thing and that does not help solve problems.

May 15, 2009 at 7:58 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Benjamin: I hadn't heard that about the UK. Tasering is really getting out of control in the U.S., and I think Canada too.

Bob: Don't get me started. There are so many conflicting reports from the Center for Disease Control, and each one gets spewed out by the media. Don't drink coffee -- it causes ulcers, kidney failure and heart attacks. Coffee cures arthritis and it's the best anti-oxident ever -- drink all you can.

With the swine flu, I know they have to report it and the public has to be aware and all that. But the media likes to have everyone on edge and paranoid all the time. Now, of course, swine flu will be back with a vengeance next winter and it'll be immune to whatever vaccines we've got. And they're also speculating that the swine flu virus (contagious but not usually fatal) might merge with the avian flu virus which is often fatal but less contagious. Presto -- we'll have highly contagious flu virus that's often fatal. The fun never ends. Maybe the common cold will merge with the AIDS virus, so that whenever somebody with AIDS coughs, everybody in the vicinity will get AIDS.

May 15, 2009 at 3:56 PM  
Anonymous Bee said...

I find it interesting that a msnbc.com link was taken down - my experience with my own links is that those damned things stay up forever - months, sometimes a year. So them taking it down raises my mental red flag.

Of course there is a connection - you don't have tons and tons of literal shit piled up without some nasty organism thriving in it.

I've been to Victoria BC - beautiful place - quite disgusted to hear they dump raw sewage. OY!

May 15, 2009 at 7:07 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Bee: I find that happening fairly often with MSNBC, with their links disappearing. Sometimes they stay around for years; other times they're gone the next day. But for this particular case it could be a red flag. The article I linked mentioned that the American media was blacking out the story, but Mexico's press was all over it.

Yup, Victoria dumps their shit right into the Strait, just 18 miles from our front door.

May 15, 2009 at 7:21 PM  
Blogger Benjamin Solah said...

They're just ignited the taser debate here in Australia but we don't have them here. Thank God.

But in the UK, a bystander was beaten to death by cops at the G20 protest. He was just walking home from work which happened to be by the protest.

May 15, 2009 at 7:23 PM  

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