I know I am not supposed to call it swine flu anymore because the pork industry says it disparages pigs and is bad for their business, but…
I have spent a little time this morning reading articles about the suspected origins of this current outbreak of flu that is terrorizing America and the world (The media has seen to that!)
Apparently there is great suspicion that this all began in La Gloria, Mexico where massive pig farming takes place and the pollution from said farming has been causing sever respiratory illness, fever, chills, aches and fatigue in hundreds of residents of this village since February. But until a 5-year-old boy was officially diagnosed, this crisis in the making was left out of the news.
It makes me wonder why. This small village supplies more than 50% of the pork to Smithfield Foods in North Carolina, the proud owners of the largest pig slaughterhouse in the world. Such an achievement! They must be so proud. The biggest hog producer, as well as the nation’s leading processor of pork and packaged meats, Smithfield claims that their pigs do not have the flu. Not one of them…not one in the 14 million they raise or the 27 million pigs they own and slaughter has the flu. They claim they have all been tested.
And I am the Virgin Mary.
According to Mexican newspapers, showing the rotting corpses of pigs floating in pig waste ‘lagoons,’ Smithfield’s Granjas Carroll plant practices could most certainly have contributed to this current flu outbreak.
Let’s look at how it works with pigs, highly intelligent and gentle creatures in their own right. A pig produces, on average, three times its weight in solid waste. That’s a lot of manure. In 2003, Science magazine reported that ‘swine flu was on the evolutionary fast track’ due to the increased size of factory farms and uncontrolled waste accumulation. The best estimates put Smithfield’s waste output at 26 million tons a year. That would fill Yankee stadium 4 times. And it’s not just that there is a lot of pig manure out there, but it’s almost radioactive in its toxicity, according to environmental expert, Jeff Tietz. Ostentatious pollution, it seems is a lynch pin of Smithfield’s business model, as they allow great volumes of toxic waste to run off their sloped barn floors into the groundwater of the surrounding areas. With repeated fines from the EPA, you have to wonder what Smithfield is thinking.
Well, we know what they’re thinking. There is no possible way that they can produce in excess of 6 billion pounds of packaged pork each year without compromise to environmental standards, excessive cruelty to the animals as they are factory farmed under horrible conditions. But I guess we can’t let a little thing like human health get in the way of profit.
With 250 pound adult hogs crammed together in a tight space that has no sunlight, fresh air, earth or straw, the pigs trample each other to death. In the pits below the pens, accumulations of antibiotics, insecticides, dead piglets, afterbirth and excrement mount up. In such conditions, the gentle pigs become susceptible to infections and are shot up with antibiotics to cover their symptoms and get them to slaughter. And Smithfield tells us that there is no way that their pigs have infections? Or flu?
Now as the terror induced by the media loses strength and this latest version of swine flu looks like it will not become the pandemic of the age (sorry, CNN and Fox News…), the plight of the pig will once again recede from our consciousness. But now more than ever, we need to call for a worldwide health inquiry into the toxic conditions surrounding factory pig farming and put an end to Smithfield’s dirty little secret that threatens to create a colossal health danger.
Celebrity chef Paula Deen may look like a Southern granny with her white hair and saccharin drawl, but representing a company like Smithfield and what they do to the planet and to humans makes her anything but your neighbor over the back yard fence. She may say that she ‘puts family values ahead of her cooking values,’ but if she continues to work with a company known for cruelty to its animals and workers, pollution and violation of environmental laws…well, no wonder she needs so much butter in her cooking. She has to disguise the bad taste it leaves behind.
It’s time to step up and make choices for our health and the health of our planet. Stop swallowing (literally) all the marketing and smiling faces in the ads. Go with the truth…always…and vote with your dollar. If you want to see Smithfield make changes to how they produce, then stop buying their products and tell them why. When they see that they are losing your money, they’ll change their practices. In fact, stop buying their food-like substances all together…for all the reasons you know…saturated fat, diabetes, obesity.
Maybe one day, we’ll see the Smithfield organic broccoli farm. A girl can dream…