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Hullabaloo


Friday, May 01, 2009

 
SWINE Flu Is Now Politically Incorrect

by tristero

That's right, people. It's not just Obama refusing to call SWINE Flu by its real name - namely, SWINE Flu - but on The Takeaway this morning I actually heard the airheads transition from saying SWINE Flu to calling it the H18237FN10DSND027E - HIke! virus or something. And they even admitted they were doing that because the oh-so-tenderized sensibilities of the men who control the meat industry believe that calling SWINE Flu "SWINE Flu" is bad for business.

Fuck 'em. It's SWINE Flu, you assholes. And the more you object, the more opportunity there will be to post links that expose the industrial meat business for what it is.* Let's get started.

If you haven't read it yet, and I apologize for repeating this link but it really is that good, go now and read Boss Hog. You will never eat Smithfield products again:
A lot of pig shit is one thing; a lot of highly toxic pig shit is another. The excrement of Smithfield hogs is hardly even pig shit: On a continuum of pollutants, it is probably closer to radioactive waste than to organic manure. The reason it is so toxic is Smithfield's efficiency. The company produces 6 billion pounds of packaged pork each year. That's a remarkable achievement, a prolificacy unimagined only two decades ago, and the only way to do it is to raise pigs in astonishing, unprecedented concentrations.

Smithfield's pigs live by the hundreds or thousands in warehouse-like barns, in rows of wall-to-wall pens. Sows are artificially inseminated and fed and delivered of their piglets in cages so small they cannot turn around. Forty fully grown 250-pound male hogs often occupy a pen the size of a tiny apartment. They trample each other to death. There is no sunlight, straw, fresh air or earth. The floors are slatted to allow excrement to fall into a catchment pit under the pens, but many things besides excrement can wind up in the pits: afterbirths, piglets accidentally crushed by their mothers, old batteries, broken bottles of insecticide, antibiotic syringes, stillborn pigs -- anything small enough to fit through the foot-wide pipes that drain the pits. The pipes remain closed until enough sewage accumulates in the pits to create good expulsion pressure; then the pipes are opened and everything bursts out into a large holding pond.

The temperature inside hog houses is often hotter than ninety degrees. The air, saturated almost to the point of precipitation with gases from shit and chemicals, can be lethal to the pigs. Enormous exhaust fans run twenty-four hours a day. The ventilation systems function like the ventilators of terminal patients: If they break down for any length of time, pigs start dying.

From Smithfield's point of view, the problem with this lifestyle is immunological. Taken together, the immobility, poisonous air and terror of confinement badly damage the pigs' immune systems. They become susceptible to infection, and in such dense quarters microbes or parasites or fungi, once established in one pig, will rush spritelike through the whole population. [Emphasis added.] Accordingly, factory pigs are infused with a huge range of antibiotics and vaccines, and are doused with insecticides. Without these compounds -- oxytetracycline, draxxin, ceftiofur, tiamulin -- diseases would likely kill them. Thus factory-farm pigs remain in a state of dying until they're slaughtered. When a pig nearly ready to be slaughtered grows ill, workers sometimes shoot it up with as many drugs as necessary to get it to the slaughterhouse under its own power. As long as the pig remains ambulatory, it can be legally killed and sold as meat.

The drugs Smithfield administers to its pigs, of course, exit its hog houses in pig shit. Industrial pig waste also contains a host of other toxic substances: ammonia, methane, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, cyanide, phosphorous, nitrates and heavy metals. In addition, the waste nurses more than 100 microbial pathogens that can cause illness in humans [Emphasis added], including salmonella, cryptosporidium, streptocolli and girardia. Each gram of hog shit can contain as much as 100 million fecal coliform bacteria.

Smithfield's holding ponds -- the company calls them lagoons -- cover as much as 120,000 square feet. The area around a single slaughterhouse can contain hundreds of lagoons, some of which run thirty feet deep. The liquid in them is not brown. The interactions between the bacteria and blood and afterbirths and stillborn piglets and urine and excrement and chemicals and drugs turn the lagoons pink.

Even light rains can cause lagoons to overflow; major floods have transformed entire counties into pig-shit bayous. To alleviate swelling lagoons, workers sometimes pump the shit out of them and spray the waste on surrounding fields, which results in what the industry daintily refers to as "overapplication." This can turn hundreds of acres -- thousands of football fields -- into shallow mud puddles of pig shit. Tree branches drip with pig shit.

Some pig-farm lagoons have polyethylene liners, which can be punctured by rocks in the ground, allowing shit to seep beneath the liners and spread and ferment. Gases from the fermentation can inflate the liner like a hot-air balloon and rise in an expanding, accelerating bubble, forcing thousands of tons of feces out of the lagoon in all directions.


The lagoons themselves are so viscous and venomous that if someone falls in it is foolish to try to save him. A few years ago, a truck driver in Oklahoma was transferring pig shit to a lagoon when he and his truck went over the side. It took almost three weeks to recover his body. In 1992, when a worker making repairs to a lagoon in Minnesota began to choke to death on the fumes, another worker dived in after him, and they died the same death. In another instance, a worker who was repairing a lagoon in Michigan was overcome by the fumes and fell in. His fifteen-year-old nephew dived in to save him but was overcome, the worker's cousin went in to save the teenager but was overcome, the worker's older brother dived in to save them but was overcome, and then the worker's father dived in. They all died in pig shit.*
Smithfield has a long history of spectacular pollution. Here's an article from 1997:
One of the largest pork companies on the East Coast was fined $12.6 million - the largest water pollution fine ever- for dumping hog waste into a Chesapeake Bay tributary.

U.S. District Judge Rebecca B. Smith ruled Aug. 8 that Smithfield Foods Inc. was liable for nearly 7,000 violations of the Clean Water Act since 1991. She said she wanted at least a portion of the fine to be used for Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts. The ruling resulted from an EPA lawsuit that accused Smithfield of polluting the Pagan River and destroying documents to cover it up.
And here, my friend Maria Hinojosa (our children go to the same school) of NOW goes inside a Smithfield pig processing plant in North Carolina to examine efforts to establish a union at the plant. She reports, among other things, that the stench was so awful that a member of her production crew nearly vomited. And try to put yourself in the place of those workers, spending north of 6 hours a day in that nauseating environment, slicing fat off a never-ending supply of dead pig carcasses - extremely dangerous work.

Here's an article from E Magazine in May-June 2000 entitled Factory Pig Farms Spread Filth & Disease:
"Transmission of influenza viruses from birds to mammals has probably occurred for centuries," said Dr. Robert Webster of the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee, speaking at the Second International Symposium on Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses. "However, increased opportunities for transmission, larger chicken and pig populations, and overall growth of human populations are associated with a higher risk of
interspecies reassortment. This situation is a possible start for a new pandemic."

While the timing of the next influenza pandemic cannot be predicted, experts agree it is inevitable. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) projects that the next pandemic could kill between 89,000 to 207,000 people, and result in 314,000 to 734,000 hospitalizations. Infectious disease specialists say health authorities are not prepared.*


Finally, here's a a pollution locator to help you locate factory farms in your community. Frankly, I'd think just a quick sniff of the air would be enough, but this could be helpful, I suppose...

That's enough for now. Every time I hear SWINE Flu described by euphemism, I'll post more and more descriptions, videos and photos of the industrial meat industry. I'd like to encourage other bloggers to do the same.


---

*Note:It is true that the crowded, filthy, conditions of Smithfield's industrial hog farms are a perfect breeding ground for disease and viruses, including ones that infect humans. It is also true that Smithfield is an unspeakably prolific polluter. From the Rolling Stone article above:
In 1999, Luter bought a state-owned company called Animex, one of Poland's biggest hog processors. Then he began doing business through a Polish subsidiary called Prima Farms, acquiring huge moribund Communist-era hog farms and converting them into concentrated feeding operations. Pork prices in Poland were low, so Smithfield's sweeping expansion didn't make strict economic sense, except that it had the virtue of pushing small hog farmers toward bankruptcy. By 2003, Animex was operating six subsidiary companies and seven processing plants, selling nine brands of meat and taking in $338 million annually.

The usual violations occurred. Near one of Smithfield's largest plants, in Byszkowo, an enormous pool of frozen pig shit, pumped into a lagoon in winter, melted and ran into two nearby lakes. The lake water turned brown; residents in local villages got skin rashes and eye infections; the stench made it impossible to eat. A recent report to the Helsinki Commission found that Smithfield's pollution throughout Poland was damaging the country's ecosystems. Overapplication was endemic. Farmers without permits were piping liquid pig shit directly into watersheds that fed into the Baltic Sea.
It is also true that a Smithfield subsidiary was about 12 miles from La Gloria, where the first cases of the latest SWINE Flu strain occurred: some 60% of the town was affected. And it is also true that the Smithfield subsidiary in Mexico is also an incredibly disgusting polluter.

However, there is, at present, no hard evidence yet linking Smithfield Foods' practices to this SWINE Flu virus. This is important to remember: whether or not Smithfield Foods eventually gets implicated in the SWINE Flu outbreak does not change the simple fact that their business practice is unhealthy, unsanitary, unspeakably cruel to both pigs and humans, and extremely dangerous to work in.

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