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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Call It Like It Is

by tristero



La Vida Locavore informs us that the industrial meat industry doesn't like the media calling swine flu..."swine flu." Quoting from Meatingplace:
The North American Meat Processors Association, the National Meat Association and the American Meat Institute all issued statements asking the media to pick up on the phrase "North American flu" or other, accurate references to the hybrid A/H1N1 flu strain that is the culprit in the ongoing outbreak.
I totally agree. We need to describe this flu outbreak as accurately as possible. But "North American Flu" doesn't cut it; that's far too general a term. Courtesy Mark Bittman, I believe that this post can help us a good deal in the search for a proper name for this disease:
A report in the Guardian* links La Gloria, a small town in eastern Mexico 12 miles from the Smithfield plant, as the possible epicenter of the recent outbreak. The article cites that “60% of the town’s population…has been affected.”

Dr. Hansen [of Consumers Union] weighs in: “If 60% of the population of a town near a huge swine facility got sick with this flu and those are among the first cases seen (e.g. close to ground zero), then that really does point a strong finger that something in that area could be the problem. At the very least, there should be a very specific investigation of the Smithfield facility that involves significant testing of those pigs for swine flu.”
And there we have it. It seems possible that Smithfield's pig megafarm may have been at least one important breeding ground for this nasty bug. And thus, what we may be dealing with is a highly lethal Smithfield Industrial Farming Swine Flu pandemic.

However, as the post makes clear, it may be the case that this flu strain may have come from a smaller farm. In which case it would be totally unfair to Smithfield and industrial farming in general to blame the bug on them. Therefore, I suggest that, given the current state of our knowledge, that until further notice, the media should call this virus by the currently most accurate description we have: Swine Flu.


*Warning: If you click on the Guardian link, you'll get a description of pig farm conditions that may turn you off bacon and pork chops forever. And you'll learn that in the past, Smithfield has been fined for unbelievably unsanitary practices.

UPDATE: A little more on Smithfield's history as a polluter. This describes a Smithfield pig farm in the US, not Mexico:
Looking down from the plane, we watch as several of Smithfield's farmers spray their hog shit straight up into the air as a fine mist: It looks like a public fountain. Lofted and atomized, the shit is blown clear of the company's property. People who breathe the shit-infused air suffer from bronchitis, asthma, heart palpitations, headaches, diarrhea, nosebleeds and brain damage. In 1995, a woman downwind from a corporate hog farm in Olivia, Minnesota, called a poison-control center and described her symptoms. "Ma'am," the poison-control officer told her, "the only symptoms of hydrogen-sulfide poisoning you're not experiencing are seizures, convulsions and death. Leave the area immediately." When you fly over eastern North Carolina, you realize that virtually everyone in this part of the state lives close to a lagoon.

UPDATE II: And of course, the prick who ran Smithfield is a Republican. He is a Friend of George Allen, a member of Santorum '06 (haha), and also part of a conservative Republican activist group. I suspect that if Smithfield is involved, we can expect the usual pushback from Republican thugs - sorry, I meant to say activists.