Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine flu and factory 'farms'

The swine flu crisis lays bare the meat industry's monstrous power.
The Mexico swine flu outbreak should alert us to a highly globalised industry with global political clout

Mike Davis, The Guardian: The Mexican swine flu, a genetic chimera probably conceived in the faecal mire of an industrial pigsty, suddenly threatens to give the whole world a fever... Meanwhile, one of its first victims has been the consoling faith... that pandemics can be contained by the rapid responses of medical bureaucracies, independent of the quality of local public health...

Animal husbandry in recent decades has been transformed into something that more closely resembles the petrochemical industry... This has been a transition from old-fashioned pig pens to vast excremental hells, containing tens of thousands of animals with weakened immune systems suffocating in heat and manure...

Any amelioration of this new pathogen ecology would have to confront the monstrous power of livestock conglomerates such as Smithfield Farms (pork and beef) and Tyson (chickens). The [Pew Research Center] commission reported systematic obstruction of their investigation by corporations, including blatant threats to withhold funding from cooperative researchers...

There is already gossip in the Mexican press about an influenza epicentre around a huge Smithfield subsidiary in Veracruz state. But what matters more is the larger configuration: the WHO's failed pandemic strategy, the further decline of world public health, the stranglehold of big pharma over lifeline medicines, and the planetary catastrophe of industrialised and ecologically unhinged livestock production.

Grist: Is Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork packer and hog producer, linked to the outbreak? Smithfield operates massive hog-raising operations Perote, Mexico, in the state of Vera Cruz, where the outbreak originated.
Image source here.