Pandemic Ahoy?

Factory farming is back in the spotlight….

The 1975-77 TV Series ‘Survivors’

I’m showing my age here, but I was today reminded of an old British TV series called ‘Survivors‘ that was very popular in the late 1970s (nothing to do with modern reality shows!). It was a bit like Mad Max, but set in Britain, and after a pandemic rather than a nuclear war. The pandemic was, incidentally, a man-made affair. A lab experiment went horribly wrong when a test-tube crashed to the floor releasing a deadly virus. The scientist subsequently spread the contagion around the globe as he flew from convention to convention. Very few individuals survived.

As a child I was of course suitably impressed with the concept of being one of the few remaining children left on the planet, and being able raid toy shops and supermarkets without fear of reprisal. But, it also left me with a bit of a dog-eat-dog impression of basic human need and survival. This show ran during some of the darkest days of the Cold War, where similar results from nuclear bravado were half-expected.

Recently we were all wound up about the H5N1 ‘Bird Flu’. Today it’s the new H1N1 ‘Swine Flu’. Factory farms have been blamed for causing Bird Flu and now the search is on for the source of this latest virus. This BBC clip from today only infers that an unnamed U.S.-owned factory pig farm in Mexico may be on the short-list of potential culprits…. but the Grain article we quote below seems to concretely link it with Smithfield Foods, the same corporation we just brought to your attention in the previous post.

Another thing we know about the swine flu outbreak in Mexico is that the community of La Gloria in the state of Veracruz was trying to get authorities to respond to a vicious outbreak of a strange respiratory disease affecting them over the past months. The residents are adamant that the disease is linked to pollution from the big pig farm that was recently set up in the community by Granja Carroll, a subsidiary of the US company Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer.

After countless efforts by the community to get the authorities to help — efforts which led to the arrest of several community leaders and death threats against people speaking out against the Smithfield operations — local health officials finally decided to investigate in late 2008. Tests revealed that more than 60 per cent of the community of 3,000 people were infected by a respiratory disease, but officials did not confirm what the disease was. Smithfield denied any connection with its operations. It was only on 27 April 2009, days after the federal government officially announced the swine flu epidemic, that information came out in the press revealing that the first case of swine flu diagnosed in the country was of a 4-year old boy from the community of La Gloria on April 2, 2009.

… While it has not been widely reported, the region around the community of La Gloria is also home to many large poultry farms. Recently, in September 2008, there was an outbreak of bird flu among poultry in the region. At the time, veterinary authorities assured the public that it was only a local incidence of a low-pathogenic strain affecting backyard birds. But we now know, thanks to a disclosure made by Marco Antonio Núñez López, the President of the Environmental Commission of the State of Veracruz, that there was also an avian flu outbreak on a factory farm about 50 kilometres from La Gloria owned by Mexico’s largest poultry company, Granjas Bachoco, that was not revealed because of fears of what it might mean for Mexico’s export markets. It should be noted that a common ingredient in industrial animal feed is "poultry litter", which is a mixture of everything found on the floor of factory poultry farms: fecal matter, feathers, bedding, etc. – Grain (entire article recommended reading) (emphasis ours)

This article, just hours old, is also worth a read in this regard.

About Bird Flu in particular, take a look at ‘Bird Flu – A Virus of Our Own Hatching‘. This is a book you can buy, or read online – and is a sobering exposé, showing how our modern centralised agricultural and factory farm systems are putting our health out on a tenuous limb.