23 Jun 2009

Pig Business

On 30 June More 4 will broadcast PIG BUSINESS - an exposé of the secretive world of corporate pig farming. We will see who pays the true cost of ‘cheap’ pig meat – the appalling conditions of factory farms endured by animals, workers and neighbours, environmental pollution and the destruction of rural economies - at least those with tellies will - I still don't have one and seemed to have managed for 7 years but will try and catch this if it comes out online?

Photo: this made me smile

Swine Flu has apparently recently emerged just downwind of a swine plant owned by Smithfield, a giant multinational corporation and the world’s biggest pig meat processor - for those of us who consider overcrowded pig factories as being a possible place for incubators of disease and superbugs this is no surprise - see my previous blogs here.

Smithfield, the world’s biggest pig meat processor, does not want this film to get out. They have already managed to stop the film being broadcast once, by threatening a ruinously expensive legal action. Even national newspapers trying to report on the film have been bullied into silence.

Though The Mail, The Sunday Mail and The Mirror, have all tried but failed to get an article about the film past their lawyers, at the weekend the Irish Independent printed an article that is enclosed below. I have to note I am personally very wary of causing alarm but with the inaction on looking at the causes of swine flu, you have to wonder if we are not moving closer to some very serious challenges.

Intensive farming practices might be breeding more than pigs

Rosita Sweetman believes swine flu may be a wake-up call alerting us to the dangers of animal 'factories'

HERE'S the beef: unless we stop big corporations "farming" animals in factories, we're all going to die.

Actually, we may be going to die sooner than we think if the swine flu virus, incubating for years now in the huge industrial hog farms of the USA and Europe, keeps spreading at its current rate: 30,000 cases (and rising) within three months, across 74 countries, leading to 145 deaths. The latest victim -- a 30-something mum in Scotland -- dying just after giving birth to her premature baby.

I know, I know, I thought it was media hype too, and that maybe the dreadful Michael O'Leary of Ryanair was right: swine flu kills poor people in Mexican slums. No one else need worry. Fly on!

Em, no. Swine flu has been around a long time; its granddaddy is the 1918 Spanish flu which killed between 50 million and 100 million people.

Eerily, it's also behaving in similar ways; starting out as a swine-cum-human virus, spreading quickly, first in a mild form, before mutating and returning in virulent form, hitting under-30s hardest (75 per cent of cases), and killing via a "cytokine storm" -- a massive over-stimulation of the immune system.

Experts have been warning for years of the time bomb that is factory farming. Don't get me wrong, I worship rashers and sausages. But the way pork is produced these days is so horrendous (for the animals) and so dangerous (for us), the swine flu scare may be a timely wake-up call.

Some facts: huge corporations, so big they have bank balances larger than those of most countries, control much of the food business. These guys don't believe in farming. A jolly Mr and Mrs Farmer with their rosy-cheeked children and happy animals on a little holding in deepest rural bliss? What a quaint notion!

Smithfield Foods, the corporation at whose plant in Mexico this outbreak of swine flu is believed to have originated, "processes" 27 million pigs in 15 countries, producing sales of $12bn every year. Smithfield has denied any link to the outbreak.

Serendipitously, environmental activist, the Marchioness of Worcester, Tracy Louise Ward, recently took on Smithfield Foods in her film Pig Business, showing just how brutal these vast "hog farms" are. Smithfield Foods was swift to act, blocking the screening of Pig Business on Channel 4, and trying to block a screening at the Barbican Arts Centre in London (the Marchioness put up her own indemnity and got it through).

Smithfield Foods is also after Robert Kennedy Jnr, who appears in the film, for addressing the Polish Senate: (Smithfield Foods) is trying to "get away with something in Poland, that people in the United States now recognise is a catastrophe".

What scientists and doctors are truly worried about is, what happens if swine flu mixes with avian flu? Then we really are in the caca.

And for those who believe pills are the answer, they are central to the problem. As Dr Michael Greger of the US Humane Society said in a recent File on 4 documentary: "The sheer numbers of animals, the overcrowding, the lack of fresh air, the lack of sunlight -- put all these together and you have this perfect storm environment for the emergence and spread of new, so-called super strains of influenza."

In the Netherlands -- home to more "animal factories" per square kilometre than anywhere else, the long windowless huts horribly reminiscent of Nazi concentration camps-- 30 per cent to 50 per cent of all farmers now carry the superbug MRSA, largely, it is thought, due to the half a million kilos of antibiotics shot into the unfortunate porkers every year.

Tamiflu isn't the answer either. It reduces the time you have the flu by one day. One day! And, if a mutated virus does come back to bite us, brewing up a new anti-viral in time will be tricky.

But do not despair. Natural medicine and natural farming are making a comeback. And Ireland is at the forefront of the development of one of the finest, and oldest, medical systems in the world -- medical herbalism.

Anna Maria Keaveny, architect of Ireland's first degree course in medical herbalism at Cork Institute of Technology, says a Masters will soon be possible, with "clinically trained herbalists ready to take part in research at the highest levels". She is hopeful that the swine flu virus will remain at its current low virulence level.

US President Obama says swine flu is a "cause for concern; not a cause for alarm".

Actually, it seems it is a cause for both


Russ said...

I'm a fully trained herbal doctor, with a masters degree from Mr Toad , of Toad Hall University, and even I know it doesn't work.

Russ said...

OK, I jest.
Mr Toad wouldn't give me the degree because he was in a bad mood with the flu, and my carrot, and ginger ointment gave him a rash. :(