Swine flu is meat industry's latest plague
GRAIN, April 2009
Mexico is in the midst of a hellish repeat of Asia's bird flu experience, though on a more deadly scale. Once again, the official response from public authorities has come too late and bungled in cover-ups. And once again, the global meat industry is at the centre of the story, ramping up denials as the weight of evidence about its role grows. Just five years after the start of the H5N1 bird flu crisis, and after as many years of a global strategy against influenza pandemics coordinated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the world is now reeling from a swine flu disaster. The global strategy has failed and needs to be replaced with a public health system that the public can trust.
Read the full version at: http://www.grain.org/articles/?id=48
How “The NAFTA Flu” Exploded
Smithfield Farms Fled US Environmental Laws to Open a Gigantic Pig Farm in Mexico, and All We Got Was this Lousy Swine Flu
By Al Giordano
Special to The Narco News Bulletin
April 29, 2009
US and Mexico authorities claim that neither knew about the “swine flu” outbreak until April 24. But after hundreds of residents of a town in Veracruz, Mexico, came down with its symptoms, the story had already hit the Mexican national press by April 5. The daily La Jornada reported:
Clouds of flies emanate from the rusty lagoons where the Carroll Ranches business tosses the fecal wastes of its pig farms, and the open-air contamination is already generating an epidemic of respiratory infections in the town of La Gloria, in the Perote Valley, according to Town Administrator Bertha Crisóstomo López.
The town has 3,000 inhabitants, hundreds of whom reported severe flu symptoms in March.
CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, reporting from Mexico, has identified a La Gloria child who contracted the first case of identified “swine flu” in February as “patient zero,” five-year-old Edgar Hernández, now a survivor of the disease.
By April 15 – nine days before Mexican federal authorities of the regime of President Felipe Calderon acknowledged any problem at all – the local daily newspaper, Marcha, reported that a company called Carroll Ranches was “the cause of the epidemic.”
La Jornada columnist Julio Hernández López connects the corporate dots to explain how the Virginia-based Smithfield Farms came to Mexico: In 1985, Smithfield Farms received what was, at the time, the most expensive fine in history – $12.6 million – for violating the US Clean Water Act at its pig facilities near the Pagan River in Smithfield, Virginia, a tributary that flows into the Chesapeake Bay. The company, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dumped hog waste into the river.
It was a case in which US environmental law succeeded in forcing a polluter, Smithfield Farms, to construct a sewage treatment plant at that facility after decades of using the river as a mega-toilet. But “free trade” opened a path for Smithfield Farms to simply move its harmful practices next door into Mexico so that it could evade the tougher US regulators.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect on January 1, 1994. That very same year Smithfield Farms opened the “Carroll Ranches” in the Mexican state of Veracruz through a new subsidiary corporation, “Agroindustrias de México.”
Unlike what law enforcers forced upon Smithfield Farms in the US, the new Mexican facility – processing 800,000 pigs into bacon and other products per year – does not have a sewage treatment plant.
According to Rolling Stone magazine, Smithfield slaughters an estimated 27 million hogs a year to produce more than six billion pounds of packaged pork products. (The Veracruz facility thus constitutes about three percent of its total production.)
Reporter Jeff Teitz reported in 2006 on the conditions in Smithfield’s US facilities (remember: what you are about to read describes conditions that are more sanitary and regulated than those in Mexico):
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.
Consider what happens when such forms of massive pork production move to unregulated territory where Mexican authorities allow wealthy interests to do business without adequate oversight, abusing workers and the environment both. And there it is: The violence wrought by NAFTA in clear and understandable human terms.
The so-called “swine flu” exploded because an environmental disaster simply moved (and with it, took jobs from US workers) to Mexico where environmental and worker safety laws, if they exist, are not enforced against powerful multinational corporations.
False mental constructs of borders – the kind that cause US and Mexican citizens alike to imagine a flu strain like this one invading their nations from other lands – are taking a long overdue hit by the current “swine flu” media frenzy. In this case, US-Mexico trade policy created a time bomb in Veracruz that has already murdered more than 150 Mexican citizens, and at least one child in the US, by creating a gigantic Petri dish in the form pig farms to generate bacon and ham for international sale.
None of that indicates that this flu strain was born in Mexico, but, rather, that the North American Free Trade Agreement created the optimal conditions for the flu to gestate and become, at minimum, epidemic in La Gloria and, now, Mexico City, and threatens to become international pandemic.
Welcome to the aftermath of “free trade.” Authorities now want you to grab a hospital facemask and avoid human contact until the outbreak hopefully blows over. And if you start to feel dizzy, or a flush with fever, or other symptoms begin to molest you or your children, remember this: The real name of this infirmity is “The NAFTA Flu,” the first of what may well emerge as many new illnesses to emerge internationally as the direct result of “free trade” agreements that allow companies like Smithfield Farms to escape health, safety and environmental laws.
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Suspected epicentre of swine flu is CDM project
Published: 30 Apr 2009 14:28 CET Last updated: 30 Apr 2009 15:47 CET
A pig farm in Mexico claimed to be the source of swine flu is host to a UN-registered CDM project.
The clean development mechanism (CDM) project, which has not gone into operation, was to be developed by UK-listed Ecosecurities at a pig farm near the town of La Perote in Veracruz state.
Media reports have cited the farm as a possible source of swine flu that threatens to become a global pandemic.
However the plant’s owners and the Mexican government said there is no evidence for these claims, and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is carrying out an investigation at the site.
“Depending on the outcome of the investigation from the FAO, it is feasible that, if it had been implemented, the project would have helped by improving waste management on the site,” said Belinda Kinkead, head of implementation of Ecosecurities.
Kinkead said swine flu was unlikely to have a major impact on supply of credits - unless the Mexican government was to order a mass cull of pigs in order to prevent the spread of disease.
But so far the government shows few signs of doing this until a firm link is established between porcine and human influenza.
According to design documents, projects that capture animal waste in Mexico could supply around 23 million carbon credits from the Kyoto protocol's CDM between now and the end of 2012.
But the percentage of credits generated by the sector is typically only a quarter of that promised.
Of the 89 projects in the sector registered by the UN, just 16 projects have been issued with credits.
Ecosecurities has plans to develop 28 CDM projects in Mexico that cut methane emissions from pig waste, but only 10 have gone into operation, as the number of credits yielded by such projects is now so small as to render many of them unfeasible, Kinkead said.
Other investors in animal waste management systems (AWMS) include Agcert, a company that was formerly listed on the London Stock Exchange.
AES Agriverde, which now controls Agcert’s methane capture projects, said it couldn’t comment on the impact of swine flu on its Mexican operations because the company operates a media blackout in advance of declaring quarterly earnings.
Besides trying to sell CDM credits from projects developed by Agcert, the company aims to generate credits that could be sold in a future federal trading scheme in the US.
Only last week, before news of swine flu broke, a US developer Environmental Credit Corp said it would try and generate 200,000 CERs from methane capture projects in Mexico.
Cargill, a large US commodities trader, is also involved in methane capture CDM projects in Mexico, and is named as a participant in the La Perote project now being investigated by the FAO.
However, no one from the company was available to comment at press time.
Media outlets from across the world have reported claims by villagers close to the La Perote pig farm that flies feeding on animal waste at the facility had helped spread swine flu to the local human population.
The FAO has said so far there is no evidence that swine flu has spread directly from pigs to humans in this way.
At pig farms, companies such as Ecosecurities use technology known as an anaerobic digester to cover up lagoons of animal waste at pig farms and then generate electricity from the captured methane.
By John McGarrity - firstname.lastname@example.org
Influenciad@s por la Influenza
Miedo y Seguridad Nacional
Nieves Capote Figueroa
Otros Mundos, AC
San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, México; 2 de mayo de 2009
¿Cómo puede paralizarse un país de más 100 millones de habitantes? Es una pregunta muy útil…sobre todo para quién se la está haciendo.
En la última semana hemos visto un ir y venir de cifras inexactas y cambiantes sobre los contagiados y muertos por la influenza porcina. El jueves 30 de abril en realidad ya no sabíamos de qué nos estaban hablando, primero que 176 muertos (sin especificar nada más), luego que en realidad eran 12 muertos y 358 infectados. Sin embargo, la OMS el mismo día hablaba de 156 infectados para México. Curiosamente, en otros casos, inmediatamente se proporcionan nombres, edades y origen de los fallecidos por accidentes, enfermedades, etcétera. En este caso es un silencio absoluto.... (Ver www.otrosmundoschiapas.org)
On Tue, May 5, 2009 at 1:48 PM,
Table of contents:
1. [food_justice] What caused swine flu? - dorinda moreno
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: dorinda moreno
To: Activist List
Date: Mon, 4 May 2009 12:13:31 -0700
Subject: [food_justice] What caused swine flu?
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "Alice Jay - Avaaz.org"
Date: Mon, 04 May 2009 14:39:07 -0400
Subject: What caused swine flu?
Evidence is emerging that traces swine flu to giant factory pig farms
that are dirty, dangerous, and inhumane. Sign the petition to the
World Health Organization to investigate and regulate these threats to
No-one yet knows whether swine flu will become a global pandemic, but
it is becoming clear where it came from – most likely a giant pig
factory farm run by an American multinational corporation in Veracruz,
These factory farms are disgusting and dangerous, and they're rapidly
multiplying. Thousands of pigs are brutally crammed into dirty
warehouses and sprayed with a cocktail of drugs -- posing a health
risk to more than just our food -- they are the perfect conditions to
breed dangerous new viruses like swine flu. The World Health
Organization (WHO) must investigate and develop regulations for these
farms to protect global health.
Big agrobusiness will try to obstruct and scuttle any attempts at
reform, so we need a massive outcry that health authorities can't
ignore. Sign the petition below for investigation and regulation of
factory farms and we will deliver it with a herd of cardboard pigs to
the WHO. For every 100 petition signatures we will add a pig to the
herd, sign below and forward this email to friends and family:
Last week the flu was all that we talked about -- Mexico has been
nearly paralysed and across the world leaders halted air travel,
banned pork imports and initiated drastic controls to mitigate the
spreading virus. As the threat shows signs of subsiding the question
becomes where it came from and how we stop another outbreak.
Smithfield Corporation, the largest pig producer in the world whose
farm is being fingered as the source of the H1N1 outbreak, denies any
connection between their pigs and the flu and big agrobusiness
worldwide pays huge sums of money for research to argue that biosafety
is ensured in industrial hog production. But the WHO has been saying
for years that 'a new pandemic is inevitable'(2) and experts from the
European Commission and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation have
warned that the rapid move from small holdings to industrial pig
production is in fact increasing the risk of development and
transmission of disease epidemics. (3)
Studies abound of the horrific conditions endured by pigs in
concentrated large-scale operations, and the devastating economic
impact on small farmer communities of bloated large-scale
operations.(4) Smithfield itself has already been fined $12.6m and is
currently under another federal investigation in the US for toxic
environmental damage from pig excrement lakes.(5)
But even with all of this damaging evidence, a combination of
increased global meat consumption and a powerful industry motivated by
profit at the cost of human health, means that instead of being shut
down - these sickening factory farm operations are propagating around
the world and we are subsidising them (6). In the wake of this swine
flu threat, let's hold industrial pig producers to account. Sign the
petition for investigation and regulation:
If we resolve this global health crisis boldly by reassessing our food
consumption and production, and urgently calling for an inquiry into
the impact of factory farms on human health, we could put in place
tough farm practice rules that will save the global population from
future animal borne lethal pandemics.
Alice, Pascal, Graziela, Paul, Brett, Ben, Ricken, Iain, Paula, Luis,
Raj, Margaret, Taren and the whole Avaaz team
(1) Reports on the link between the Mexican factory farm and the flu:
(2) WHO pandemic information
(3) FAO report and CIWF press release citing European Commission Study
on the risks of industrial farming
FAO and CIWF
(4) CIWF and PETA video reports of the disgusting conditions for
animals in factory farms and the disease ridden manure swamps:
CIWF and PETA
(5) Reports on Smithfield's animal welfare and environmental damage
(6) Reports on UK tax payers subsidising factory farms
ABOUT AVAAZ Avaaz.org is an independent, not-for-profit global
campaigning organization that works to ensure that the views and
values of the world's people inform global decision-making. (Avaaz
means "voice" in many languages.) Avaaz receives no money from
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Call us at: +1 888 922 8229 or +55 21 2509 0368 Click here to learn
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We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For!
End of digest for list growing_foodandjustice - Tue, 05 May 2009
S. Lorena Rodriguez
“There is another way to live and think: it’s called agrarianism. It is not so much a philosophy as a practice, an attitude, a loyalty and a passion—all based in close connection with the land. It results in a sound local economy in which producers and consumers are neighbors and in which nature herself becomes the standard for work and production.” --Wendell Berry
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