The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Are We That Stupid?

May 3rd, 2009 · 4 Comments · Posted in Blog, food news

Hogs in confinement

Hogs in confinement. This is where swine flu breeds.

Coming short on the heels of the nation’s mortgage banking meltdown, swine flu virus should sound another alarm about unrestrained capitalism run amok. How many wake-up calls do we need? It should be obvious that our current state of agriculture–industrialized and corporatized down to the last piglet–is designed not for our health and well being, but to line the pockets of rich CEOs and shareholders. This is agriculture of the most sinister sort on a global scale, controlled by a few enormous corporations, that pumps Americans full of cheap, third-rate carbohydrates until they are falling over obese and ridden with diabetes, then obfuscates and dodges when their hog operations unleash a potential world pandemic.

Make no mistake, the current swine flu outbreak is merely a variant of a virus that has been circulating in U.S. hog operations since 1998. It is the end result of industrial livestock taken to an insane extreme: cram as many pigs as possible under one roof, feed them the dregs of our commodity corn and soybean production, pump them with antibiotics and hope for the best.  With its most excellent connections to political power centers, the corporate pig industry has managed to avoid responsibility not only for potential disease outcomes, but for the huge fecal lagoons it generates and that routinely pollute our air, soil and water.

But why blame the corporate swine, as it were? The companies in question (Smithfield has been mentioned a lot lately–its 2008 sales totalled $12 billion) are merely following the American promise of free enterprise to its logical conclusion. Our questions–our anger– should be directed at elected politicians at every level who make the laws that determine agriculture policy. Up to now, they have sold the American people a bill of goods. They are playing us for chumps. Thanks to the feel-good messages of corporate advertising and  partisan spinmeisters, Americans have been sleep walking into an Orwellian world  of faux food that kills people and spoils the land while making shareholders rich and politicians unaccountable. It’s time to recognize that our elected leaders have been serving first and foremost their corporate masters. They’ve been bought and paid for.

Our best hope for change is Barack Obama. But notice that during the outbreak of a possible world pandemic Obama will not utter the words “swine flu,” in deference to the pig industry. His chosen agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, is busy doing damage control, protecting the corporate pork interests from economic harm. The food intelligentsia, which has been fawning over the Obamas and their White House vegetable garden–swooning over the installation of organic produce plots at the Agriculture Department–really should be asking where this administration is hiding its plan for a healthy, sane agriculture. The fact is, there is no plan and never has been. Changing our food system to something that benefits people rather than corporations has never been on the Obama agenda.

The food intelligentsia are entitled to rant and rail about Smithfield and pig confinement and the details of where this particular flu virus originated. But that only takes us so far. At the end of the day, we need to look our president straight in the eye and ask, Where is your plan? Spare us your token gardens and tell us how you intend to revolutionize the way this country feeds itself.

Anything less is just politics as usual.

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  • Sylvie

    and the people need to stop using low price as the the primary factor in buying food. Buy less food of a better quality is better for our individual health and societal health. We eat way too many calories and too many processed foods.

    We also need to re-educate ourselves on healthful eating, which includes understanding the numerous and insidious damages of the agro-industrial complex. We also need to re-learn that what “quality” food is – neither Purdue chicken nor Smithfield pork.

  • Ed Bruske

    Sylvie, I agree with all of your points. For more than a century, corporate leaders have been urging workers to adopt a diet of cheap calories. If workers can get by with less, then they don’t have to be paid as much. Consequently, Americans have been raised on the idea that food shouldn’t cost too much. Now we are spending a fortune to eat the way our grandparents did–local foods grown on small farms. As the saying goes, don’t eat anything your grandmother (or perhaps we should make that great-grandmother) wouldn’t have served her family.

  • Tj

    An example of the relationshiop between big business and elected officials was reported this morning in the Jornada newspaper. Last year Granjas Carroll, an affiliate of Smithfield Farms, donated 500 feeder hogs to the Institutionalized Revolutionary Party (PRI) in the state of Veracruz. The PRI then donated the hogs to poor farmers in the state to bolster its chances in upcoming elections. Corporate swine indeed.

  • Ed Bruske

    TJ, we have laws in this country against bribing foreign officials. But I guess there are exceptions for charitable donations of pigs. I shudder to think what we would find if we truly lifted the lid on this thing and looked inside.