On April 6 after 400 people in the town of Perote, Mexico, (population 3,000) had become ill, local health officials declared a health alert. Perote is home to pig farms operated by Granjas Carroll, a Smithfield subsidiary, which raises almost a million pigs a year. A health official said the transmission of the flu was caused by "a type of fly that reproduces in pig waste and that the outbreak was linked to the pig farms."
So far Grist.com is the only American media outlet that has picked up on this angle of the story.
But a Mexican newspaper, La Marcha, ran a story with this headline on April 15: "Granjas Carroll, causa de epidemia en La Gloria." La Gloria is part of Perote.
The article goes on to say that area residents have long complained of "fetid odors" in the air and water, and swarms of flies hovering around waste lagoons. Like their counterparts who live in CAFO-heavy [CAFO=factory farms] U.S. areas, they also complain of respiratory ailments. Now, with 30 percent of the area's residents now infected with the virulent flu bug, people are demanding that state and federal authorities inspect hog operations there. So far, reports La Marcha, the response has been: nada.Dr. Michael Greger, the director of public health and animal agriculture for The Humane Society of the United States, has written a piece about a 1998 outbreak of human/bird/pig flu virus.
The Mexico City daily La Jornada has also made the link. According to the newspaper, the Mexican health agency IMSS has acknowledged that the orginal carrier for the flu could be the "clouds of flies" that multiply in the Smithfield subsidiary's manure lagoons.
"Influenza [in pigs] is closely correlated with pig density," said a European Commission-funded researcher studying the situation in Europe. As such, Europe's rapidly intensifying pig industry has been described in Science as "a recipe for disaster." Some researchers have speculated that the next pandemic could arise out of "Europe's crowded pig barns."While Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security, has been quick to point out that swine flu cannot be contracted by eating pig flesh, your purchase of pork, bacon, etc., supports corporations like Smithfield, which don't care about people's health. They pollute the air and water and mistreat their employees and the animals.
The European Commission's agricultural directorate warns that the "concentration of production is giving rise to an increasing risk of disease epidemics." Concern over epidemic disease is so great that Danish laws have capped the number of pigs per farm and put a ceiling on the total number of pigs allowed to be raised in the country. No such limit exists in the United States.
Send them a message -- and help to prevent further deaths and illnesses -- by refusing to purchase products that come from animals.
(Photo of "hog farm" in North Carolina courtesy of the North Carolina Conservation Network. Smithfield Packing is located in that state.)