May 4, 2009

Not By the Hair of my Chinny Chin Chin

Have you noticed that when you see news clips of pigs in a current story on swine flu that they are always freely rooting about--in corrals or pens--and often times shown eating garbage. You never see the pigs as the vast majority of them exist to be slaughtered: in corporate petri dishes, crammed together and injected with antibiotics, trading sneezes and feces and infections. It's not for nothing that pork is not kosher or haram.

Wanna buy a pig? If you do, they can be bought, they are for sale--the ones with the weak leg bones--the genetic inefficient morphs if you are a Smithfield exec--which are rejected by the corporate pork factories simply because they will not be able to stand firmly as they grow heavier, crammed in next to their neighbors among the food and the feces. Pigs like that get broken bones and lay down to die and get infected. Can't waste that meat, so risk management says get rid of the weak-legged ones. Pigs also have their cute spiralling pigtails lopped off because they are likely to be torn off in rage by their maddened companions.

Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz and Planet of Slums and The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu, sums it up in "The Swine Flu Crisis Lays Bare the Meat Industry's Monstrous Power":

Last year a commission convened by the Pew Research Center issued a report on "industrial farm animal production" that underscored the acute danger that "the continual cycling of viruses … in large herds or flocks [will] increase opportunities for the generation of novel virus through mutation or recombinant events that could result in more efficient human to human transmission." The commission also warned that promiscuous antibiotic use in hog factories (cheaper than humane environments) was sponsoring the rise of resistant staph infections, while sewage spills were producing outbreaks of E coli and pfiesteria (the protozoan that has killed 1bn fish in Carolina estuaries and made ill dozens of fishermen).

So the next time you see a clip of pigs with more than 2 square yards to move around in, don't believe you are seeing anything but the spin. Ask yourself why the networks can't get footage of the REAL conditions under which "the other white meat" is produced. Of course not: it would be a threat to the pork industries' trade secrets. I'm sure the swine industry would scream if a YouTube clip of a PETA underground video were broadcast. That of course, would result in a lawsuit against the broadcaster.

That's a shame. Forty years ago a friend of mine, over a lovely roast loin of pork covered in sage and pepper and a few too many glasses of wine declaimed that "all meat aspires to the condition of pork." Like wild salmon, decent local pears and peaches, good North Atlantic Cod, vegetable slop fed pork raised on a farm by some freckle-faced 4H Club blue ribbon winner is long gone from the local stores and supermarkets. You'd have to have an expensive farm connection to obtain it. "Animal husbandry now more closely resembles the petrochemical industry than the happy family farm," says Davis:

In 1965, for instance, there were 53m US hogs on more than 1m farms; today, 65m hogs are concentrated in 65,000 facilities. This has been a transition from old-fashioned pig pens to vast excremental hells, containing tens of thousands of animals with weakened immune systems suffocating in heat and manure while exchanging pathogens at blinding velocity with their fellow inmates.

My apologies to all my Muslim and observant Jewish friends. My origins are deep in Eastern Europe--and eating pigs is in both sides of my family's genes, and the genes cry out every once in a while for a fix, for crackling satisfaction. But I'm in the process of waterboarding those genes to make them swear that they really don't like it. At least not the factory swine. What's a Lithuanian Pole to do in this era of high return on investment?

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