Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Surgeon Generic, went to La Gloria, Mexico, this morning to visit "Patient Zero," a five-year boy who is reportedly the first human being to contract H1N1 swine flu. Speculation has it that the child picked up the virus from Smithfield's nearby pig plant, which Gupta and his TV entourage tried to get into, but Smithfield said no. The swine flu could not have originated there, you see, because Smithfield gives their pigs flu vaccine regularly and tests them every month for the virus. They also crowd these smarter-than-dog-or-primate animals into pens, feed them crap, and let them stand to their knees in pig excrement their entire lives. But enough of that: The Internet is full of lurid details of industrial pig farming and “fecal lagoons”, which few of us have the stomach to contemplate. But if you do, you might start here, with PETA, to which this outrage is nothing new (full disclosure: I’m a 12-year vegetarian).
Lately, Smithfield has been busy closing U.S. plants and moving to places like Mexico, Poland, and Romania. Smithfield's overseas factory workers (aka “caretakers) surely have no more time or tendency to Pig Patience, poverty-stricken and downtrodden as they themselves are. But I'm sure Smithfield has long stories about how their presence in this rural town in Mexico has raised *every*body's economic level and made life really gay (see the natives dancing?). But this is the Internet, so that’s not likely to fly. What will Smithfield do?
Well, Smithfielders, what you may have caused (and we really don't know, do we?) is probably going to out-noise your own part in this pandemic for awhile. But, soon enough, there will be hell to pay because swine flu has brought the pigs home to roost and your need for damage control is about to explode – except there is no permanent damage control – or marketing – to explain away unconscionable acts. Yikes, problem. Still, overseas, where there is no PETA and much less environmental regulation .. but where there is, believe it or not, an Internet. Oops, again!
Let me hasten to say that I’ don’t pretend to have a formula for how we’re supposed to feed the world population without industrial farming like Smithfield's (others, like the eloquent John Ikerd do, and are talking about it, thank goodness). In the meantime, swine pandemic or not, we’re seeing that current industrial farming practices -- many of which, as we noted, have been conveniently exported to more desperate Third World countries -- are not safe for man nor beast. The lid has blown off the pot.
Apologies, but I must add a final word for Dr. Surgeon Generic: Shame on you! In your voice this morning, I have heard the earnest outrage of a Lou Dobbs, which is sure to sell more TV face time for you and CNN, but this is a FIVE-YEAR old you called on, for pity’s sake ... and you showed him on camera and you used his name and you called him "Patient Zero" and his charming innocence had no idea the use you were making of him. Quite frankly, it makes me sick and I hope my outrage is contagious.