Sunday, May 3, 2009

We Reap What We Sow

The swine flu (H1N1) is dangerously close to becoming a pandemic, a tragic consequence of the way we raise and treat animals in this country and throughout the world, but no one talks about this. We only hear about what we can do to keep from getting infected, which is too little, too late. I'm baffled as to why the biggest talking heads on the major news networks don't ask the obvious question- why do diseases like swine flu and avian flu (H5N1) even exist at all?

Make no mistake about it, it is because of the stranglehold the animal agriculture industry has on us and our government- including but not limited to Congress, the USDA, EPA, FDA, Farm Bureau, courts, etc., who protect the few, big factory farms- that we face this uncertain crisis. We can now add swine flu to the growing list of emerging zoonotic diseases affecting our public health, including E. coli, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (the human form of mad cow disease), MRSA and avian influenza. Animal agribusiness has us duped and pays dearly to keep us in the dark. According to Dr. Allan Kornberg, Senior Vice President for the National Initiative for Children's Health Quality, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "'don't look, don't find' policy almost guarantees that pigs infected with H1N1 will remain undetected, and indicates that the agency charged with keeping Americans safe is more committed to protecting the pork industry's profits than the public interest."

Almost a year ago to the day that swine flu became a public concern; a two-year study released by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production concluded that factory farms pose unacceptable risks to public health, the environment and animal welfare. Despite this knowledge, we still go on eating meat, destroying the planet and tolerating the abuse of animals on farms, like piglets, who are slammed against walls when they don't put on enough weight or baby chickens at hatcheries who, if born too frail, are methodically thrown into garbage dispensers the day they are born to be ground up and sprayed onto fields for "fertilizer." These animals are not commodities, they are living, feeling beings who get sick and acquire respiratory problems. These illnesses occur when they are severely confined in dark, closed-in spaces and forced to breathe in urine, feces and the rotting corpses of the dead around them on a daily basis, burning their lungs, eyes and feet. It is a wretched existence! Is it any wonder that we are now faced with such respiratory illnesses as swine flu or avian flu?

If a severe pandemic materializes, we could all pay the price for decades of failing to address the systematic abuse of factory farming. We tolerate this abuse everyday when we close our eyes to the truths of factory farming. Ignorance is not bliss, it is deadly.

I urge my fellow citizens to get informed, learn where your food comes from and open your eyes to the destruction served up daily on your plates. In the words of Gene Baur, "Eating meat is a habit we choose, not an unwritten law to be blindly obeyed. In the face of factory farming's harsh and violent spirit, every one of us has the power to say no."

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