A recent article on Truthout.com asks: Is Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork packer and hog producer, linked to the outbreak [of Swine Flu]?
Author Tom Philpott notes that Smithfield operates massive hog-raising operations at Perote, Mexico, in the state of Vera Cruz-the state where the outbreak originated. Operations at a Smithfield subsidiary called Granjas Carroll there raise 950,000 hogs per year (2008).
Paula Hay, on the blog Peak Oil Entrepreneur, is covering the story on the factory farm/Swine Flu connection daily of late. She cites Veretect, a company tracking the development of this health challenge as saying:
Residents [of La Gloria, Perote Municipality, Veracruz State, Mexico] believed the outbreak had been caused by contamination from pig breeding farms located in the area. They believed that the farms, operated by Granjas Carroll, polluted the atmosphere and local water bodies, which in turn led to the disease outbreak. According to residents, the company denied responsibility for the outbreak and attributed the cases to ‘flu.' However, a municipal health official stated that preliminary investigations indicated that the disease vector was a type of fly that reproduces in pig waste and that the outbreak was linked to the pig farms. It was unclear whether health officials had identified a suspected pathogen responsible for this outbreak.
Residents of La Gloria have long complained about the clouds of flies that are drawn the so-called "manure lagoons" created by such mega-farms, known in the agriculture business as Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) according to the TimesOnline.
Philpott (4/25) says: The link is being made in the Mexican media. "Granjas Carroll, causa de epidemia en La Gloria," declared a headline in the Vera Cruz-based paper La Marcha. The quote was echoed on the Wall Street Journal.com.
"A food system that kills - Swine flu is meat industry's latest plague" headlines the April story from GRAIN, an international non-governmental organisation which promotes the sustainable management and use of agricultural biodiversity: "...the global meat industry is at the centre of the story, ramping up denials as the weight of evidence about its role grows."
For their part, Smithfield took a pummeling on the stock market as well as in the court of opinion this week, but is currently denying all wrong doing.
Evidence is not conclusive. These are only questions. But they are questions which must be respectfully asked, carefully considered, and scientifically investigated.
Note: Veratect, has established a Twitter feed for nearly real-time updates on the unfolding swine flu situation.
My interest in this topic was triggered by Enigma, at Watergate Summer and by a conversation this morning at the Farmworkers' Center.