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Rewarding "Flu" Farmers With Our Tax Dollars

By       Message Martha Rosenberg     Permalink
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It never fails. Crowd animals on top of each other over their own feces, feed them growth chemicals like antibiotics and ractopamine and disease breaks out.

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Big Meat is hoping we have forgotten about Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) which, by May 2013, had killed one tenth of all U.S. pigs. Despite photos that show mountains of dead pigs, Big Meat doesn't want to scare pork eaters into thinking a virus that could kill that many pigs so quickly could sicken or kill them.

Big Meat hopes we forget about this pig disease by Martha Rosenberg

Nor does it want food consumers to start questioning the way U.S. pork is created to allow such a disease to spread.

By 2014, PEDv had killed at least 7 million piglets in their first days of life. The scourge was so bad the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) caught a Kentucky farm that lost 900 piglets within a two-day period feeding dead pigs to other pigs in an attempt to induce "immunity" in survivors. Nice. Footage from the Iron Maiden Hog Farm in Owensboro, Kentucky shows pigs whose legs had bound together to keep them standing when they otherwise would have collapsed.

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How are the piglets with PEDv "euthanized"? By "manually applied blunt force trauma to the head" also known as bashing their heads against wall, admits the American Veterinary Medical Association. They are also gassed.

Pork groups defend "indoor facility" factory farming, saying it allows "security protocols [that] lead to healthier pigs and a safer food supply," but HSUS puts the blame for PEDv on cramped conditions.

Killing Millions; Costing Millions

Flash forward to the current avian flu epidemic in which millions of chickens and turkeys are being killed, mostly by asphyxiation, to keep the disease from spreading. "U.S. Bird Flu Scourge Means Months of Dead Turkey Cleanup," says the agweb web site, showing a HazMat worker and lamenting the financial losses.

On a typical U.S. egg farm, where avian flu is thought to have originated, one employee cares for 250,000 hens, housed in as many as sixteen barns. The only "care" provided, beside giving feed, is removing "spent" hens to be euthanized and installing newly arrived birds from the hatchery.

"Some egg producers got rid of old hens by suffocating them in plastic bags or dumpsters, Temple Grandin, PhD, the famous animal scientist writes in a paper presented at the National Institute of Animal Agriculture. "When the egg producers asked me if I wanted cheap eggs I replied, 'Would you want to buy a shirt if it was $5 cheaper and made by child slaves?' Hens are not human but research clearly shows that they feel pain and can suffer."

Ken Klippen of the National Association of Egg Farmers disputes that the industry is cruel or that factory farming is behind the flu. "This is a flu for birds just as there is for people--and, as with people, some forms of the flu are worse than others," he wrote about a story I did for Food Consumer. Certainly, wildlife and people also get the flu but they are not crammed by the thousands over their own waste in windowless barns.

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Public Money for Private Greed

There is something even more outrageous than crowding animals together to produce "cheap" meat and producing disease instead. The government uses our tax dollars to pay for it!

According to the Washington Pork Producers newsletter USDA forked over $26.2 million of our tax dollars to combat PEDv including "$11.1 million in cost-share funding for producers of infected herds to support biosecurity practices."

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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random (more...)

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