Swine flu continues spreading across the globe, killing people–even (gasp) Americans. (Eleven have died in New York City alone.)
Ho-hum. As I predicted a few weeks ago, the flu scare has skulked off the front pages and into the realms of historical amnesia, that vast American netherworld. Apparently, it will take mass quarantines, high death rates, and riots at hospitals to keep Americans thinking about the very real threat of flu pandemic for more than a week or two.
Meanwhile, no one with authority seems to be investigating obvious possible links with industrial-scale hog farming. As I reported a while back, the only scientists swarming around La Gloria, Mexico–where the flu evidently broke out in the shadow of massive Smithfield hog operations–are from the biotech industry, not the World Health Organization. And they’re training their testtubes on backyard hog farms, not Smithfield’s huge confinement facilities!
Here in the U.S., USDA chief Tom Vilsack has been much more zealous about protecting the pork industry than investigating its potential for incubating deadly pandemics. In a Congressional heating last month, he cravenly defended the safety of industrial meat production–even though U.S. regulatory agencies have no mechanism in place to test the U.S. herd for H1N1.
Few outside of a few bloggers seems outraged by this state of affairs here in the U.S. Over in Europe, things are different. The Swiss group Avaaz.org has launched a petition demanding that the WHO and the UN’s FAO take action to investigate links between industrial hog operations and swine flu. Their demand is simple and direct–and it’s a sign of our deregulated times that it has to be made in the first place:
We call on you to investigate and develop regulations for factory farming in accordance with public health safety standards. Food production must be regulated to ensure global health security.
In just six days, Avaaz.org claims, more than 200,000 people signed the petition. How can we can that many U.S. citizens to express even that minimal level of concern about the public-health menace of factory animal farms?
Hat tip to Eddie of Obama Foodorama.