Look no further than Smithfield Foods Corporation, the world’s largest pork producer. Since US environmental laws are too severe (shocking if one goes to any US town ruined by a nearby pig factory) Smithfield set up shop in Mexico, a 3rd World capitalist country that only the Heritage Foundation could love where anything goes and it’s Profits Uber Alles.
Pan to La Gloria, a town in Veracruz, near Oaxaca, in a region where due to NAFTA Smithfield has set up shop. La Gloria is where this latest super swine flu originated. Five miles north and upwind, in Xaltepec, there are 15,000 pigs crammed into 18 warehouses. Nearby is Perote, Veracruz, where Smithfield, via its Mexican outfit Granjas Carroll (website) raises an unbelievable 950,000 pigs.
Sane people have been warning for decades that the industrial and capitalist superexploitation of pigs for the international pork market was making swine flu virus evolution go into overdrive, with unforeseen consequences.
In capitalist societies, anyone saying anything that hurts profits gets shut down or ignored, so these folks have been ignored for decades. Now the proverbial caca has hit the fan. A new virus, a combination of swine, bird and human flu viruses, is on the loose. It’s dangerous, and it kills about 6% of those infected. Worse, it spreads human to human and hits the young and healthy while sparing the elderly. Pandemics in particular have hit the young and healthy the hardest while sparing the old and less healthy.
This is a mystery. It is peculiar and makes no intuitive sense. One suggestion is that the elderly have already been exposed to many such viruses and already have immunity. Another theory is that a healthy immune system is more deadly in a flu pandemic, where it’s advantageous to have an aging and more decrepit immune system. A young and healthy immune system overreacts to the pandemic flu, producing far too many white blood cells that flood the lungs, and more or less overwhelm and drown them. Pretty much pneumonia in a word.
In La Gloria, Veracruz, where the ultracapitalist pig factory is, over half of the 3,000 population have symptoms of swine flu. Edgar Hernandez Hernandez, age 5, is Patient Zero. Two more kids are dead. Over half the population there works most of the week in Mexico City. This is how the virus could have gotten to the capital.
A perfect storm has been created with the ultracapitalist pig factories, similar to the gay bathhouses and mad promiscuity of US gay culture that spread AIDS like mad in the 1980’s. Problem is that Swine Flu is easily contagious to anyone, while HIV is mostly transmitted in the West only to IV drug users and gay males.
Under “liberal” Bill Clinton, NAFTA was shoved through Congress in 1992. Soon after, thousands of farmers were shoved off their lands in Veracruz and had their lands stolen from under them. The land was to be given to huge US corporations like Smithfield. This is the true genesis of the Swine Flu Pandemic. It was caused by neoliberal capitalism! There is no way to avoid that conclusion.
When you thought that the horrible pig manure lagoons of North Carolina could not possibly be surpassed, Smithfield’s super caca lakes in Veracruz seem to have taken the gold. These were some of the worst pig poop lakes ever created by modern capitalism. Swarms of flies, blocking the sun and the sky, hovered over these ponds, feasting on the oceans of pig manure.
It appears that from these flies came the Swine Flu, as the Black Plague came from fleas biting rats feasting on human waste tossed from second floor chamberpots all over Europe. These flies appear to be the vector for Swine Flu. So, while capitalism claims to advance us into the modern world, instead it merely transports us to Europe circa 1350.
Over half the town is sick. The residents, like villagers with pitchforks and torches, are demanding an investigation. The ultra-capitalist Mexican government has refused to even begin one.
Excellent overview of Smithfield’s corporate crime career from Rolling Stone.
From the UK Independent comments section. “Luter” below refers to Joseph W. Luter, III, owner of Smithfield Farms, a particularly repellent fellow even by US corporate standards who regularly rails against vegetarians. Luter is one of the masterminds of the modern pig superfactory.
So… once again the epitome of Western Capitalism (the US), and their “Pig Barons”, steal land, evicting those who live on and work the land. They then, through factory farming and shoddy treatment of their livestock, cause half a town, perhaps more, to contract a contagious and potentially fatal disease (I say ‘potentially’, but remembering that many people have already died).
So… of course, they are handsomely compensating these people? And they are providing and paying for the necessary medical care..? They are changing their farming methods?
It strikes me that the people who live in these places need to take back their land, by force if necessary. And we should all support them. “Legal” means will not work, since the law is designed to protect capitalism, and its conceptions of property, even in the face of clear facts demonstrating the extent of harm caused by these pig-people.
For all of you who are too caught up in the spectacle to engage in revolutionary activities: at least employ your pathetic “consumer ethics” and boycott Luter products.
Solidarity with the people of La Gloria.
30 thoughts on “US Corporation Smithfield Foods Caused Swine Flu”
Thanks for that – that’s a good piece of research. You could syndicate that. Try submitting it to Counterpunch. Excuse me if you’ve already thought of that. I heard a radio program years ago on the Great Flu, during or just after WWI; I can’t remember how they verified it, but they had come up with some pretty strong forensic evidence that it was immune system over-reaction in younger, fitter victims that caused the demographic spread. I think they’ve got samples of the original strain. Maybe they found some bodies preserved in bogs in France or whatever, but they seemed to have bodies to study – I can’t remember, so don’t take my word for it.
I’ve read the horror stories about pig farms in Eric Schulzer’s (?) ‘Fast Food Nation’. Where did you get the rest of the stuff on the Veracruz farms? I’d like to read more about that. That Johan Hari piece is excellent. He’s a strange lad, but very talented, I have to admit. He originally supported the Iraq war, but then recanted with seemingly sincere contrition. And, being gay and jewish (I think) he’s got a large helping of anti- Muslim paranoia), but he’s just a boy so I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt for a while because he’s one of very few British journalists who makes much of an effort; I’ve read a few very good pieces by him.
Wasn’t Smithfield the company that presented itself as a small, hometown concern in commercials in the 1970s, saying they were used to only producing enough “for folks ’round here?” LOL.
Oh, and the U.S. govt. doesn’t want us calling it “swine flu” anymore. It might give people the impression that pork is unhealthy, or that huge, disease breeding agribusiness operations were responsible for breeding disease.
Maybe you missed the whole part in all the stories where the farm has been tested but came back negative for Swine Flu. But I will let you carry on with your anit-american no proof rambling.
LS, I was just researching the spread of the disease. Ground Zero is a small town in Veracruz where over 50% of the town is infected or at least has symptoms. The town is right next to (5 miles away) from a huge Smithfield operation where they produce 890,000 pigs a year. The Mexican government thinks that the swarms of flies over the shit ponds are the vector for the disease. But if the farm itself is testing negative (!?) then maybe I should not submit it to Counterpunch.
Do you grow your own food, or do you buy it with dollars? It’s easy to blame the specter of “capitalism” for every problem under the Sun, but without farms like these our ever-increasing urban population wouldn’t be able to have sausage & eggs for breakfast.
So how do you convince the western world to abandon their gilded cages and return to a subsistence economy? How do you end the out-of-control breeding in the third world?
The solution is not as simple as abolishing capitalism, whatever that would entail. The root cause of these problems is the perpetually increasing population and their standard of living, while the limited resources of the Earth dwindle at a rapidly increasing pace.
Hi racerealist. The critics of these super pig farms have been saying for decades that we need to get back to small chicken and pig farming. There is simply no reason whatsoever that we need to have these pig and chicken superfactories in order to feed humans. We can feed humans quite well with small chicken and pig farms. It’s no problem at all. The superfactories are all about superprofits and nothing less. They are simply not necessary at all.
These sickening industrial pig farms not only are breeding grounds for different flus and other viruses, but also many bacterial and parasitic infections and diseases as well; a recent article in the NYT describes how these pig farms often harbor MRSA to a frightening extent – http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/12/opinion/12kristof.html
Smithfield only had a 1-2% profit margin the last three years. On $10 billion in business, it comes out to a lot of money, but the small margin means they can’t afford to sacrifice any efficiency.
The government makes and enforces the rules, businesses just play by them. If you’re looking for a scapegoat, blame the government officials who are taking payouts to look the other way on this issue.
Jesus Christ eman, MRSA, WTF man? One thing I like about you is that you are a socialist.
Looks like they might need to raise prices on their hams, racerealist.
One of the problems with capitalism is that the capitalists create a capitalist culture by seizing the media and in other ways. We all become little capitalists. The capitalists also seize control of the state. Once they have the media, the state and especially the people’s minds via the culture, there is little that can be done in the way of regulating capitalism the way it needs to be regulated.
See Gramsci for a description of how capitalism creates a Gramscian hegemony of ideas that makes it extremely difficult to even get a respectable social democracy going. Further, once you do get some social democracy going, the same structure works overtime from Day One to try to take it apart piece by piece. They never relent and they never give up. It’s a serious flaw in capitalism. It’s almost a fatal flaw.
“One of the problems with socialism is that the socialists create a socialist culture by seizing the media and in other ways. We all become little socialists. The socialists also seize control of the state. Once they have the media, the state and especially the people’s minds via the culture, there is little that can be done in the way of regulating socialism the way it needs to be regulated.”
Funny how that works, eh?
At least under capitalism there is the illusion of freedom. Socialists make no apologies for controlling the media, the state, and the culture. Socialists can run factory farms too, by the way.
The only way they can do that is in a dictatorship of the proletariat. Anything less and the capitalists still get the media, usually the army, and they try like Hell to grab the culture. That’s why a lot of the real hardcore Commies say the dictaprole is the only way, because anything less always reverts back to capitalism.
Socialists haven’t been running factory farm operations that are creating pandemics. I guess they could, but they don’t. The whole idea of it is to make a profit, so I don’t see why socialists would do that.
Robert, when you talk about this subject you turn into a wild-eyed ideologue, detached from reality. The media and military are industries, and like all other industries they would be state-controlled under socialism. Even in “capitalist” America, the state controls the military, even if they buy their high-tech armaments from private industry.
“They try like hell to grab the culture”? Who are these “capitalists” you speak of? Is it an elite cabal of nefarious Jews, or is it really just the natural competitiveness of humankind (and pretty much all mammals)? Do you think that under socialism the politicians would be working for the people, with a sense of nobility and altruism, or working to increase their own power, wealth, and influence as they have in every political system ever conceived?
Dictatorship of the proletariat is just a ridiculous concept. That’s pretty much what we have in America now, isn’t it? All of the poor, wretched dumbasses get together every few years and elect people who keep screwing them over because they don’t know any better. With universal suffrage and the Internet, people have more power and knowledge available to them than ever before. But the vast majority of them are too tragically stupid to see beyond the party affiliations, the hollow speeches, or the deceptive campaign ads.
For you and some other people I know, socialism is like a religion. You’re out here evangelizing, telling people that if only we capitalist heretics would convert to the one TRUE faith, we’d all be saved. It ignores human nature, it ignores reality, and it ignores every recorded letter of human history. Socialism works great for ants, but humans are a little bit more independent.
And by the way, as I already showed, factory farms are not run in pursuit of some nebulous “superprofit”. They are simply the way to maximize output and minimize cost. If the benevolent socialist state wants to provide the masses with all the pork they can eat, it will have to resort to the same techniques.
It’s not a socialist/capitalist issue, it’s an animal rights issue and a health issue. If our politicians (and by extension the voters) cared as much about animal rights and sick Mexicans as they do about 25 cent hot dogs, it wouldn’t matter whether the government ran the industry or just regulated it.
I have to agree with this, though I do think there is place for more government regulation. But it is the consumer who holds the real power.
I have to agree the voting public doesnt care what the government does as long as they get cheap gas and food. no matter what is in the food.
Smithfield set up shop in Mexico, a 3rd World capitalist country that only the Heritage Foundation could love where anything goes and it’s Profits Uber Alles.
Nope… basically every EU country, Canada, Australia, and the US rank well ahead of Mexico.
Even Botswana is well ahead of Mexico.
In capitalist societies, anyone saying anything that hurts profits gets shut down or ignored, so these folks have been ignored for decades.
So… there’s wasn’t any pollution or terrible industrial in the USSR..? Chernobyl anyone?
For a society to exist as a functioning capitalist oriented state you need rule of law and the ability to redress problems created by corrupt or damaging companies or individuals. That’s why places like Mexico and the Philippines are ranked very low by Heritage. Some guy’s cousin next week will want a bigger take of the bribes and any effects of pollution, etc. be damned. The problem is rampant corruption not capitalism per se. By the way, apparently quite a few of the protesters at Tienanmen square were not protesting for democracy but against corruption.
“So… there’s wasn’t any pollution or terrible industrial in the USSR..?”
So… there’s wasn’t any pollution or terrible industrial accidents in the USSR..?
If there are any lawyer out there reading this think about bringing a case against the companies responsible.
Capitalism will always breed insane amounts of corruption, especially in the poorer capitalist societies. There is simply no way around it. People have been screaming about corruption in 3rd world capitalist hellholes for decades. It’s a problem that pretty much can never be solved.
The capitalists have all the money, all the media and all the state. They capture the state and make it so that no regulation occurs. Of course bribery and corruption is everywhere. If you look at China you see what happens in the early stages of capitalist development. Everywhere on Earth, it always seems to look like the Industrial Revolution in the US in the late 1800’s.
How are these genius ideologues at Heritage going to go about proposing to get rid of the inevitable, intractable and ultimately insoluble mad corruption and lack of regulation in the 3rd world capitalist states? You can’t because it’s part of the system. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!
If lack of rule of law is so horrible, why do so many corporations drool at the prospect of setting up shop in these places where there is poor rule of law (that is, the courts are bought off by businesses and the rich)?
I would like to point out also that as soon as rule of law gets installed along with regulations and whatnot, the capitalists go to work trying to get rid of it! Here in the US we have SLAPP suits and endless efforts at “tort reform.” Our money based elections are antithetical to the rule of law right there since the politicians are just bought from the get go.
I’m not trying to get people to convert to socialism. I just try to point out the horrible problems of capitalism. I acknowledge that we don’t have good alternatives to capitalism yet but the future will be some kind of socialism.
The capitalists grab the culture. That’s one of their big projects in any capitalist society. One of the main ways they do this is by grabbing all media. Read Gramsci before you complain.
The dictaprole is not a ridiculous concept, but it’s got its problems all right. We certainly do NOT have a dictaprole in the US. We have a plutocracy, which is what you get in most capitalist societies. Rule by the rich and the business classes, everyone else gets screwed. Obama is a good socialist move in the right direction.
Socialism works just fine, depending on what variety you are talking about. There doesn’t seem to be much argument that social democracy has an excellent record.
This is a Leftist blog, racerealist. I mean, if you don’t like it, don’t read, man. I’m never going to convert you guys anyway, but it would be nice if you would at least acknowledge the flaws in your beloved system. But most of your type can never seem to do that. Same with Unc. They just can’t bring themselves to see the obvious.
And by the way, as I already showed, factory farms are not run in pursuit of some nebulous “superprofit”. They are simply the way to maximize output and minimize cost.
Exactly. This is what the profit motive under capitalism always does. And this is what caused the Swine Flu. It’s also why capitalism is unreformable because any efforts that get in the way of maximizing output and minimizing cost are fought tooth and nail by the capitalists through their controlled media, their bought and controlled politicians, and ultimately by their brainwashed Stepford Public.
It’s not an animal rights issue only. It’s also a public health issue. It seems that the people have long wanted some regulation on this issue and the lack of it is not due to some populist uprising demanding cheap hot dogs. Obviously the price is meat is going to have to go up a bit. Cheap meat is starting to hurt not only the animals but our public health.
It’s definitely doable. I believe that the Scandinavian countries have regulated factory animal farms pretty seriously.
Socialist enterprises are typically not obsessed with maximizing output and minimizing cost. That’s why they often operate at a loss and why the Heritage folks hate them so much.
the prospect of setting up shop in these places where there is poor rule of law..
Two words cheap labor… but there are limits to a lack of the rule of law… that’s why Africa is not a hot spot for globalization…
It’s my opinion that what happened at Chernobyl is a form of corruption.. so to the Chinese cultural revolution…. so to basically the inherited status of ruling line in North Korea.
I would like to point out also that as soon as rule of law gets installed along with regulations and whatnot, the capitalists go to work trying to get rid of it!
There’s a difference between capitalism and cronyism. Cronyism can exist in a capitalist, communist, or fascist structure.
What happened with the banks and the US was that they guys running the show no longer had a long term stake in the business… basically that can be said for many publicly traded corporations…
If you want another axe to grind against the meat packing industry.. they were leaders in busting unions in the US by bringing in illegal labor. They placed ads in Mexico offering employment and lobbied for the the first amnesty in 1986.
” Meatpacking wages among the highest
By the 1930s, unions were able to bring the black workers on board and as a result, the conditions and pay within the packing houses improved significantly in the ensuing decades. In fact, from 1950 to the late 1960s, the unions were so successful that meatpacking became one of the highest paying segments of U.S. manufacturing. At its height, meatpacking was one of the most organized industries in the nation with approximately 80 percent of its workers union members.
As a result of wages 25 percent higher than other manufacturing jobs, most meatpackers actually had waiting lists of people wanting jobs. It was not uncommon to find employees with 20-plus years employment at the same company. The idea that meatpacking was a job that most citizens would not do had been shattered by decades of organized labor gains. The children of meatpackers were going to college and often returning to the packing plants to work because the pay and benefits were so good. Meatpacking jobs had become a fast track to middle class living.
Apparently conditions were too good from the perspective of the companies. The first blow to union power was the rapid consolidation of the industry into the hands of only a few powerful corporations, a consolidation that continues today.
The 1950s and 60s created a new breed of meatpacking company. Slaughterhouses were bought and closed at a rapid rate until only a handful of companies were left in control of the industry. Since 1980, the number of cattle slaughterhouses has plummeted from more than 600 to 170.
Forty years ago, the largest four meatpackers controlled 21 percent of the industry. Today the top four, including Greeley-based Swift, controls 85 percent of the industry. These large companies have forced the unions to adopt a plant-by-plant negotiating strategy that has worked well to decrease the power of the unions. The companies have built redundant facilities that can simply increase production in the case of a strike at a similar plant.
For instance, Swift has virtually identical plants in Greeley, Grand Island, Neb., and Cactus, Texas. As a result, the unions have lost their primary bargaining chip.
The meatpacking companies’ urban-to-rural relocation of the industry has also weakened the unions. It is estimated that more than three-quarters of the employees at some meatpacking facilities are not native English speakers. And with a turnover rate intentionally designed to hit 40 percent to 100 percent a year, it is actually a feat that the unions have even managed to stay in some of the plants considering they must find a whole new set of members nearly every year. ”
So if it wasn’t obvious… no I am not a supporter of the US meat packing industry.
What upsets me about the swine flu, besides Robert’s thoughtful commentaries on it’s cause by capitalism via the pig farmer industry, is that the right wing seems to think that it is part of some left wing conspiracy. If they could, they would accuse Obama of starting the virus deliberately in order to achieve world-wide socialist domination. Since that is so unbelievable, they, instead, ridicule the swine flu and Obama’s common sense advice on how to avoid getting and spreading the virus. I have heard one neo-nazi “physician” call the whole thing a swindle so that we can spend more money developing a vaccine that could never work. Robert is right. Capitalism is endangering our public health.