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Swine Flu Déjà Vu?

May 2009

As more cases of Swine Flu are reported across the globe, two kinds of opportunism seem to be spreading as well. First, non-profits spin the story to seek funding or media coverage for whatever portion of their work might overlap with the rising pandemic. Some are more relevant-and actually engaged-than others. Second, businesses might use the health scare for their own purposes.

In Egypt, pigs are being slaughtered to “prevent” the spread of swine flu in a country where even a single case of the illness has not yet been confirmed. The pigs are the only source of income for some of Egypt’s Coptic minority and the United Nations is calling this move a “real mistake.”

This action causes as déjà vu sensation at Grassroots International, remembering the slaughter of Creole pigs in Haiti, theoretically to halt the spread of disease that was rumored to be in the Dominican Republic. In Haiti, however, the destruction of the pigs was also designed to benefit the U.S. swine industry while simultaneously destroying one of the few sources of wealth available to Haitians. (Grassroots International has a documentary on the subject that is worth watching even these many years later.)

At the moment, it remains too soon to know the extent of this influenza virus. Scientists and others speculate that its source comes from industrial hog farms and their horrible waste problems. (Check out The Meatrix if you want to take the “red pill” and learn the truth about factory farming.) In fact, methods of industrial farming pose many problems. A short list includes:

  • Mad Cow disease
  • Avian Flu
  • Swine Flu
  • Diminished biodiversity
  • Depleted soil
  • Animal cruelty
  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Pollution and contamination
  • Concentrations of wealth
  • Greater hunger

The myth of the Green Revolution and the failed promises of corporate agriculture and genetically modified crops continue to disappoint and endanger us. Fortunately, alternatives exist and are attainable. These are the farming methods that depend on farmers, not fertilizers. Grassroots International works with tenacious and talented farmers in the U.S. and around the world, advocating for food sovereignty and leading the way toward sustainability and food justice. Perhaps the latest fall-out from industrial farming will help lead to new policies. Otherwise it will be déjà vu all over again.

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