A new strain of the swine flu virus, H1N1 G4, has been detected both in pigs and humans in China. More than 1 in 10 pig farm workers in the new study had already been infected, according to antibody blood tests which showed exposure to the virus.The tests also showed that as many as 4.4% of the general population also appeared to have been exposed. Pigs have been shown to be hosts or “mixing vessels” for this new virus dubbed G4. Although the virus has not caused illnesses in people, and has not yet passed from humans to humans, scientists fear that it might mutate and cause another global pandemic.
Besides a new vaccine, I fear that the preventative measures will be focussed on increased factory farm biosecurity instead of ending a flawed system. Last April we wrote about pandemics and factory farming, and interviewed Dr Michael Greger MD who explained, “the sheer number of animals, overcrowding, the stress crippling their immune systems, the ammonia from the decomposing waste burning their lungs. The lack of sunlight, lack of fresh air, put all these factors together and we have the perfect storm environment for breeding these so-called ‘super strains’ of influenza”.
London’s top public health official has said that meat processing plants are one of the areas where a second wave of COVID is most likely to emerge in the capital; “food factories are an ‘emerging area’ of concern because of the proximity of workers to each other and the low pay, meaning staff were unlikely to be able to afford to self-isolate at home if they fell sick”.. Outbreaks have been seen in meat processing plants in Wales and Yorkshire, and in Germany, France, Spain and the US. The USA reports 20,000 infections of COVID in meat packing plant workers.
This week two democrat senators are accusing Smithfields (and other meat factory companies) of manipulating the COVID crisis to force ‘deregulatory measures’, allowing them to stay open in the name of feeding the American public. Turns out sales to China were up more than ever during that time, in fact they were record breaking! Meanwhile, China has banned imports from specific US, Brazilian, UK and German packing plants with a high incidence of COVID. Was this because Chinese authorities were concerned about the possibility that the meat itself could carry the COVID virus?
Last May we made a short film about the COVID and African Swine Flu outbreaks at Smithfield Foods, the biggest player in the US pork industry. The driver of this corporate take over from family farms to massive factory farms is the development banks. For example, in the nineteen-nineties Smithfield was granted a $100m soft loan to expand into Poland where they could take advantage of cheap labour and poorly enforced worker and animal welfare standards to outcompete pig farmers across the EU – farmers must ‘get big or get out of the industry’. See the documentary about this corporate take-over in our Channel 4 film Pig Business.
If Parliament fails to add vital amendments to the Agriculture Bill, Smithfield no longer has to go to Poland to get their deeply flawed factory farmed pork onto our shelves . In response to the NFU’s 1 million-strong petition to protect UK farmers from being undercut by substandard imports, the government has set up a Trade and Agriculture Commission. But it won’t be enough to protect UK farmers as its recommendations will only be advisory and not legally binding. A dangerous position when members of Boris’s cabinet, like Liz Truss, are prepared to sacrifice our farmers on the altar of so-called free trade.
As the Bill continues to be debated in the House of Lords, Lord Dundee has tabled some additional amendments to include support for rearing livestock outdoors, for agro-ecological smallholder farming and for making land available to new food growers.
So, lobby politicians to improve the Bill by sending your own version of this letter to your MP or member of the House of Lords, forward our newsletter to friends, family and networks, share Farms Not Factories posts on social media, and urge your friends and local restaurants to buy only high welfare local pork/meat products.
To spread the word, we can champion local producers like Primal Cut, artisan producers of whole food sausages, nitrite free bacon and charcuterie. Following slow food principles promoting local food and traditional cooking. All meats are free range, locally sourced and pasture fed. COVID has ceased their usual activities around local markets, food festivals and outdoor events and forced them to focus on their core specialist food customers.