How alarmed should you be about the corona virus that's killed seven million baby pigs in the last year?
So far it hasn't mutated into anything that can infect humans. But that doesn't mean it won't. Or that another one won't.
There's a terrible irony right there in the opening sequence of the first episode of the new Showtime series Years of Living Dangerously.
Nelly Montez describes what happened to her and thousands of other workers when Cargill, one of the world's largest factory farm operations, closed its slaughterhouse in the small town of Plainview, Texas. As she explains it:
When is a chicken not an animal? Answer: When she's in a factory farm.
If she were, indeed, an animal, she would be protected by the Humane Slaughter Act, but the Act doesn't cover "poultry". That makes it easier for them to be dropped while still alive into the scalding water that helps remove their feathers.
As we approach Thanksgiving and the Holidays, the ins and outs of how all this works is documented today in the Washington Post.
It began in July, when the Animal Place sanctuary asked an egg factory farm in California to consider giving them 3,000 hens who, at age two, were already too old to lay more eggs, rather than killing them.
The egg farm agreed, and the transfer began. Just over a month later, 1,150 of the new arrivals took off from California in a chartered plane from Hayward Executive Airport, and arrived in New York, safe and sound, on Thursday morning, September 5th.
"It has nothing to do with animals," said Utah state senator David Hinkins. The cattle-ranching, race-horse breeding legislator was defending Utah's "ag-gag" law, which makes it a crime for anyone to expose cruelty to animals at factory farms.
"It's people trespassing on farms. If people can sneak onto anybody's property, then we don't have any rights."
And what right is it, exactly, Senator, that you feel is threatened? The right, from what we've seen, to kick, beat and drag sentient creatures to death.
James Gandolfini’s family quoted his autopsy as saying that the 51-year-old actor had “died of a heart attack, of natural causes.”
But there’s nothing “natural” about dying of a heart attack when you’re 51 years old. Especially when you read what Gandolfini had for dinner the night he died.
According to Businessweek, Taco Bell is among the companies that are trying out the idea of replacing "meat" with "protein" on some of their menus.
In keeping with a growing number of institutions that promote "Meatless Monday" as being good for the health of their employees, the company that services the various cafeterias on Capitol Hill has been promoting vegetarian options (in addition to, not instead of, its standard fare) every Monday.
Stephen Colbert takes the side of (and you know what that means!) Iowa Rep. Steve King, who's pro-dogfighting, against evacuating pets in natural disasters, and angry at the proposed law to give egg-laying hens a few inches more space at factory farms.
"China fire kills 120" ... "More than 112 dead at China fire" ... "Disaster kills 119 at China slaughterhouse."
There were hundreds more reports of this disaster worldwide. And, as always, one fact or figure missing in all of them: The death toll was not 112 or 119 or 120. It was at least a million.
Smithfield, the world’s biggest producer of factory-farmed pigs, has agreed to be taken over by Shuanghui, China’s biggest pork producer.
Shuanghui has 13 factory farms that produce more than 2.7 million tons of meat each year. For $4.7 billion, it will take possession of Smithfield and its 460 facilities that raise 15.8 million hogs a year.
What does this mean for the pigs?
It's a small victory, but a big precedent, for the animals at factory farms: Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has vetoed the ag-gag bill that would effectively prevent undercover investigators and whistleblowers from exposing abuse at the state's factory farms and slaughterhouses.
So she drove to the Dale Smith Meatpacking Company in Draper City, Utah, stood at the side of the road, looked through the barbed wire fence, and took photos and video with her smart phone.
The slaughterhouse manager called the police.
At a briefing in Beijing yesterday, Dr. Keiji Fukuda, an assistant director general at the World Health Organization, called H7N9 “definitely one of the most lethal influenza viruses we’ve seen.”
He added that “the potential development of human-to-human spread cannot be ruled out.”
Rather than cleaning up their act in the wake of undercover videos, factory farms are fighting to keep people from seeing what goes on at their operations.
But a new campaign is now emerging: Make webcams mandatory in all factory farms so we can all see what’s going on at all times.
Children playing along a river bank spot hundreds of bloated pig carcasses bobbing downstream. Hundreds of miles away, people are grossed out by the rising stench from thousands of dead ducks and swans piling up along river banks.
Meanwhile, three unrelated humans stagger into three different hospitals, gasping for air. Two quickly die of pneumonia and the third lies in critical condition in an intensive care unit.
It's the classic scenario for the birth of a global pandemic. And it's in the news today from China.
Researchers in Britain and Denmark have analyzed data from two farms in Denmark, and have concluded that there is a clear connection between giving routine antibiotics to livestock and the increase in dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans.