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Behind the scenes of the fight for the protection of animals and workers and the preservation of the environment - my experiences as a Tyson slaughterhouse hanger/killer turned activist. Exposing the evils of factory farming, by Virgil Butler. If you have arrived here looking for the Tyson stories, view the early archives. Some of them are now featured on the sidebar for easy searching.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Does Anyone Else See the Irony Here? 

I read an article the other day that came
out on the 19th in the Washington Times
about the possibility of "agri-terrorists"
contaminating the food supply.

The first paragraph went like this:

Officials, lawmakers and experts warned
Wednesday that it would be "relatively easy"
for al-Qaida terrorists to carry out a
devastating attack on American agriculture,
starting an epidemic that would cost the
lives of millions of animals and bring the
nation's economy to its knees.

They used the example of foot and mouth
disease, pointing out that it is "the most
virulent disease known to man"
and that
computer simulations showed that "a single
attack could infect animals in more than 20
states before it was recognized."

Oh, but that's not all. Not by a long shot.
They went on to say that:

...one such simulation showed that even if
all animal movement was banned after eight
days, more than 26 million animals would have
to be destroyed, either because they might
have been exposed to the disease, or to
create a epidemiological "firebreak" to block
the spread of infection.

Now, what do you imagine the reason for this
is? They admitted that:

...one reason for the accelerated spread was
the fact that 80 percent of beef cattle pass
through 2 percent of the nation's feedlots...

Senator Durbin D-Ill. also pointed out this fact:

Virtually every agricultural state in the union has a
state fair...suggesting that - given the growing
concern about agri-terror - these events might
need to be rethought.

It gets even worse from there when:

Several of the witnesses and panel members
recalled that hundreds of pages of U.S. agricultural
documents had been recovered from a safe house
in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

But, here is where it really got interesting to me:

Lawmakers were clearly concerned about
the diffuse fashion in which the responsibility for
countering and responding to agri-terror were
spread among an alphabet soup of more than 30
federal agencies.

Now, this comes after we read lately about how
our wonderful government and administration
is protecting America's food supply. They have
been positively gushing lately about the fall in
salmonella contamination in several stories I
read. However, that didn't seem to matter
when it comes to "agri-terror." I love the quote
that Durbin gave in this story. Check this out:

"We don't have our act together in Washington
by a long shot."

Now, doesn't that make you feel all safe about
that next fast food meal you give your child?
The article even pointed out that this audience
of people (who are entrusted with the safety of
the food supply for America) was "spoken for"
by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J when he said
that he was:

"overwhelmed" by what he had heard

Well, let's see where we stand now with regard
to whether we can trust that they are telling us
the truth about the safety of our food.

1) We channel the vast majority of the animals
raised for food in filthy, disease-infested conditions
in this country into very small distribution channels
where even the animals that have miraculously
up to this point been free of disease are mixed
with others who are sick.

2) Then we process the clean meat alongside the
contaminated and cross-contaminate much of that.

3) We genetically manipualte them and give them
all sorts of chemicals, hormones, and drugs.

But, the USDA and the industry are always trying
to convince people of the safety of this meat
because of all these regulations (that, by the way,
the industry says are too stringent and are being
weakened all the time).

Now, we have a situation where they are forced to
admit that there is nothing they can do to protect
the American people. Surely one would think that
something would be done immediately to address
this situation. But, of course, there is always the
same problem that has always existed when anyone
starts talking about improving anything in the
factory farming industry.

Apparently our friendly senator from N.J. that was
so "overwhelmed" by what he had heard was also
a bit scared by the knowledge he gained in this
meeting. But, he noted that what needs to be
done would be a problem. Why?

"...because of the enormous cost of preparing
for this kind of attack."

Well, hasn't that been the situation all along?
These multi-billion-dollar corporation just can't
seem to be able to afford things like that, any more
than can afford to make other improvements
that would make things better. Poor them. Their
profits might suffer.

So, probably what will happen is that the industry
will get on its knees and wrap its arms around
legislators' knees and whine and cry about how they
would go out of business if they had to worry
about all this safety stuff. They may even throw
in the argument about all those poor people out
there that wouldn't be able to afford to buy their
product if they had to increase the price due to
increased overhead. Of course, we all know what
that means. It means that the average taxpayer,
whether they eat meat or not, will probably have
to pay for this, just like the other subsidies that
are given to this poor, struggling, industry that
just has so much trouble competing on the world
stage without cutting lots of corners.

In other words, meat will probably cost a whole
lot more than it does now, but it just won't
show up on the packaged product. That way
the industry can keep the myth going that they
are actually providing cheap food for the
consumer. The price tag on that package of
meat might not go up, but tax dollars that
would have been spent on something more
worthwhile, like educating our kids or taking
care of our retirees, will go to places like
Tyson so that they can stay "competitive."

I am sure it will make some little old lady
that can't afford to pay her bills or get
proper medical treatment feel real happy
to know that the tax dollars that might
have helped her have gone into Tyson's
deep pockets to make her food "safe,"
since they couldn't afford it themselves.

What's even more ironic is that the
health conditions that little old lady is
suffering probably had something to do
with a lifetime diet of eating this "safe"
food because of all the chemicals, hormones,
and antibiotics in it, along with all the other
unhealthful fats and other compounds.

So, we subsidize them to make us sick and
then we subsidize them again so that we
can't get well. Sounds like they win all around,
but the poor consumer is still no better off.
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