But it is in La Gloria, Veracruz, Mexico that we find the “Smithfield Farms” plant associated with the first case of Swine Flu. The four-year-old boy who is believed to be its ground-zero victim lives near the plant (it would be a stretch to refer to this operation as a “farm,”according to reader Georgeann Johnson, a resident of Mexico who has written about the issue). The child’s family had been petitioning the government for years about the nauseating stench, the flies blackening the air above pools of pig feces, the hundreds of residents sickened by heretofore un-researched and unnamed ailments. But only now that the mass media has latched onto swine flu as its latest Big Story has anybody paid attention.
Can you imagine living near such a place? Can you imagine working at such a place? Can you imagine being raised and slaughtered at such a place?
For those observers who see these societal dramas as cosmically meaningful, this is one more instance of a soul-sick culture unraveling before our eyes. The factory farm issue has found its poster child.
The environmental movement has gone internal. With luminaries like Berkeley’s Alice Waters having forged the way, people are realizing that there’s a connection between what we do to the Earth and what we do to our bodies. It has been 8 years since Eric Schlosser wrote Fast Food Nation; locavorism is now gaining traction; the White House has a kitchen garden and McDonald’s has a salad bar. And for ever-larger numbers of people, the inhumanities to which we subject the animals we eat — fellow sentient beings – are becoming more and more intolerable.
As suggested by the astounding array of planetary transits now amassing in the sky, we are in a time of massive consciousness raising. We are being hit by revelations, one after the other, about the horrors that have been standard operating procedure during our lifetimes. We are asking questions we never asked before. Is there any more gratifying reason to be alive, than to witness people connecting dots like this?
But the truths are ugly. That’s a given. Pluto is moving towards an exact opposition to the US Jupiter (international affairs), indicating exposes about the indignities inflicted by America’s government and corporations upon other nations. Jupiter is conjunct the Sun in the USA natal chart, offering a further hint of Uncle Sam’s tendency to ship its dirty work abroad. The sign under the spotlight right now is Cancer, which governs farms and food.
Add factory farms to the list that includes rendition, the Pentagon’s practice of sending detainees to be tortured in “less enlightened” regimes (among these: the desperately impoverished and dysfunctional states of the former Soviet Bloc, and the brutal, essentially medieval kingdoms of Saudi Arabia and Egypt). And, of course, manufacturing — outsourced to India, Southeast Asia or wherever else starvation wages and substandard working conditions are allowed.
Americans familiar with the wily ways of NAFTA will not be surprised to hear that the little patch of hell-on-Earth in La Gloria Mexico is an outsourcing deal. As American-sounding as apple pie, “Smithfield Farms” (I can’t write it without quotation marks; we must do what we can to make their branding strategy backfire on them) is the largest industrial farm factory of pork and beef in the world. Johnson told me about Laura Carlsen, a policy analyst for ciponline.org, who has been tracking NAFTA’s push to get industrial livestock farms into Mexico, in what insiders call a “race to the bottom;” i.e. the Third World–- a hideously apt term for a witheringly cynical campaign. American corporations know that if they move these abominations into the Mexican countryside they are unlikely to be bothered by pesky environmental and health restrictions.
But the swine flu story got the tale told. Here we have a case of the mass media serving as a tool of the cosmos. With their echo-chamber reporting of what is dubiously being called a “pandemic”, our blow-dried brothers and sisters on the network news, hired to fear-monger as a means of boosting their stations’ ratings, are inadvertently raking up the muck about this vile industry. Interest is being stoked, research is being done, articles are being written. Reports are coming out about the vicious circle of pathology that dominates factory farming; such as the ever-increasing amounts of antibiotics the animals are pumped full of, which enables them to survive – in the short term — the increasingly virulent viruses created under the conditions of places like “Smithfield Farms.”
As you know if you, too, grew up in the 1950s, there used to be so little public consciousness about the environment that ecology (the word didn’t exist then, and neither did the concept) meant little more than picking up litter. As children, many of us felt a terrible unnamed distress about the desecration the human animal was wreaking upon the Earth; but there was no movement to join. We had no way to express our intuitions; we had no context for our angst.
Those days seem prehistoric now. Let us see this as a testament to how far we have come.