PORK COUNCIL PROPOGANDA: LARDED WITH LIES

Pigs are highly intelligent creatures. As are most people. But the pork industry treats us all with equal contempt. How else to explain this letter to the NY Times, written by an agribiz apologist in response to the growing demand for more humanely raised pork:

To the Editor:

Livestock producers raise their animals under humane standards and under the care of a veterinarian. In the United States pork industry, the vast majority of the more than 100 million pigs raised each year are housed in climate-controlled buildings that protect them from the elements, illness and disease and that allow for individual care.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, management and husbandry are more important than the type of production system for ensuring the health and well-being of pigs.

As for the environment, the pork industry prides itself on being a zero-discharge industry.

Finally, organic doesn’t mean safe. While conventional food producers must demonstrate that pesticide residues are within established safety margins, organic growers are not subject to the same scrutiny despite the widespread use of biological pesticides and animal waste as fertilizer.

Dave Warner
Director of Communications
National Pork Producers Council
Washington, March 28, 2007

Yeah, and smoking doesn’t cause cancer, either. And the streets of Bagdad are safe—just ask John McCain.

When it’s your job to defend the indefensible, you’ve really only got two weapons: shameless spin and flamboyant falsehood.

Warner’s letter is a brazen blend of half-truths and outright lies. Let’s take it from the top:

“Livestock producers raise their animals under humane standards…”

If cruelly confining these creatures and chopping off their tails without benefit of anesthesia so they won’t bite one another’s tails out of boredom and frustration is humane, well, OK. The Humane Society doesn’t think so. But what do they know?

As for being “under the care of a veterinarian,” what choice do the huge hog operations have when their preferred practices breed all kinds of disease? If they didn’t keep their pigs in such cramped conditions and force them to stand around in their own waste twenty four hours a day, they wouldn’t have to rely so heavily on vets to inject all those antibiotics.

“…the vast majority of the more than 100 million pigs raised each year are housed in climate-controlled buildings that protect them from the elements, illness and disease and that allow for individual care.”

What Warner doesn’t tell you is that the pigs have to be housed in “climate controlled buildings,” because in the quest for leaner luncheon meats, pig breeders have practically eliminated the back fat that pigs need to survive outdoors. As The Niman Ranch Cookbook notes: “Because hogs have neither sweat glands nor fur, they moderate their body temperature in both heat and cold with an insulating layer of back fat…Without that natural insulation, these unnaturally lean hogs can’t tolerate a steamy summer or chilly winter. They have to go indoors.”

Animal scientist Temple Grandin documents another downside to the leaner pigs in her book Animals in Translation; “…their personalities are completely different. They’re super-nervous and high strung.” Grandin cites a Purdue University study that showed “pigs bred to be lean got into more fights than pigs from a fatter genetic line.”

Lean pigs are far less productive as well, according to Grandin. “In China, the pigs are all fat, and the mama pig makes way more piglets. A fat Chinese mother pig will have a litter of twenty-one piglets compared to just ten or twelve piglets in a lean American sow’s litter.” So much for American agribiz’s much vaunted “efficiency.”

“As for the environment, the pork industry prides itself on being a zero-discharge industry.”

Huh? “Zero-discharge industry?” Do pigs not poop? As Rolling Stone’s recent expose of Smithfield’s horrendous hog operations revealed, “America's top pork producer churns out a sea of waste that has destroyed rivers, killed millions of fish and generated one of the largest fines in EPA history…”

“…There simply is no regulatory solution to the millions of tons of searingly fetid, toxic effluvium that industrial hog farms discharge and aerosolize on a daily basis. Smithfield alone has sixteen operations in twelve states. Fixing the problem completely would bankrupt the company.”

The environmental consequences of industrial hog farming are catastrophic. The pollution generated by these operations degrades our waterways, our soil, and the health of neighbors who suffer the toxic stench from the slurry-filled lagoons created by this “zero discharge industry.”

After making the preposterous claims that his industry is humane and environmentally benign, Warner can’t resist throwing in a gratuitious swipe at organics:

“Finally, organic doesn’t mean safe. While conventional food producers must demonstrate that pesticide residues are within established safety margins, organic growers are not subject to the same scrutiny despite the widespread use of biological pesticides and animal waste as fertilizer.”

Warner is telling the truth, for once. Organics aren’t subjected to the same scrutiny; they’re held to a higher standard. Which a coalition of corporations and politicians have lobbied mightily to erode.

Eight senators, all Republicans, “attached a rider to the 2006 Agricultural Appropriations Bill to weaken the nation's organic food standards in response to pressure from large-scale food manufacturers,” according to the Organic Consumers Association, who launched an “SOS” campaign in response—i.e., Save Organic Standards.

Warner, as The National Pork Council’s Director of Communications, has to figure out how to keep factory farm pork palatable to the American people despite our growing distaste for agribiz animal abuse. In other words, he gets paid to lie. It’s his job to take the truth and run it through the pr meat grinder. The end result is this kind of feces-laden fodder. Consume it at your own risk.