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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Smithfield, Pig Farms, Beef & Waterwaste

IHT front page on Smithfield and beef water waste in San Francisco

Wed May 6, 2009 7:00 pm (PDT)

Today's papers, Wednesday May 6, include important articles about the meat

The International Herald Tribune has run an article on its front
page headed Smithfield, headed "A U.S. giant storms into Eastern Europe;
Hog farming revolution sweeps away traditions, at an environmental cost."
The San Francisco Chronicle website has a blog headed, "The Water to Grow

The International Herald Tribune article, by Doreen Carvajal and Stephen
Castle, discusses the "agricultural transformation," in the hog farm belts
of Poland and Romania, the two largest E.U. members in Eastern Europe.

The reporters tell us about Smithfield's background in the United States,
where as the company flourished the number of American hog farms plunged 90
percent between 1980 and 2005. We learn that a North Carolina Smithfield
political action committee gave more than $1 million to candidates in state
and federal elections and that,

"North Carolina lawmakers helped fast-track permits for Smithfield and
exempted pig farms from zoning laws". But environmental disasters in which pig
waste lagoons flooded rivers brought about changes in some laws, so we

"Facing more restrictions in the United States, Smithfield took its North
Carolina game plan to Poland and Romania, where the company moved nimbly
through weak economies and political and regulatory systems.

"In less than five years, Smithfield enlisted politicians in Poland and
Romania, tapped into hefty European Union farm subsidies and fended off local
opposition groups to create a conglomerate of feed mills, slaughterhouses
and climate-controlled barns housing thousands of hogs.

"It moved with such speed that sometimes it failed to secure environmental
permits or inform the authorities about pig deaths — lapses that emerged
after swine fever swept through three Romanian hog compounds in 2007, two of
which were operating without permits. Some 67,000 hogs died or were
destroyed, with infected and healthy pigs shot to stanch the spread."

We read that Smithfield’s lobbyist, the Virginia firm McGuireWoods, set up
a Bucharest office in 2007 to liaise between Smithfield and the Romanian
government, and that "The connections in the upper reaches of government
meant that Smithfield could weather protests from local communities."

Smithfield found it hard to overcome fallout from the swine fever outbreak
that struck Cenei. When the company asked for $11.5 million in
compensation local authorities "balked at the demand, outraged that the epidemic was
taking place on unlicensed farms which they accused of lax biosecurity

We learn:

"A special mission of the European Commission confirmed some of their
complaints, finding that Smithfield had failed to submit regular reports on the
deaths of its pigs and that employees moved freely between farms despite
suspicions of swine fever."


"Blocked from collecting the money, Smithfield turned to Valeriu Tabara,
head of the Romanian Parliament’s agricultural committee. With support from
other politicians, Mr. Tabara pushed for an amendment that would enable
animal owners to be compensated for disease-driven losses regardless of
ignoring proper biosecurity measures."

The detailed and disturbing article can be found on line at:
(Click on title above to go there)

The beef industry is also being examined in today's news. A San Francisco
Chronicle blog, by Dr. Peter Gleick, headed "The Water to Grow Beef," tells

"It takes around 16,000 liters (or kilograms) of water (and sometimes up
to 70,000 kilograms) to make a single kilogram of beef."

He explains:

"It takes only around 1000 kilograms of water to make a kilogram of grain,
which partly explains why it is so big for beef -- it take a lot of grain,
forage, and roughage to feed a cow, as well as water to drink and service
the cow."

Gleick comments:
"There is no doubt that the consumption of beef (and meat generally)
worldwide has a very serious water cost, as well as other environment costs in
terms of land use, water contamination, and more."

You'll find the wonderfully informative blog on line at:

Please click on the links to the articles cited above and forward them to
your friends. You'll be helping to spread the word and letting the papers
know that these stories are important to their readers. And
both articles provide perfect opportunities for letters and comments
singing the praises of plant based diets, with their ability to protect not just
the animals but the earth on which we all rely. Neither article said much
about the treatment of the billions of animals being raised for food, so
there is plenty of room for us to comment on that issue as well.

The International Herald Tribune, which is now "The Global Edition of the
New York Times," takes letters at . Letters emailed to that NY Times address are appropriate as though the story is in the print edition of the International Herald Tribune it is on the New York Times website.
Always include your full name, address, and daytime phone number when
sending a letter to the editor. Remember that shorter letters are more likely
to be published. And please be sure not to use any comments or phrases from
me or from any other alerts in your letters. Editors are looking for
original responses from their readers.

You can comment on Gleick's San Francisco Chronicle blog right there on
the blog page. Please do!

Yours and the animals',
Karen Dawn

(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues
in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media
outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at You may forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts if you do so unedited
-- leave DawnWatch in the title and include this parenthesized tag line.
If somebody forwards DawnWatch alerts to you, which you enjoy, please help
the list grow by signing up. It is free.)

Please go to to read reviews and see a fun
celeb-studded video and an NBC news piece on Karen Dawn's new book, "Thanking
the Monkey: Rethinking the Way we Treat Animals," which was chosen by the
Washington Post as one of the "Best Books of 2008."

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