Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine-Flu Ranting

When I eat a hamburger I cook it just enough to brown the outside and then I smother it in my homemade pickles, mayo, mustard and ketchup. I don't use a roll, that detracts from the taste and I'm off gluten anyway. Fermenting your own condiments is a fun and surprisingly easy way to increase nutrient-bang-for-your-buck. These condiments are fermented naturally with salt and whey so they are loaded with life-giving enzymes that take some of the burden off of your body to digest the food.

So, I feel the need to rant and rave about this swine-flu thing. I know, everyone is pretty sick of hearing about it but there are 2 issues that I want to think about and I haven't seen them addressed in mainstream media.

The first issue is cytokine storms. In a very layman's nutshell a cytokine storm is an exaggerated immune system response to a previously unknown pathogen. Normally cytokine acts as a sort of dispatcher to immune cells. It tells them where to go and keeps them on their toes to do their job killing the bad guys. The problem is that sometimes these cytokines get out of control, start acting wild and don't do their dispatch job correctly. This can be quite damaging to the body because if there are too many of these immune cells going all crazy your body can't handle this. An example is if a cytokine storm occurs in the lungs then the overabundance of the immune cells can block airways and cause death.

This was a major problem in the 1918 influenza pandemic. Those with strong immune systems tend to be the victims of cytokine storms, hence the death of many people in the age-range of 20-45 years old. This has been the case in the current swine-flu outbreak as well.

It would be nice to see some media coverage on this one. They keep saying education is key, blah, blah, blah, but they're not saying anything useful. "Wash your hands". Gee, thanks.

I did find this website: http://www.bird-flu-influenza.com/relenza-tamiflu-alternatives-folk-medicines-antivirals.htm, which gives helpful information about treating for bird flu (with cytokine storms in mind). They recommend some things that are anti-viral and some that inhibit cytokine production. It is very helpful. Some things listed are: raw garlic (anti-viral), Vit C (anti-viral and cytokine inhibitor), green tea (anti-viral and cytokine inhibitor), St. Johns Wort (anti-viral and cytokine inhibitor), freshly squeezed apple juice (anti-viral) and more. Some things to avoid were: elderberry juice, honey, chocolate, Kim chi (they all enhance cytokine production) and more. Check out this page if you're worried.

Another bone I have to pick is with the fact that there is absolutely no coverage of the origination of the flu virus! It has been reported (all over Mexico) that the virus comes from a "pig farm" in Perote, Mexico. Ah, guys, that place is no more a farm than my backyard. What it is is a Confined Animal Feeding Operation or CAFO (our gov came up with this name). Do you want to see Wikipedia's definition?

"Confinement at high stocking density is one part of a systematic effort to produce the highest output at the lowest cost by relying on economies of scale, modern machinery, biotechnology, and global trade. Confinement at high stocking density requires antibiotics and pesticides to mitigate the spread of disease and pestilence exacerbated by these crowded living conditions."

(Just in case you didn't know, we are talking about animals here, live animals that actually have nerve endings and everything)

And they go on to say:

"The UN and OIE estimate that in coming decades there will be billions of additional consumers in developing countries eating meat factory farmed in developing countries, but currently only about 40 out of the around 200 countries in the world have the capacity to adequately respond to a health crisis originating from animal disease (such as avian flu, West Nile virus, bluetongue, and foot and mouth disease). Widespread use of antibiotics increases the chance of a pandemic resistant to known measures, which is exacerbated by a globally distributed food system. Decreased genetic diversity increases the chance of a food crisis."

I don't know about you but I have two reactions to this. One, why are those friggin' things allowed to exist?! Two, why are those friggin' things allowed to exist?! Oh, but wait, don't tell me, because I know why.....without them the industrial agriculture giants cannot make billions and billions of dollars. Well we wouldn't want to jeopardize their bottom line in the name of say, reducing the risk of a pandemic virus killing untold numbers of people, now would we? Oh, and what about allowing the doomed animal to live a decent life? No, that would go against everything you are taught in business school about maximizing profits and lowering costs.

Do you want to know what I read in a great book called, The Untold Story of Milk, by Ron Schmid? On page 206-207 he quotes an article from the New York Times Magazine written by Michael Pollan, "To Visit a Modern CAFO".

" Piglets in confinement operations are weaned from their mothers 10 days after birth (compared with 13 weeks in nature) because they gain weight faster on their hormone- and antibiotic -fortified feed. This premature weaning leaves the pigs with a lifelong craving to suck and chew, a desire they gratify in confinement by biting the tail of the animal in front of them. A normal pig would fight off his molester, but a demoralized pig has stopped caring. 'Learned helplessness' is the psychological term, and it's not uncommon in confinement operations, where tens of thousands of hogs spend their lives ignorant of sunshine or earth or straw, crowded together beneath a metal roof upon metal slats suspended over a manure pit.

"So its not surprising that an animal as sensitive and intelligent as a pig would get depressed, and a depressed pig will allow his tail to be chewed on to the point of infection. Sick pigs, being underperforming 'production units', are clubbed to death on the spot. The USDA's recommended solution to the problem is called 'tail docking'. Using a pair of pliers (and no anesthetic), most but not all of the tail is snipped off. Why the little stump? Because the whole point of the exercise is not to remove the object of tail-biting so much as to render it more sensitive. Now, a bite on the tail is so painful that even the most demoralized pig will mount a struggle to avoid it."

That might make you think twice about buying conventional meat again. And just because it is organic, doesn't mean that they're not doing this to the animals. The key to buying quality meat is small-scale, local and pasture-raised animals. These animals are not forced to endure the horrors of mass-production confinement operations. If we buy from local conscientious farmers we are speaking with the loudest voice there is, dollars (or pesos). Let's take our money away from fat corporations with absolutely no regard for the animals nor for the health of the general public, and give it to local farmers who are struggling to survive with no government subsidies and not a lot of consumer love.

And perhaps we won't have to live in fear of catching some bizarre pathogen that crosses 4 species?


  1. Bravo for this post! I am just as outraged by all of this as you, and to prove it, I've written more than several of my own posts about this subject and here they are:

    Evaluating the President's progress on health and agriculture in the first 100 days of office:


    A rundown on factory-farmed meats and sustainable meats:

    Expose on the whole Swine Flu pandemic:

    Please everyone, take heed about these subjects and support sustainable farms! This is a serious problem, and if we survive the Swine Flu incident, there will be something 100 times more virulent coming over the mountain soon. Anyone ever heard of all the plagues in the last days that will wipe out 1/4 of humanity (Biblical reference)? Well, maybe it's finally here!

  2. Rants are fun!

    Thanks for sharing. To me, the most interesting things about this swine flu are:

    1) It may actually be more mild than normal strains of flu. In the U.S., more than a million people contract the flu annually, and some 37,000 actually die! Thus far, the U.S. has seen zero deaths from the new swine flu.


    2)Why is no one from the U.S. dying from the swine flu, when anywhere from 7-10% of Mexicans are? I've read some good hypothesis (nutrition, air quality, hygiene, etc), but just yesterday I read a report by the CDC ruling out those possibilities.

    Thanks for sharing this in today's Fight Back Fridays carnival.

    (AKA FoodRenegade)