Walter & Pigs on Fox 44 News – Click to see video…
I got a call yesterday afternoon from reporter Ben Kennedy of Fox44 News in Colchester, VT wanting to interview a pig farmer about the “swine” flu.
I started to explain that it wasn’t really ‘swine’ flu but he had done his homework and already knew that. In fact, that was the focus of his report. Mr. Kennedy wanted to discuss that the flu wasn’t about pigs and there was confusion from the name. He asked if our pork sales were being affected by the confusion of the name – they aren’t.
After we chatted on the phone he and his cameraman Matt drove all the way over to our farm and visited the pigs. That’s a long several hour drive for what ultimately becomes about a minute or so of air time. They got to see Blackies new huge litter, born less than 24 hours ago. (That was going to be the topic of today’s post here.) We talked about local food, pork, how we got into farming and then Mr. Kennedy did his interview (video – text).
The weather and pigs cooperated admirably – I admit that just before the reporter and cameraman came I had spent a little time training the pigs to come over to the spot where he was going to do his interview. A little advanced planning works wonders with animals. I won’t go as far as taking credit for the glorious weather though!
The result was a great little minute and a half news piece correcting the name error of this flu and discussing the effects on local pork sales. As I explained to him, there has been no drop off in sales for us. My wife Holly says, consumers are likely educated enough to think about it, get the facts and realize that there isn’t any problem and, probably correctly, figure that if there is any relationship it would be with the big factory farms, the CAFOs. Holly’s theory is that scares like this increase sales for small local farms. That is certainly what happened with Mad Cow (BSE), the spinach problem and the false tomato scare that turned out really to be peppers. Another likely factor is that it is, for now, far away both in distance and in concept from local small farm pork.
“Swine” flu was a misnomer and even the news media is beginning to use the correct term of A/H1N1 since this flu virus is possibly a combination of genetics including human, avian and swine which is being transmitted and spread by people, not pigs or birds. Whether it turns out to be all human, all avian, all swine, a combination or something else the currently known fact is it is not being found in pigs, or birds, but rather in people and is being transmitted person to person.
One confusion I’ve seen stated in some places was the mistaken idea that antibiotic abuse would cause the flu outbreak. This is false – antibiotics don’t do anything for viruses. The flu is a virus – a.k.a. influenza. Part of this confusion might come from the fact that when people do succumb to the flu antibiotics are used to save their lives, treating the secondary bacterial infections.
Of course, time well tell what the full scoop is. In a few weeks or months we’ll have a better idea. Hopefully, like the Bird Flu scare of a few years ago this A/H1N1 influenza will fizzle and turn out to be a dud. It is very sad that it has killed the people who have died to date, and those who may yet die. There is a lot to be said for prevention – It makes sense to take reasonable biosecurity precautions as we continue on with our lives. It is not completely harmless, as the deaths prove, and it is being transmitted person to person. Be careful but not paranoid. The hysteria can be worse than the disease as being demonstrated in Egypt where this flu is being used as an excuse for depopulation and persecution.
A much bigger issue is the enormous centralization and distribution systems that spread disease – ah, you thought I meant factory farms, no as much as I dislike them, I’m talking about air travel and other shipping of everything all around the globe. The number one way to spread disease is modern distribution. We’re shipping people and objects too often and too far. This isn’t just a pollution and global warming issue. Along with everything shipped, from spinach to wooden pallets to people, tags along disease, alien plants and foreign animals, such as the long horn beetles that came from Asia on pallets and are attacking our trees. When people travel they can carry disease from location to location as has happened throughout history. Should we stop all travel? No, but perhaps it would be wise to travel less, to use online meeting resources more and keep in mind that all this travel does carry a real risk, not just pleasure. It is a luxury that should be used judiciously.
Thank you to everyone who’s emailed me about this news story. One irony is that while I’m “on TV” I don’t have TV so if it weren’t for the web I wouldn’t see this. We’re too far out for cable and the mountains block air reception. Luckly for us we were able to see this on the web which was rather fun. :) I just wish we had green pastures to show off – as it is the pigs are just starting to go out and the pastures just lost their snow cover this past week. Still, the reporter didn’t seem disappointed with mud season on the farm.
Outdoors: 70°F/33°F Sunny, Somewhat Windy
Farm House: 49°F/47°F
Tiny Cottage: 68°F/65°F