Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo thinks Donald Trump is a great president. She also seems to think he was robbed of reelection through fraud. In other words, it’s really easy to pull the wool — or pigskin, as the case may be — over Bartiromo’s eyes.
And here’s the latest proof of that. An animal rights activist named Matt Johnson, posing as Dennis Organ, the new CEO of top U.S. pork producer Smithfield Foods, somehow conned his way onto Bartiromo’s show (don’t criticize; Trump does it all the time) and made her aware of some of the downsides of factory farming.
JOHNSON/ORGAN: “As the new CEO and president of Smithfield, I personally promise that we’re going to do better, and the first change under my leadership is transparency and at times brutal honesty, and the truth is that our industry, in addition to the outbreaks that are happening at our plants, our industry poses a serious threat in effectively bringing on the next pandemic, with CDC data showing that three in four infectious diseases come from animals and the conditions inside of our farms can sometimes be petri dishes for new diseases. Hog farming also causes immense harm to our air and waterways …”
Ah, but Bartiromo didn't want to talk about that. She wanted to talk about the company’s connections to China.
But “Organ” didn’t want to dwell on such mundanities. He steered the conversation to an African swine fever outbreak that had occurred in China, and its link to animal agriculture.
When Bartiromo asked how Americans can be sure their pork is safe, “Organ” discussed the pernicious effects of factory farming and claimed the company is pledging half a billion dollars to mitigate some of the damage the industry is doing to the planet and its people.
But this wasn’t just a silly Howard Stern-style prank. Johnson is right to be worried about the impact of the industry on our health. Factory farms are indeed potential breeding grounds for pestilence.
“When we overcrowd animals by the thousands, in cramped football-field-size sheds, to lie beak to beak or snout to snout, and there’s stress crippling their immune systems, and there’s ammonia from the decomposing waste burning their lungs, and there’s a lack of fresh air and sunlight — put all these factors together and you have a perfect-storm environment for the emergence and spread of disease,“ said Michael Greger, the author of Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching.
To make matters worse, selection for specific genes in farmed animals (for desirable traits like large chicken breasts) has made these animals almost genetically identical. That means that a virus can easily spread from animal to animal without encountering any genetic variants that might stop it in its tracks. As it rips through a flock or herd, the virus can grow even more virulent.
Greger puts it bluntly: “If you actually want to create global pandemics, then build factory farms.”
So this is pretty funny, but it’s really not that funny when you think about it. While many believe the novel coronavirus originated in so-called “wet markets” in China, we’re far more vulnerable to these outbreaks than we otherwise would be because of our heavy consumption of factory-farmed meat.
Being a vegan who’s studied these issues for years (yes, I sometimes preach), I’ve known that for a long time. I just never thought I’d see the CEO of a giant pork company spill the entrails on national television.