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Apocalypse Cow: Bushies Give Hoof & Mouth (Lab) To Feedlot Country

burning-cow.thumbnail.jpgThe Department Of Homeland Security plans to bring the devastating hoof-and-mouth virus to America’s moo belt, making Kansas Sen Roberts and the DHS happy as a firebug at a pyre of burning livestock carcasses. What, them worry? They’re Bushies.

As FDL readers have already learned, America’s feedlot livestock system is in a world of hurt. As a result of this Fatal Harvest, so are we. The Farm Bill is also in a world of hurt – and as a result of the Farm Bill’s insane subsidy trough to commodity Ag, Big Poison, and the Ag export cartels, so are we: along with our family farmers and our nation’s soils and waters, and our children’s health.

As we all know, the Bushies are the mutant spawn of the national GOP: a vast criminal enterprise that cynically pretends 450 million years of evolution didn’t happen and forces the National Park Service to pretend the Grand Canyon is 6,000 years old – all to hold on to the ignorant fundamentalists (nope, not the ones in Afghanistan…the ones in the mockery of Christ’s message which formed the "Christian Coalition") the megacorps and their hired thieves in the GOP require to keep winning stealing elections, and thus stay out of prison.

But hey – if I were a megacorp servant – in the board room, the prestigious law office, the Bushie-corrupted agencies, the Senate, the House, or the treason cult known as the Federalist Society – I’d wanna deny evolution, too. At least the karmic form. Who wants spend a long day abetting theft, torture and mass poisoning with the nagging awareness they’ll be reincarnated as thatch?

Because megacorps literally don’t give cow shit if we live or die, so long as they rake in more every quarter, their hired hands in the White House, Congress, the USDA/FDA, and the Federalist-infested Federal courts colluded to create Rube Goldberg "systems" that force us taxpayers to subsidize lethal "farm" systems.

WTF does this have to do with Hoof and Mouth disease? Plenty.

Cows evolved (yep, there’s that ugly word again) to eat grass – not grains. Cattle (cows, steers, etc) are known to bio nerds as ruminants – a fancy way of describing a whole bunch of critters who have in common the way their stomach works. Or – in the case of ruminants – stomachs. Yep – ruminants have more than one stomach: they have a whole series of ’em, with acidity and microbes living in the stomachs ideally adjusted to allow Bessie to turn the grass we two legs can’t eat into the milk and meat we can eat.

There is a group of critters that evolved to eat grains – and have guts ideally adjusted to grind up and digest grains, and turn the grains into "meat". And they’re even two legged critters!

But they don’t give milk – they give eggs. They’re called "chickens". Given enough space to live in, they’ll happily and healthily turn grain into meat and eggs until – well – the cows come home.

That is, when the cows came home. Before the Farm Bill and the USDA deformed ag market forces under billions of bushels of artificially subsidized corn, two legs without feathers – that’s us humans – could make a living turning cattle onto pastures of grass, where their stomachs could do the happy cow thing and their rear ends could make cow patties. And then the local bugs could decompose the patties and the chickens could follow on and eat the bugs and the cows could go home at night and dream of yummy grass. Or listen to "cows with guns". Whatever.

Yep – the "grass-fed" cattle now hard to find outside of foodie markets were what most of our grandparents grew up eating. Without the need for adequate acreage to grow grass for cattle, the cows (and pigs) most of us now eat are raised in vast livestock ghettos called "feedlots". The intermediate step in the evolution of descent to current ag practices was raising cattle on grass and sending them to cow "finishing" school – feedlots where they were fattened up on grains before being sent off to market. The national center for feedlots – which have now spread across the country – was Kansas.

What is the matter with Kansas, anyway? Hey – I don’t know – maybe growing up in a place so darn flat, folks forget there’s a whole different world over the horizon. At least most Californians grow up close enough to mountains to be reminded there’s a whole world out there we don’t know. That is, when our air lets us actually see the mountains.

Anyway, one thing that’s "the matter" with Kansas – and every other place in the US where cows and pigs are raised cheek by jowl in massive feed lots – is that there’s a whole of shit on the ground. And a whole lot of shit percolating into ground water – or at least shit germs ( we nerds call ’em "coliform bacteria" – fancy name for bacteria from the colon) percolating into the water. Yum.

Don’t drink the water, you say? Well you, too, can still partake of the shit feast industrial feedlots dump on America’s tables. The folks lucky enough to live near – or drive near – feedlots even get to breathe shit: in the form of aerosols of coliform bacteria and viruses blown into the sky from the shitlots.

Still hungry? Wait, there’s more.

Bessie and thousands of her sisters – and Porky and thousands of his brothers didn’t evolve (oops, there’s that word again) to spend their lives with shit up to their knees in livestock ghettos. The "lots" provide tasty feedstocks – livestock and shit – to create giant Petri dishes for a whole range of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that merrily hop from critter to critter, happily making microbe babies as they go. Now some microbes evolved (again) to live in cow guts and pig guts and chicken guts and even human guts: we warm-bloods are so used to them that without them, we get very sick – or even die. But with the wrong microbes, we get sick and die, too. That’s why every year, tens (hundreds? no one’s really counting ’em all) of thousands of Americans get sick – and thousands of us die – from eating the E. Coli 0157 and Salmonella our huge industrial packing houses efficiently spread from one sick critter through the whole plant – and thus the whole production run.

Turns out crushing the local butcher and meatcutter – and their unions – by centralizing "meat packing" wasn’t such a good idea for us eaters, either. Who’d a thunk it? Ain’t industrial food production grand? Hey – and isn’t it great the Dems and the Bushies just loved them their meat packers – and chicken packers – so much they could toss their Upton Sinclair and "gut" the USDA’s stringent plant-by-plant inspection for "voluntary" industry inspections? Cause it works so much better when Salmonella guards the hen house, don’cha know?

So – uh – WTF does this have to do with Hoof and Mouth?

Steaming heaps of relevance, actually. The feedlot ghettos pack critters in so tight the livestock require massive doses of antibiotics just so they don’t keel over and die (well, before the dead ones can be dragged through the shit and ground up for burgers). Amazingly enough, spending life up to one’s knees in shit is not healthy – who’d a thunk it? When Industrial Ag is really greedy – which is to say, every frakking moment – the Lords of the Lots can wring out even more money by giving extra antibiotics to the critters to kill their natural internal microbes. ‘Cause those greedy microbes actually eat a teensy weensy amount of calories – and the Lords of the Lots can’t stomach greed, of course. Which is why more than 90% of the antibiotics used in the US go into livestock production.

But hey – it’s not like antibiotic resistance is a problem for humans, right? Right?

Anyway, just like a nursery school and flu, the critters crammed on the feedlots are sitting – er – cows for viruses. One of the nastiest viruses is "Hoof And Mouth" (or – for our purposes – HAM): it kills some critters, and causes horrible suffering in others.

Of course, the Lords of the Lots don’t give a flying fuck about animals’ death and misery: that’s their business.

Nope, the critters that survive Hoof And Mouth offend the Lords of the Lots because they have the (remaining) guts to be less efficient producers – they make less meat and milk per unit of food. Which is why the critter producing nations of the world suspend their worship at The Free Trade Temple to erect massive (and necessary) barriers to keep HAM out of their countries. So – if your country gets HAM, no one will buy your pigs. Or your cattle or your sheep.

Which brings us to the pic at the top (the pic is obviously symbolic: the real ones are too awful to show here). In 2001, some rather swinish ag malpractice in the UK saw a pig farmer feeding meat (presumably imported from a HAM-positive nation) that was not properly cooked to his pigs, and then ignoring mandatory reporting laws.

It can’t happen here, right? Our meatpackers and cattle yards follow all the rules, right?

Sure, salmonella brain. Want some E Coli with your stupid?

Anyway, back on planet Earth, the UK’s frantic effort to control HAM were a livestock Holocaust: almost seven million cattle, pigs, sheep (most destined for food, many heirloom breeding stock, many beloved pets) killed by the authorities – turning much of rural Britain into a vast abattoir – enforced by UK "security" forces.

As with nearly all "national security" carnage, much of the killing was later found to be wholly unnecessary. Millions of creatures died – for nothing.

Gosh, where have I heard that before?

Hey, aren’t you glad we don’t live in a country where national authorities and the boys in Kevlar use massive violence at the slightest provocation (or in the complete absence of one?). Me too – when did we all get there? I could’ve sworn this morning I awakened in America under the Bush Reich.

Anyway, that was one UK farmer serving contaminated imports to his pigs, right? Not from a lab, right?

Well – for the 2001 HAM outbreak, yes. For the 2007 HAM outbreak in the UK – the virus came out of their high-level Foot And Mouth Lab / Vaccine Center.

But that’s an Old Europe lab, right? Our New World HAM labs don’t leak, right?

Uh…not so much. The Dept of Ag’s current lab – isolated on Plum Island to protect us and our livestock – should damn well stay isolated. The place has released the Foot And Mouth virus "externally" once – and had several other internal "accidents".

A 1978 release of the virus into cattle holding pens on Plum Island, N.Y., triggered new safety procedures. While that incident was previously known, the Homeland Security Department told a House committee there were other accidents inside the government’s laboratory.


But that was the Dept of Agriculture, right? DHS doesn’t make those mistakes, right?

Uh – sure, Bernie Kerik.

The UK’s over-reaction can’t happen here, right?

Well, the Kevlar crowd and the Goopers sure think it can. They think they’d have so many targets they’d run out of bullets.

A simulated outbreak of the disease in 2002 – part of an earlier U.S. government exercise called "Crimson Sky" – ended with fictional riots in the streets after the simulation’s National Guardsmen were ordered to kill tens of millions of farm animals, so many that troops ran out of bullets. In the exercise, the government said it would have been forced to dig a ditch in Kansas 25 miles long to bury carcasses. In the simulation, protests broke out in some cities amid food shortages.

"It was a mess," said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who portrayed the president in that 2002 exercise.

Imagine what a stiffie that exercise gave President Torquemada the Boy Frog-Torturer and the rest of the "Principals" in the Star Torture Chamber that is our White House.

And Senator Roberts – where have we heard that name before?

Now, like other lawmakers from the states under consideration, Roberts supports moving the government’s new lab to his state. Manhattan, Kan., is one of five mainland locations under consideration. "It will mean jobs" and spur research and development, he says.

Yep – that Sen Roberts – the one pushing to bring the Foot And Mouth lab – leaks and all – to Kansas. Looks like his learning curve is about as steep as the prairies. And looks like the GOP finally found the path to full employment in a growing recession.

Help wanted: gravedigger for cattle.

What’s the matter with Kansas? Why does Senator Roberts – and the GOP – so hate rural America they want to kill it?

No worries, right? The Riders of the GOP Apocalypse can always use a few good ghouls.

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Kirk Murphy

Kirk Murphy

terrestrial obligate aerobe with endoskeleton (bony) and bilateral symmetry.

chordate, bipedal, warm-blooded, mammalian, placental (origin), opposable thumbs.

not (yet) extinct.

indigenous habitat: California Live Oak.

current habitat: Central California Coast (most northerly aspect).... 'northwest of the new world, east of the sea'

potential habitats: all potential habitats critically endangered (due to global climate change).

ailurophilic - hence allergic rhinitic.