Depending on who you ask, swine flu is either the 12 Monkeys virus come to scour the earth of humanity
, or it's an overhyped limited-scope bug that the media has recklessly sensationalized
. Though we're inclined to believe it's the latter- - those media
sure are scumbags -- we still don't think people should be dumb about it. And there's something, amid all of this frenzy over the safety of the pork industry, about the fact that Miami-Dade is swarming with illegal hog farmers and slaughterhouses that rubs us the wrong way.
In March, New Times
published "Pork Pirates,"
a feature exposing the largely Cuban illegal slaughter industry thriving in the farming areas of West Dade. Among the health officials we quoted was Dr. John Fruin, Florida's top food safety chief. The personable doctor didn't seem too concerned with the health implications of unlicensed slaughter, even saying he'd eat back-alley pork if it was prepared properly: "If a piece of meat is properly cooked, even from an illegal slaughter operation, there's not much risk."
But reached this week, Fruin says the danger of a swine flu
outbreak "highlights" the need to "crack down" on unlicensed butchers.
"At licensed slaughterhouses, USDA inspectors are on the alert for any
sick hogs, especially those with respiratory problems or snotty, runny
noses," the doctor says. "Licensed slaughterhouses have resident
veterinarians. At unlicensed slaughterhouses without those inspectors,
that potentially dangerous pig is going to go unchecked."
Fruin says that with
the increased scrutiny on the health of hogs, Miami-Dade's illegal slaughterhouses could be a handy pipeline
for farmers trying to sell pigs rejected by buyers
for legal butchers: "Any hog that an owner knows is not going to make
it through inspection is more likely to end up in a place where it's
not going to have to be inspected."
these illegal slaughterhouses are already notorious for bait and switch, where a customer will pick a healthy pig and the
butcher will sneakily swap it with a sick one he slaughters. It should be emphasized that the flu is not something you get
from eating pork, but farmers who knowingly harbor sick pigs are a
bit more dangerous considering the circumstances.
So there you
have it: All of the nation's sick pigs are being shuttled to Dade
County, and the freighter bringing us our shipment of millions of paper
masks from China has just been hijacked by Somalian pirates. Have a