Parent Category: North America
Pamela A. Vesilind
Pamela A. Vesilind
Excerpted from: Pamela A. Vesilind , Nafta's Trojan Horse & the Demise of the Mexican Hog Industry , 43 U. Miami Inter-American Law Review 143 ()(135 footnotes omitted).
In late March 2009, a five-year-old boy in La Gloria, Mexico came down with the flu. This typically unremarkable event took on significance when, two weeks later, over 800 people in nearby Perote also became sick and the little boy was labeled "patient zero" of the 2009-10 swine flu pandemic. Epidemiologists from around the world converged on Perote Valley, as 60% of Perote's citizens eventually fell ill. dgar Hernndez's mother sobbed to the Washington Post reporter that her son could not have caused this disaster. She and her neighbors blamed the hog factories.
Perote, the capital of the state of Veracruz, is about 120 miles from Mexico City. Surrounded by mountains on all sides, Perote Valley is home to around 35,000 people and more than one million pigs at any given time. Residents have long complained about the hog factories. The odors from the massive manure cesspools baking in the sun, some less than two miles from the city of Perote, permeate their homes, clothes, and belongings. Dust clouds of dried manure travel for miles, whipped up by the hot winds. It is difficult to breath. They are often sick.
These are not traditional hog farms; these are the Granjas Carroll de Mexico ("GCM") hog factories. They are the most productive hog facilities in Mexico, owned in part by the world's largest hog producer and packing corporation, Smithfield Foods. Many of the traditional commercial farms and backyard "camposinos" have given up trying to compete with high-tech facilities like these. Although not a new problem, it took the swine flu (rebranded "H1N1" by the hog industry) to attract the world's attention.
In the last twenty years, Mexican animal agriculture--breeding, raising, and slaughtering pigs, cattle, and poultry (chickens and turkeys)--has undergone a radical transformation that has left the country with more meat but far fewer farmers. In many ways, this transformation echoed the industrialization of agriculture in the southern and mid-western United States in the late 1980s and the 1990s, with one critical distinction: in the U.S. domestic corporations led the agriculture transformation. In Mexico, the catalysts were primarily foreign-owned multinational corporations, generally second-generation corporations connected to the American agriculture "revolution." These industrial farming corporations thrived in Mexico, and their success was simultaneously devastating to Mexican agriculture. How did this happen? The answer lies in the trade liberalization policies of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), signed by Canada, Mexico, and the United States in 1993. Using the Mexican hog industry, this article illustrates how poorly-negotiated NAFTA provisions were manipulated to exploit Mexican consumers, farm owners, and laborers.
. . . Prior to crafting the North American Free Trade Agreement, the United States, Canada, and Mexico had become members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and signatories to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the primary WTO trade agreement. GATT allows member nations to create "free trade areas," such as the one created by NAFTA, by tailoring trade guidelines in certain markets to further desired economic policy. NAFTA was promoted as a vehicle to "reduce distortions to trade" among the three neighbor countries, with "mutually advantageous" trade rules. It entered into force on January 1, 1994. In many respects, NAFTA has failed to deliver "mutually advantageous" benefits. In the U.S., it is often criticized as the catalyst for an exodus of manufacturing jobs to Mexico--the fulfillment of former presidential candidate Ross Perot's prediction that NAFTA would create a "giant sucking sound" of companies moving south. In Mexico, NAFTA policies have had crippling effects on certain agricultural sectors. Within a decade, over 1.3 million Mexican agricultural jobs were lost; by 2008, another million jobs disappeared. Partially to blame was emigration to the U.S. by displaced Mexican agriculture laborers, which was at an all-time high until the 2008 recession. Of those who remained, many left their rural communities to seek alternative employment in cities that were ill-prepared to accommodate such rapid population growth. In 2009, the Carnegie Institute concluded that NAFTA has left Mexico's "most vulnerable citizens . . . facing a maelstrom of change beyond their capacity, or that of their government, to
The effect on the Mexican hog sector was manifest. Its supply and demand balance were in flux, much of its labor force was rendered unnecessary, and prices were depressed so low that traditional commercial farms began facing nearly insurmountable odds. Although Mexico had hoped that liberalized trade with the U.S. and Canada would modernize its agriculture processes and increase production, NAFTA policies hastened the adoption of industrialized practices at a pace too rapid to contain. To appreciate the impact of this accelerated industrialization, it helps to consider how the CAFO model of hog production differs from the pig farms these CAFOs replaced. A. CAFO Hog Production: Commoditization Replaces Husbandry.
1. Mass Confinement
The hallmark of CAFO production is mass confinement. Rather than keeping animals in fields or feedlots, CAFO facilities cage or pen animals individually or by the hundreds, inside enormous warehouses clustered around exposed manure collection tanks. The Smithfield GCM operation is typical: in 2008, GCM had approximately 56,000 breeding sows and 950,000 hogs in production for slaughter. The entire complex includes 16 facilities spanning across the Perote Valley. Each facility has multiple warehouse "units" dedicated to every step in the "farrow-to-finishing" (birth-to-fattening) cycle, with each unit made up of as many as 18 hog warehouses. The warehouses are windowless, poorly-ventilated, often sweltering, and the floor is typically slatted concrete designed to allow manure and urine to eventually drain away. Because the commoditization formula anticipates that a certain percentage of animals will fail to survive the warehouse conditions, sick and injured animals are typically left untreated, left to die.
Breeding sows spend most of their lives immobile. After being artificially inseminated, they are confined in "gestation crates." Once the piglets are born, they are moved to equally confining farrowing cages, where they are unable to nuzzle suckling piglets or shift their bodies to avoid pain. Male pigs do not fare much better, packed together in small pens, stressed to the point of attacking each other or themselves. It is common practice to "dock" (remove) the hogs' tails, without anesthesia, to prevent other pigs from gnawing at them. Moreover the enhanced feeding and genetic manipulation practices discussed below often result in body masses too large for their skeletons to support.
2. Specialization & Vertical Integration
Unlike traditional farms, industrial facilities "specialize" in certain segments of the hog production process. For example, a CAFO breeding facility would engage in only the insemination and gestation processes. After its piglets have been born and weaned, they are sold to a farrowing facility for feeding, and so on. This model allows each facility to focus exclusively on improving technologies and streamlining costs associated with its specialty.
Complementing the specialization strategy is another essential trademark of industrial animal production: vertical integration. As first developed by Tyson Foods for the poultry industry, this strategy involves either acquiring or establishing exclusive contracts with a business provider for every part of the production, processing, and sales chain (growing feed, breeding, birthing, farrowing, slaughtering, packaging, transporting, marketing, and Smithfield announced its first fully-integrated operation in Mexico in 1999, and integration continues to be the trend. Every member of an integrated operation benefits from the competitive advantage of streamlined costs. The effects of this business strategy were evident by 2003, when only 15% of the domestically-produced pork for sale in Mexico came from smaller commercial farms, while nearly 60% came from industrial facilities with an average herd size of 300-1000 pigs.
This expansion strategy was first used to great effect by Murphy Family Farms, Carroll's Foods, and Prestage Farms, in Iowa, North Carolina, Missouri, Minnesota, and Illinois. Such technologically superior and vertically integrated systems ushered in a new era of consolidated hog farming in the 1990s. Whereas there were almost 3 million hog farms in the 1950s, today there are only 67,000, with over 50% of pork producers in the U.S. processing 5,000 or more pigs per year. Between 1992 and 2004, the number of hogs processed in the U.S. remained steady, but the number of hog farms dropped from 240,000 to only 70,000.
3. Maximized Profits & Minimized Costs
CAFO operations are meticulously efficient. For example, birth-to-slaughter production cycles are shorter than they are in the traditional model, while the hogs are up to 20% heavier. This is accomplished through the use of hormones, antibiotics, and other pharmaceuticals to speed and enhance growth. Breeding animals that are genetically manipulated or selected for traits that deliver faster production also allows CAFO sows to produce more piglets per litter (but fewer litters due to shorter life CAFOs thus enjoy lower feeding costs because they need less feed for each production cycle and because they receive preferred pricing for high-volume purchases.
CAFOs also spend less on labor. Their average salaries are lower, even for the more intensive or dangerous slaughtering and packing positions. The plentiful and desperate Mexican agrarian workforce, estimated at 2.3 million, has little choice but to accept these low wages. Moreover, industrial operations hire fewer laborers to run the breeding and feeding facilities. Prior to slaughter, pigs raised in industrial sites have little interaction with humans. They do not need to be herded or moved from pasture to barn. Feeding and waste management are mechanized or built into the infrastructure. Labor needs are primarily in the slaughter and packing stage of production. B. How NAFTA Assisted the Hog Industry's Demise To explain NAFTA's role in transforming the Mexican hog industry, the next section describes how foreign interests deflected measures taken to protect Mexico's live hog and pork product industries. The following section describes the NAFTA "Trojan horse" that allowed foreign corporations to also capture the domestic Mexican markets. Together, these two trade and expansion strategies put millions of commercial and subsistence farmers out of business.
Parent Category: North America
Gabrielle D. Schneck
Gabrielle D. Schneck
For Complete Article See: Gabrielle D. Schneck, A War on Civilians: Disaster Capitalism and the Drug War in Mexico , 10 Seattle Journal for Social Justice 927 (Spring, 2012)(Student Note)(355 Footnotes).
Within days of his inauguration in December 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calderón declared war on organized crime. In particular, Calderón aimed to confront the powerful cartels that control the drug trade and other illicit industries such as human trafficking. Following a highly contested election, Calderón entered office amid accusations of electoral fraud and months of mass protest. In a show of strength to gain political legitimacy, he immediately deployed over 20,000 federal troops under the banner of fighting the war on drugs. Calderón's militarized escalation of antinarcotics efforts represents a dramatic shift in the Mexican government's approach to the drug trade, a business in which it has long been involved and from which it has long benefitted. Notably, the military crackdown has not reduced the drug trade, nor has it eased crime-related violence in Mexico. Instead, the violence has intensified, and human rights violations have risen severely. As of January 2012, the Mexican government acknowledges that 47,515 people have died in the drug war within the span of five years, and some experts contend that the death toll is much higher than the official numbers reflect.
Calderón's war on drugs has had a profound and devastating impact on Mexico, generating a climate of fear and violence that has repercussions on nearly all levels of Mexican society. This article intends to critically examine the myths used to justify the militarized approach of Mexico's current antinarcotic efforts by looking at the interests of its US and Mexican supporters. My goal is to engage in a broad analysis of the drug war in the context of other political issues such as free trade, the illicit drug industry's corrupting influence on law enforcement, immigration, and anti-neoliberal social movements in Mexico in a way that is accessible to those with limited exposure to such issues. In doing so, my hope is to break some of the silence surrounding Mexico's drug war within the parameters of US political and legal discourse and to contribute to the advancement of meaningful social change. Broadly, the militarization of Mexico since 2006 under the umbrella of the US-led war on drugs is best understood as a product of neoliberalism, and, as such, its operations can be best understood through a critique of neoliberal socio-economic and security programs. I contend that the increasing militarization of Mexico's counternarcotics efforts represents a new theater of the disaster capitalism complex, a term coined by award-winning journalist and author Naomi Klein in her book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. As such, the war on drugs approach is best understood by analyzing the connections between free-market trade policies, the privatization of the security industry, and the potential for state and economic elite actors to capitalize on disaster-induced collective trauma.
Section I begins by reviewing the current landscape of President Calderón's war on drugs, including the justifications for the war offered by the Mexican and US governments, the parameters of US drug aid, and some of the main critiques of the war. Section II provides a broad context for analyzing neoliberalism by looking at its characteristic economic and security programs and connecting them with the United States' domestic war on drugs and immigration enforcement policies. Section III discusses neoliberalism in Mexico, focusing on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and resistance within Mexico to free-market economic policies. Finally, Section IV draws connections between the militarization of Mexico's antinarcotics efforts, the collective trauma that has been produced by the war, and the economic elite interests that benefit from protecting neoliberal policies in Mexico.
* * *
We're here to tell ourselves and them that we will not turn this pain in our souls, in our bodies, in[to] hate nor in[to] more violence, but in[to] a vehicle to help us restore love, peace, justice, dignity and the stuttering democracy that we're losing, [ ... ] that we still believe that it's possible to rescue and reconstruct the social fabric of our peoples, neighborhoods and cities.
--Javier Sicilia, speaking in Mexico City, May 2011
In May 2011, more than 100,000 people, led by Sicilia after his son was killed by gunmen, marched from Cuernavaca to Mexico City, demanding an end to the war on drugs in Mexico. These mobilization efforts are part of breaking the silence around US-led antidrug laws and policies, and it is time for our domestic legal and socio-political discourses to follow suit. [O] nce the mechanics of the shock doctrine are deeply and collectively understood, Klein writes, entire communities become shock resistant. Ultimately, this article aims to demonstrate the need to develop a deeper understanding of the war on drugs and, by extension, the need for broad demands in order to advance meaningful social change.
In sum, I suggest here that the political logic of Mexico's war on drugs is a product of neoliberalism--the grueling socio-economic stratification created and enforced through austerity measures, deregulation, privatization, and free-trade agreements--and the militarized control that represses dissent in the face of deepening disparities. In order to effect change, our critique must move beyond the parameters of the US and Mexican government's stated antidrug policy objectives. Criticizing the war on drugs for its failure to eradicate drug trafficking fails to account for the socio-economic and political contexts within which this program was developed and legitimated.
In writing about the human rights violations committed by Pinochet's government, Orlando Latelier, wrote that the system of institutionalized brutality, the drastic control and suppression of every form of meaningful dissent is discussed (and often condemned) as a phenomenon only indirectly linked, or indeed entirely unrelated, to the classical unrestrained free market policies that have been enforced by the military junta. The entirely unrelated ideology cleans the economic regime of its crimes--while the torture and human rights abuses are condemned, the economic free-market policies are applauded, operating on the presumption that the two constitute separate dynamics. This article represents a call for the need to depart from the entirely unrelated ideology.
The war on drugs in Mexico is not solely about human rights violations, nor is it just about narco-corruption or the arms trade. Instead, militarization allows the Mexican authorities to target groups that are working to develop alternatives to the predominant socio-economic channels under the pretext of antidrug actions. The profound levels of violence and the climate of fear produced by the war on drugs in Mexico act as mechanisms that thwart the democratic participation of civil society. The human rights abuses and widespread state-sanctioned violence committed via the war on drugs in Mexico can be seen as an effective and profitable method (for some) of protecting US-led neoliberalism.
The urgency of the situation points to the need for building an analysis that understands and challenges the complexities of neoliberalism, government antidrug policy, immigration enforcement, and state-sanctioned violence. Social Justice movements must continue seeking alternatives to free-market economic policies and neoliberal narratives and to demand an end to all forms of state-sanctioned violence--these arenas form part of our resistance to the war on drugs, both in the United States and in Mexico. An inquiry into the war on drugs that is devoid of a critique on these related matters risks sacrific [ing] the broad goals that might connect a new social movement strong and ambitious enough to take on inequalities that single-issue politics only ever ameliorate, but never reverse.