Friday, January 14, 2011

Marihuana and pig tails.

Got your attention? Good. As a disclaimer, what I am about to tell you is very serious and painful. What is it that they say in the movies? “Parental discretion advised,” that is it. You have been warned.

MSNBC aired a show last night on the US marijuana situation. Playing off the economy, a good-natured Appalachian farmer had been interviewed. Since the DEA busted his illegal “medicinal marijuana” farm, he had been reduced to being a farmer raising goats and rabbits barely supporting his family. The farmer had put on a good show, but I suspect that he was coached. He told the camera, as I can recall, “I can’t grow pot, growing tobacco makes no money, now all I can do is raise some these goats n’ rabbits to support my family.”

My first thought was a rabbit I had as a pet when I was little. I don’t think he ever had a name, but I am pretty sure his mysterious disappearance had something to do with a plate of “chicken” we had for dinner that night. we rarely have meat for dinner, only on holidays during those early years of the 80s in China. A full plate of chicken on the day my rabbit supposedly "ran away" just screamed foul. I’ve forgiven my mother since because I’ve learned how her generation suffered through so much hunger. In her view, she simply provided what was natural to a grown rabbit’s life – a ceremonial participation in the human food-chain, a delicious meal rare and expensive to us.

Strangely, hearing the ex-pot farmer talk about his rabbits gave me the craving for it. Then I remembered I live in Indianapolis and I’d have to track down a farmer who would sell and butcher one for me - a task almost as hard as buying persimmon fresh. I wonder how much trouble it would be to travel to Kentucky and find the celebrity farmer on that MSNBC show.

But why it is that the farmer, who is obviously raising a food commodity that would fetch a good price, at least from me, would risk growing an illegal crop? Is there no economic incentive for him to raise health meat products?

Then it got me thinking about his competitor, the CAFOs – the feedlot operators. In one section of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Pollan had talked about the poor feedlot pigs who got their tails chopped off. It’s not a scary children’s tale, it’s more of a scary animal lover’s warning. Cover your pet’s ears.

Apparently the piglets in these CAFOs are weaned only 10 days after birth, compared with 13 weeks in nature, because they gain weight faster under drug fortified feed than on sow’s milk. But this premature weaning leaves the pigs with a craving to suck and chew, so they would bit the tails of the animal in front of them. Normally the pig would fight the other one off, but because these CAFO pigs are so demoralized (pigs are very intelligent) that they choose not to care. This leads to infections and can cause widespread health problems to these pigs. When these pigs are discovered, they are usually clubbed to death on the spot. What the industry and USDA had thought of as a solution is shocking and utterly inhumane: the USDA approved the practice to chop off the tails, without any anesthesia for obvious cost reasons, off the piglets NOT so that it won’t be the target anymore; they leave just enough so that each time a pig would bit, it would be so painful that the demoralized pig would care enough to struggle.

I hate to bring politics into the discussion, but I see part of how we came to this failed food market and our lack of options as a product of agency regulations and legislature enacted laws tends favoring corporations. These CAFOs then pollute directly and deplete and destroy our lands with copious amount of chemical fertilizers. What ever happen to trusting the people with decisions on their most basic and essential need - choice in how we eat? I can understand having some social services that are critical, but when the government is operating against logic and morality, we need to question if it is time to make a change.

If we had simply took the millions of dollars from busting these Marijuana farmers and help them by creating sustainable innovative "Polyface" type farm for the local consumers. Not only would we put more people to work, we are also developing a sustainable, diverse, health food cycle. That seems to make more sense than litigating who has a legal right of growing a certain plant, allowing that plant to become the single most depended product in our food system thus making us more vulnerable if that single crop should fail for some reason. 


  1. You should check out Woody Harrelson's documentary. It's free to watch at the film website. It covers so much ground about the way our system works against the public good, powerful stuff. But it does get in to solutions. These issues are pressing and have to be addressed. I'd like to know what everyone else thinks about this incredible film. The solution seems deceptively simple at first but I have been thinking about it and the more I think about it the more powerful it seems. I think we could really turn this world around if everyone got on board with this film.
    You know Woody is a big environmentalist. Check it out at

  2. thank you for the comment. I've posted another blog about your website: