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As Goes Slaughter, So Goes Coal

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The Demonically Possessed Slaughter Crazed Ideologues on The County Council, County Planning staff and County Administration are besting their own best maniacal efforts. Folks had better get up to speed, get out to a couple upcoming meetings, and get busy writing editors and their elected officials (I'm not calling them representatives anymore) before Whatcom County becomes China's new source of pork and our streams wither under heavy burdens of manure and blood.

A proposal for a small-scale slaughterhouse to aid local producers has morphed into a county-wide industrial rezone to allow large-scale slaughterhouses everywhere. The agenda bill's first whereas asserts “an application has been submitted…” There is no mention that the applicant has long since disappeared and the Council and staff have shepherded this modest proposal into crazed insanity on their own. And they apparently know how dangerous and distasteful it is because they keep changing the dates, the basic details and even the principle names.

The original applicant wanted a small-scale slaughterhouse to produce premium local product from quality local animals. Local producers and consumers would support this, but the Council is determined to approve an unlimited number of 50 million pound/year facilities anywhere over 88,000 acres of rural Whatcom County. So Small now means Large.

They started out wanting animal slaughterhouses, but didn’t like the ubiquitously unsavory reputation these have earned. So they changed the name to agricultural slaughterhouses. So Industrial is now called Agricultural.

As the public caught on to their madness, they didn’t like the reception they were getting with slaughterhouses, so they adopted candidate Ben Ellenbaas’ suggestion to call them packinghouses instead. So Slaughter is now called Packing.

They want to eliminate any potential restrictions, so they changed the definition of ‘accessory use’ to allow slaughter secondary to any primary use anywhere in the county. So Accessory now means Permitted.

This County Council, the Planning staff and Administration are either abjectly ignorant of the principles of zoning, environmental protection and public health, or consciously intend to ignore them for some unstated aim.

Zoning is usually pretty simple: Is there a shortage of land for the given use? What areas are most suited to the use? How much land is needed and what measures are required to mitigate the impacts?

The County’s steadfast refusal to follow normal procedure, conduct a competent environmental review or acknowledge well-documented analyses of the problems has grown into frustration and confusion.

Either they truly are “Demonically Possessed Slaughter Crazed Ideologues” categorically opposed to regulation, or there is some hidden reason for their unprecedented district-wide industrial rezone of our agricultural land. The answer may lie in the recent Chinese bid to acquire Smithfield Foods, America’s largest producer of pork.

Pork is one of China’s favorite meats, but recently many pigs have mysteriously died. Unknown thousands have been dumped and are literally choking rivers while even more are known to have entered the food supply through black markets. The sheer numbers suggest an epidemic and the concurrent appearance of dead ducks and dogs underscores a grave concern that meat production in China is in trouble.

Even before a livestock epidemic, Chinese authorities have already had to crack down on farms because of water quality issues. Each pig excretes as much as 6 or 7 adult humans. Without regulation and treatment, the sheer quantities have been polluting water supplies and fouling popular tourist attractions. It’s no different in the U.S., except for the regulations. 1 million hogs in Sioux City alone give off as much sewage as the Los Angeles and Atlanta metro areas combined.

Smithfield Foods, the largest producer in a market of 3.1 million consumers is no match for the Chinese market of 1.3 billion mouths. If China’s meat production falls, whether through epidemic or increased regulation, they will look to alternatives and increased capacity.

The Council, with their district-wide approach, removes any barrier to large-scale, industrial hog production in Whatcom County for the Chinese (or any other) market. We are ideally located on the pacific rim and are established trading partners with China. Further, the prospect lends substance to the claim that the GPT dock will not be a single purpose terminal.

Is this the Council’s vision for Whatcom County? Plenty of local jobs in slaughterhouses and confined animal feeding operations for Chinese overlords, shipping pork and coal overseas while locally absorbing impacts the Council steadfastly ignores.

Laurie Garrett, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, believes the dead animals are the necessary antecedent for a new pandemic and that a few early human deaths support this conclusion.

China has every incentive to move their pork production to the U.S. They can’t adequately regulate farms and public health. Why not take the product home, leave the impacts behind and shift the risks and responsibilities to another country? If a pandemic is inevitable, why not have it start somewhere else, giving time to prepare?

Unfortunately, this recent Council’s attitude toward regulation is even more lax than China’s has been traditionally. They are willing to kick open the doors, but insist on systematically ignoring the potential consequences. Will they fund adequate monitoring and enforcement? Not likely! They eschew bureaucracy and regulation equally.

As goes slaughter, so will go coal. If the County's approach to one of the most notoriously offensive public health risks in human history is so cavalier, how do you think they will vote on coal?

Pay attention to who votes Yes on slaughter. They need to be removed from public office as soon as possible. Their first duty is to protect the public health, not to promote their propertarian fantasies of total deregulation. Look also to which staff members support these aims, because Whatcom County needs to be refocused on protecting the public's interests, not destroying the character of our community to make a buck.

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About Tip Johnson

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Member since Jan 11, 2008

Tip Johnson is a longtime citizen interest advocate with a record of public achievement projects for good government and the environment. A lifelong student of government, Tip served two terms [...]

Comments by Readers

Hue Beattie

Jun 02, 2013

Thank you for keeping us up on this. With such wide open zoning ; Smithfield hams could move their operations west to supply the Asian market.  The water quality and our quality of life will be degraded. Packing is for pears not pigs.

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Abe Jacobson

Jun 11, 2013

Thanks for providing that good backstory. Why, duh! Yes of course, industrial hog production is the only scenario that could even remotely be behind the bizarre rezoning concept of a slaughterhouse on every ag parcel…

The now-Chinese ownership of Smithfield Foods will presumably be providing generous servings of campaign $ for the tea-party candidates, including, first and foremost, Mr. Elenbaas.

Whatcom’s future:  Coal and pig-manure lagoons.

Abe Jacobson
Bellingham

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