Tag Archives: health

Banning Child Labor= “Un-American”?

Let me first say that I am a supporter of both agriculture and of child labor. As someone who grew up in a rural area and having known farm families, as well as someone with degrees in the agricultural field, I have great reverence for those who produce our food and fibre. I also believe that children can and should work, for the value of the lessons it teaches them before the value of the paycheck it provides.

However, I am regularly astounded at the growing stupidity of the American populace and the “controversy” surrounding recently proposed child labor laws struck me as particularly representative of that declining intellect.

Agriculture is the single most dangerous employment sector in the country. This is not a revelation. But, due to recent events in which children working on commercial farms were injured or killed, the Labor Department (in conjunction with child labor advocacy group, Child Labor Coalition) proposed a bill that would limit the type of work that children are allowed to perform. The restrictions would NOT apply to family owned and operated farms.

Let me say it again: The restrictions would NOT apply to family owned and operated farms. And yet, the Farm Bureau Federation (the most powerful and dangerous agriculture industry group in existence) and other industry advocates launched an aggressive campaign against protecting child laborers,  claiming that such protections hurt family farms, threaten the rural way of life, burden the industry, etc.

The campaign was successful. The proposal was dropped and, as was pointed out on some of the industry websites, they “won!”

This is disturbing on many levels. First of all, to say that rural lifestyles and family farms are threatened by such a proposal is simply untrue. The proposed legislation exempted family farms. Furthermore, having grown up in a rural area and knowing farm families myself, I never got the impression that being maimed or killed while working the farm was a desirable part of  “rural lifestyles” nor a reason for nostalgia.

Second, to say that industry success is more important than the well-being of people is absurd and unacceptable for a country who supposedly prides itself on entrepreneurialism and equality. If “the industry” collapses in the face of unregulated child labor, what does that say about the stability of it to start?

Thirdly, to equate protecting the well-being of the weakest among us with being “un-American” is simply ludicrous. This idea that anything that hampers the free operation of Big Business, even at the expense of the lives of sentient creatures, is anti-capitalist and harmful to society is nothing but Big Business propaganda. The fact that so many people are buying into it reflects the effectiveness of that brainwashing campaign to garner public support for the wealthiest, most powerful, and most destructive among us. If anything, the failure of a so-called “civilised” society to offer a modicum of protection to its members is what is un-American.

Fourth, agricultural entities put forth education as the solution to farm accidents, not labor laws. Agriculture already enjoys long-standing exemptions when it comes to labor regulations and it simply cannot see having to give up any of it. Now I expect the Farm Bureau to take an extreme right position on this issue, but I was highly disappointed to discover that the Farmer’s Union (generally considered to be the liberal counterbalance to the FBF) also officially supported the proposal’s withdrawal in favor of education advocacy. Don’t misunderstand- farm safety education is good and necessary, and the industry has made great efforts to promote safety programs. However, what people are failing to see here is that education cannot combat exploitation. The unbridled use of child laborers IS exploitation, of the brand with which Big Agriculture is VERY familiar. The profit incentive is just too good to use empowered workers, and so there is heavy reliance on child, poor, and undocumented labor. This is something for which Big Ag must be held accountable.

Lastly, the fact that so many people are willing to forsake the facts in order to advance their position, defame the President, and delude themselves is positively frightening. The comments to these articles are appalling in their nature, as they equate concern for children to unwanted  “socialism,” economic decline, death of agriculture, and other loosely imagined calamities. Unfounded, unthoughtful, unacceptable.

Look for yourself:

Obama administration pulls rule on child farm labor campaign

Obama administration scraps child labor restrictions

Youth farm labor issue debated

Department of Labor withdraws child farm labor restriction after misinformation campaign

US Labor Department abandons child farmworkers

NFU statement on Dept. of Labor withdrawal of ag-related child labor rule


Pharmaceutical Shell Game

My animals were on Frontline when they acquired the worst flea infestation I have ever seen. I kept using the Frontline I had purchased at Tractor Supply Company, PetSmart, and Costco, but finally gave up. Why poison my animals for no reason? I saw many similar complaints online, along with suspicion that the fleas have become immune or that the company has purposefully created a system of dependence by providing a product that doesn’t work in order to encourage people to keep buying more.  The first time I took my dog to the doctor for her flea allergy, he told me he was unaware of any complaints with Frontline, but that the product is 100% guaranteed when purchased through a vet (this is apparently the new mantra, but that is a different story). On the follow up visit with my dog, the same vet told me that the fleas have developed immunity to Frontline so it is not as effective as it once was. At the reception desk, I was told that the medication is being sold illegally and that Frontline is ONLY sold to licensed veterinarians. I questioned how, then, it is possible that these HUGE stores are openly and freely selling. The answer: vets are reselling it illegally.

Huh? This makes no sense. We know that any product can be and probably is being sold illegally in a Black Market somewhere, but let’s exercise some common sense. Is it really possible that MAJOR retailers are selling MASSIVE amounts of Frontline ILLEGALLY, without so much as a slap on the wrist from manufacturer Merial? I think not. I know enough about American capitalism and political economy to know that business (especially pharmaceutical companies) have much legal recourse, lots of lobbying power,  and a fierce defense when it comes to market control, that there is no way something like this would go on so openly without manufacturer complicity. So, I did a little web research.

It is, unsurprisingly, difficult to find credible information on this topic, and there are no clear answers. I did, however, learn some new words- like “diversion” and “grey market.” Drug diversion* is an ongoing problem that most people have probably never heard of.  It can take place in different ways, but in the case of Frontline, it seems to be that Merial, despite their claims of exclusivity, IS the major purveyor of product diversion. From what I can tell, their claim of selling only to veterinarians is technically true, but not specifically defined, nor controlled. They sell to third parties who then supply major retailers. This is the Grey Market. The third parties are technically veterinarians because the orders are placed by licensed vets who work for those companies. There is never a question of what the vet is going to do with hundreds of thousands of units. Merial surely knows that no one entity can use all those units, yet they approve the sale. They obviously don’t really care about the end user of the product, as is implied—you know, safety and all that—but rather wish to increase market share.

Merial can have its cake and eat it too. It can maintain a visage of veterinary exclusivity, which both encourages veterinarians to prescribe and carry the product, and increases consumer confidence on the product. It can also appeal to the mass market by offering its product at a price that undercuts veterinarians. Furthermore, it can claim no responsibility for product failure in the mass market, protecting itself from potential lawsuits. And, as suggested on Cafepharma (see link below), the pharmaceutical company can even use unwitting salespeople to support the whole system.

Having experience in the veterinary industry, inside information on the human health industry, and having done research on both, I can tell you that doctors of all sorts get most of their information about drugs from sales reps and that those sales reps get their information right from the company. This means that neither reps nor doctors really know much about the pharmaceuticals they sell and prescribe and tend only to repeat the scripts provided to them. The only one who really knows anything about medications are the manufacturing insiders and you will be more than hard pressed to find ANY scientifically supported information to back their claims because most research remains in-house. Consumers are powerless in this regard, which makes us particularly subject to malleability and this is what Merial is exploiting. I also suspect that this might all be part of Merial positioning itself for comfortable reception for its newest flea control medication, CERTIFECT.

No, we cannot, as individuals on a daily basis, combat the many dubious activities of Merial and other pharmaceutical companies. But surely a company who is so casually perpetrating such a scam should not be rewarded for their efforts. I suggest boycotting Merial, at least when it comes to its flea control product lines.

Consumer inquiry to Merial by Susan Thixton, pet food safety advocate


Pharmaceutical reps talk about pharmaceutical Grey Market


Veterinary Information Network exudes skepticism of Merial claims




Veterinary offices are concerned about sales- conflict of interest?




One of the claims against retail Frontline, some people claim that Merial does not operate or sell its products in other countries. What do you think?


* Please be clear- diversion is NOT the same as counterfeiting! There ARE counterfeit drugs out there that are in no way associated with the original brand or manufacturer and can be dangerous to use. There are reports of drugs made in and sold out of China that resemble Frontline but are in no way associated with Merial. Many people are confusing the two different issues, which is muddying the waters of this discussion.