It's a winter day on our farm in Granville County, and I am spending some time with our sheep. It is blustery and cold, but they laze about happily with full coats of fluffy wool.
"Ladies," I ask them (for they are mostly ewes), "have you heard that Homeland Security wants to bring a gigantic bio-research lab to our county?"
They respond with a hefty baaaa.
"You know, they say they are trying to protect our food chain," I tell them. "But they've been at it for more than 50 years at the Plum Island lab, and in all that time of working with these terrible diseases, such as hoof-and-mouth disease that can kill critters like you, they haven't come up with a single cure!"
The sheep look at me with incredulity.
"I'm not kidding," I say. "Some friends and I with the Granville Nonviolent Action Team (GNAT) did some research. No cures. But, they have studied a lot about how these diseases are transmitted—vectors, they call it. They studied mosquitoes, and oops, there are some cases of West Nile virus on Long Island. They studied 'Texas ticks' and oops, there is a strange new disease that hasn't been seen before at Old Lyme, Conn., just a deer swim and wing flap across Long Island Sound from Plum Island. And one time, hoof-and-mouth disease got loose, and they had to kill every animal on Plum Island, including the sheep."
There is a rumbling of hooves, and I think I'm going to be run out of the pasture.
"Wait," I said. "There is more! Because what the lab studies is so lethal, nothing can leave the plant. All infected animals have to be buried or incinerated. Landfills leak after a few years, and stuff gets into the groundwater, and could get into the tributaries to the Neuse River, Falls Lake and Raleigh's water supply. Plum Island has been cited for numerous violations, including dumping toxic sludge into Long Island Sound, and oops, there are no more lobsters in the sound."
There is a look from Coal, the ram, like "Will you give it a rest? This is too much to deal with."
Cameo, our grand matron ewe, comes up to me and lets me run my hands through the fine, soft wool on her head. We both feel better.
"I know what you mean," I say. "It is scary. It seems like the lab in Butner would be doing germ-warfare development. The Plum Island Lab was started in the '50s, after the United States secretly brought in Eric Traub, who was in charge of Nazi Germany's germ warfare. And they are studying how to contain, package and spread these bio-agents, perhaps in violation of an international treaty which the United States signed banning the development of bio-weapons."
"Baaa!" At this point I am nudged out of the pasture, at least until time for the evening hay feeding. Lambs need time to sort things out for themselves.
Information about the bio-lab can be found at www.nobio.org or by contacting the Granville Non-Violent Action Team (GNAT) 575-4283.