Factory "Farm" Stories

The Nasty Fallout from North Carolina’s Powerful Hog Industry

From an online article at www.billmoyers.com

From an online article at www.billmoyers.com

What smells more — the politics or the pigs?

A recent editorial in The New York Times on the problem of hog waste in North Carolina nicely illustrates the ugly, long-term consequences of unchecked money in politics.

In eastern North Carolina, the Times Editorial Board writes, “giant pools of bright pink sludge” dot the landscape. They are waste lagoons, places where industrial farms in North Carolina dump billions of gallons of (weak stomach warning) untreated pig urine and feces. North Carolina is home to 8.9 million hogs, making it the second largest pork producer in the nation. Fourteen of these lagoons flooded after Hurricane Matthew, leading to a host of potential problems, including the contamination of groundwater, which is what about three million North Carolinians rely on to drink.

The story reminded us of a trip Bill took to the state in 1999 to better understand the powerful hog industry there for a program called Free Speech for Sale. Despite massive growth in the 1980s and 90s, corporate hog farms continued to dispose of the waste from millions of hogs in the same way small, independent farms had before: collecting it in lagoons, then spraying it onto nearby fields. While the hogs were great for the state financially, they were lousy neighbors.

When Bill visited the state in 1999, he met Cindy Watson, a Republican member of the North Carolina General Assembly. After her constituents complained about the smell of the pig waste, along with its effect on drinking water, she pushed the industry to clean up its act.

She helped pass a moratorium in 1997 to limit the growth of hog farms until the industry came up with a better way to dispose of the pig waste. But when she was up for re-election, she was viciously attacked through an extensive advertising campaign, financed by Farmers For Fairness, a cover for a consortium of corporate hog interests. She lost.

Three months after Bill’s report aired, North Carolina was hit by Hurricane Floyd, which dumped 19 inches of rain on the state, causing the lagoons to flood. As The Times reported at the time, “feces and urine soaked the terrain and flowed into rivers from the overburdened waste pits the industry calls lagoons,” adding that “waste from the farms is expected to keep leaching into the water supply until next spring.”

Given the influence of the hog industry, perhaps it’s not surprising that all these years later, problems remain, as the Times described in its recent op-ed:

In states where hog farmers use waste lagoons, like North Carolina and Illinois, flooding is a serious hazard that may become more frequent as climate change leads to more severe storms. Even under normal conditions, lagoons can produce dangerous gases, noxious smells and dust containing hog waste. People living near these lagoons are at increased risk of asthma, diarrhea, eye irritation, depression and other health problems.

Click to view the rest of the article.

And On This Farm- A Film About CAFOs, 80,000 Hogs & Missouri Farmers

Scott Dye, Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, and Dr John Ikerd, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics at the University of Missouri, are featured in this 1995 documentary produced by John Hanson, a filmmaker from Bayfield, Wisconsin.

Not much has changed since this documentary was made, except Smithfield Pork, which purchased Premium Standard Farms, is now owned by Shuanghui International, China’s largest meat company. The 72 hog confinement buildings are still full of 80,000 hogs and those 80,000 hogs are still producing 180 million gallons of hog manure a year. And Scott still owns his family farm, next door to all those hogs. 

If you think this can't happen in Bayfield County, think again. 

Consumer Reports Special Report: America's Antibiotic Crisis



But less than 100 years after that breakthrough, antibiotics are losing their lifesaving effectiveness. Their overuse has allowed bacteria to evolve so that they are almost impervious to the drugs. That has led to the rise of “superbugs”—which include methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and bacteria resistant to three or more types of antibiotics. And as the number of superbugs increases, the development of new antibiotics to kill them has lagged. At least 2 million Americans fall victim to antibiotic-resistant infections every year; 23,000 die. “The antibiotics we’ve relied on for decades are becoming less effective—and we risk turning back the clock to a time where simple infections killed people,” says Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Over this past year, Consumer Reports has investigated the dangers of antibiotic overuse in hospitals and doctors’ offices. But nowhere are the drugs more inappropriately employed than in the meat and poultry industries. About 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are given to animals raised for food—including hogs, cattle, chickens, and turkeys. The most recent data from the Food and Drug Administration show that more than 32 million pounds of antibiotics were sold for use in food animals in the U.S. in 2013—up 17 percent from just four years earlier.

Read the Consumer Reports article here. 

Scenes from a Hormel Slaughterhouse

Image from cok.net article

Image from cok.net article

"In 2015, a COK investigator worked inside Quality Pork Processors (QPP), a USDA-inspected slaughterhouse in Minnesota that exclusively supplies to Hormel, the makers of SPAM. This shocking footage offers a disturbing, close-up view of the suffering endured by pigs as they are pushed, prodded and dragged to their death.

This facility is one of five in the U.S. operating under a USDA pilot program, known as “HIMP”, that allows for high-speed slaughter and reduced government oversight. That means this facility operates at faster line speeds than almost any other facility in the U.S.: approximately 1,300 pigs are killed each hour, their meat to be sold as SPAM or other Hormel pork products.

The excessive slaughter line speed forces workers to take inhumane shortcuts that lead to extreme suffering for millions of pigs. It also jeopardizes food safety for consumers."

Warning: graphic video. 

What to do About Pig Poop? North Carolina Fights a Rising Tide

"In North Carolina, that started changing with industry consolidation in the 1980s. The number of small, diversified farms fell precipitously. Most of the farms that survived did so by going big—raising thousands of animals that spend their entire lives inside barns. Today, Duplin County, North Carolina, the top swine producer in the country, is home to 530 hog operations with a collective capacity of 2.35 million animals. According to a 2008 GAO estimate, hogs in five eastern North Carolina counties produced 15.5 million tons of manure in one year.

To handle all that waste, farmers in North Carolina use a standard practice called the lagoon and spray field system. They flush feces and urine from barns into open-air pits called lagoons, which turn the color of Pepto-Bismol when pink-colored bacteria colonize the waste. To keep the lagoons from overflowing, farmers spray liquid manure on their fields nearby."

Read the National Geographic article here

Pigs from a farm near Trenton, North Carolina, wait for rescue from floods. PHOTOGRAPH BY REUTERS from article

Pigs from a farm near Trenton, North Carolina, wait for rescue from floods. PHOTOGRAPH BY REUTERS from article


Industrial Farming is One of the Worst Crimes in History

‘The march of human progress is strewn with dead animals.’ Photograph: John Eveson/Rex from article linked below

‘The march of human progress is strewn with dead animals.’ Photograph: John Eveson/Rex from article linked below

"The fate of animals in such industrial installations has become one of the most pressing ethical issues of our time, certainly in terms of the numbers involved. These days, most big animals live on industrial farms. We imagine that our planet is populated by lions, elephants, whales and penguins. That may be true of the National Geographic channel, Disney movies and children’s fairytales, but it is no longer true of the real world. The world contains 40,000 lions but, by way of contrast, there are around 1 billion domesticated pigs; 500,000 elephants and 1.5 billion domesticated cows; 50 million penguins and 20 billion chickens."

Read The Guardian article here

Explosion Risk in Underground Manure Pits

Photo from article linked below

Photo from article linked below

"The National Educational Center for Agricultural Safety says foam from underground manure pits can be explosive.

Director Dan Neenan tells Brownfield Midwest hog farms are the most at risk.

“As the foam starts coming through the slats, the farmer wants and needs to get it out of there and they agitate the pit.” He says, “When we brake the seal of that foam, methane comes up in a large area of gas and is looking for a spark.”

Listen to the interview with Dan Neenan on brownfieldagnews.com here