Want to do something for the environment?
[Do not eat dead pigs (bacon, ham, pork chops). Below is a piece from
another list about Smithfield pigs. Read it! Jean]
The current, December 14, edition of Rolling Stone magazine includes a
lengthy piece, by contributor Jeff Tietz, about Smithfield pork
producers. It covers the conditions the animals are kept in, and the
environmental impact. The article is headed, "BossHog" and sub-headed,
"America's top pork producer churns out a sea of waste that has
destroyed rivers, killed millions of fish and generated one of the
largest fines in EPA history. Welcome to the dark side of the other
white meat." (pg 89.)
The lead photo is of a huge pile of pig carcasses, with the caption,
"Pork producers generate millions of tons of hog waste each year
including millions of dead pigs."
The article opens:
"Smithfield Foods, the largest and most profitable pig processor in the
world, killed 27 million hogs last year."
It tells us that hogs produce three times more excrement than humans do,
and that "The best estimates put Smithfield total waste discharge at 26
million tons a year." We read, "So prodigious is its fecal waste,
however, that if the company treated its effluvia as big-city
governments do -- even if it came close to the same standard -- it would
It explains that the "pig shit" is so toxic because of the concentrated
conditions the pigs are kept in:
"Smithfield's pigs live by the hundreds or thousands in warehouselike
barns, in rows of wall-to-wall pens. Sows are artificially inseminated
and fed and delivered of their piglets in cages so small they cannot
turn around. Forty full grown 250-pound male hogs often occupy a pen the
size of a tiny apartment. They trample each other to death. There is no
sunlight, straw, fresh air or earth. The floors are slatted to allow
excrement to fall into a catchment pit under the pens....
"The temperature inside hog houses is often hotter than ninety degrees.
The air, saturated almost to the point of precipitation with gases from
shit and chemicals, can be lethal to the pigs. Enormous exhaust fans run
24 hours a day... If they break down for any length of time, pigs start
"Taken together, the immobility, poisonous air and terror of confinement
badly damage the pigs' immune systems. They become susceptible to
So they are infused with antibiotics and doused with insecticides.
We read about the huge excrement holding pens, called lagoons, which
often overflow: "Major floods have transferred entire counties into pig
The lagoons are so toxic, workers have been overcome by them and fallen
in and drowned in pig shit.
The article tells us that according to the EPA, Smithfield dumps more
toxic waste into the nation's water each year than all but three other
industrial facilities in America. But, "The industry has long made
generous campaign contributions to politicians responsible for
regulating hog farms." We read, "In 1998 corporate hog farms in North
Carolina spent $1 million to help defeat state legislators who wanted to
clean up open-pit lagoons."
Tietz writes, "Studies have shown that lagoons emit hundreds of
different volatile gases into the atmosphere, including ammonia,
methane, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide. A single lagoon releases
many millions of bacteria into the air per day, some resistant to human
With an environmentalist, he flies in a small plane over the Smithfield
area, and watches as "several farmers spray their hog shit straight up
into the air as a fine mist." He writes, "It looks like a public
fountain. Lofted and atomized the shit is blown clear of the company's
property. People who breathe the shit-infused air suffer from
bronchitis, asthma, heart palpitations, headaches, diarrhea, nosebleeds
and brain damage."
He writes that the ascending stench can nauseate pilots at 3,000 feet,
and He goes into some detail about the suffering of people whose homes
are down-wind of the farms. He visits a lagoon to take a good whiff, and
writes that even as he thinks about the smell he fights an urge to
We read some specifics of Smithfield's environmental impact in North
Carolina. In a span of four years its lagoons have spilled:
"2 million gallons of shit into Cape Fear River, 1.5 million gallons
into its Persimmon branch, one million gallons into the Trent River, and
200,000 gallons into Turkey Creek."
The waste kills plants and animals outright and also consumes available
oxygen and suffocates fish. We read about various disastrous spills. For
"The biggest spill in the history of corporate hog farming happened in
1995. The dike of a 120,000 square foot lagoon owned by a Smithfield
competitor ruptured, releasing 25.8 million gallons of effluvium into
the headwaters of the New River in North Carolina. It was the biggest
environmental spill in United States history, more than twice as big as
the Exxon Valdez oil spill six years earlier. The sludge was so toxic,
it burned your skin if you touched it, and so dense it took almost two
months to make its way sixteen miles downstream to the ocean. From the
headwaters to the sea, every creature living in the river was killed.
Fish died by the millions."
He describes dead fish covering the riverbanks, and the article includes
a shocking photo of that phenomenon.
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