All factory, no farm: And the CAFOs go rolling along

HSUS photo

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

The human population in Montana hit the one million mark early in January. Of the 50 states, the Treasure State ranks 44th in population, fourth in area. There’s a lot of “there” out there under the Big Sky, and elbow room enough at roughly seven humans per square mile. We like it that way.

But the folks in rural Shelby, Montana (pop. 3500+) will have a million new squealing neighbors to cozy-up to if Gov. Brian Schweitzer prevails in talks with Chinese capitalist investors. Sure, a $150 million hog processing plant will bring jobs, but given what is well documented about factory farms, it will also bring tons of unwanted baggage in water pollution, air pollution, surface contamination, a host of human ailments including asthma, headaches, skin and eye irritation, and worse–much worse. Just ask the residents in south central Michigan, who now issue “stench alerts” thanks to the numerous CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operation) operating near Hudson, MI.

“Bakerlads manure stinks to high heaven in Clayton today,” reads one recent stench alert.  And another: “Hartland Farms’ double-dumped manure fields stink again: they spread out the stockpiles at both field sites…sending a new flow of emissions into neighbors’ houses. Eye-watering, forced window-shutting, gag-inducing emissions.” More: “Heavy rains overnight has led to ponding in many manure fields…manure runoff is flowing down a road to a ditch in the South Branch of the River Raisin watershed.” Sound like a neighborhood you’d want to live in? Me neither.

All factory, no farm

Concentrate thousands of animals in an industrial setting–800,000 pigs annually in Shelby’s case should it come to pass (1.2 million according to industry news site SwineWeb, and possibly as many as a mind-blowing 2.4 million according to the Shelby Promoter)–and manure is the going, growing concern. Benign poop dropped here and there to fertilize daisies this is not. CAFOs produce oceans of toxic, liquified manure containing “ammonia, methane, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, cyanide, phosphorus, nitrates and heavy metals. In addition, the waste nurses more than 100 microbial pathogens that can make humans sick, including salmonella, cryptosporidium, streptococci and giardia,” according to Jeff Tietz, author of a compelling, horrifying read, “Boss Hog” (Rolling Stone magazine, Dec. 2006; mega-CAFO Smithfield Foods’ rebuttal here).

Factory farming is really all factory and no farm, with emphasis on turning out maximum production units (otherwise known as animals) at the least cost. This translates into horrific physical and mental suffering for sentient pigs, poultry, and cattle, but there’s no money in worrying about that.  Mitch Daniels, who took the helm as Indiana’s governor in 2005, earned himself a Meritorious Service Award from the Indiana Pork Producers in 2011 for his vow to double pork production. According to Hat Chat, “the official blog of Hoosier Ag Today,” “Daniels drew rousing applause when he told the group of livestock and grain producers that he was a Governor that loved pigs.” We assume he meant “love” in the economic–not the emotional–sense, since no one with an actual heart would wish the cruel suffering of a CAFO life and death on a pig–or any animal.

If Gov. Schweitzer has his way with Shelby, neighbors will not only have processing plant jobs to look forward to, but others might have opportunities to learn new job skills as public watchdogs, organizers, bloggers, stench alerters, and such. Just as the Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan organized under the banner Save Our Rural Communities – No CAFOs, Indiana CAFO Watch sprung up to “…prevent pollution and protect our valuable resources.”

And then there’s North Carolina, where more than a billion fish have died in the Neuse River since the advent of industrial hog production (scroll down at that link for pictures). Writing in the Blog for Rural America, Steph Larsen toured Duplin County, NC, home to the state’s highest concentration of hog CAFOs:

Toward the end of our tour, (the tour guide) told us about some of the actions residents are taking to draw attention to the problems of CAFOs and their efforts to get legislators to change laws to protect the people as opposed to the largest livestock producers. One creative method was for protesters to bring fresh hog manure to the North Carolina Capitol and stage a sit-in. They should have called it a “s*it in.”

Others tried to build a model hog farm on Halifax Mall, which connects the State Legislative Building with other state government buildings. The protesters found it ironic that they were not allowed to spray manure on the lawn of the mall — the same manure that is spread on fields near their houses — because it was deemed “toxic waste.”

As we drove back to Raleigh, grateful to leave the smell behind, I thought about the animals, people, and rural communities and (sic) that had to suffer and sacrifice so we as a society can have cheap meat.

In Montana’s case, the suffering and sacrificing, should it materialize, will allow the Chinese to “be inspired” to eat more pork. Says SwineWeb: “Schweitzer said that several of the state’s approximately 50 commercial-scale producers are planning to expand if the facility is built. Currently the state’s pork producers send most of their hogs to California and Utah for processing. ‘These producers would become much larger, much more cost-competitive,’ Schweitzer said.” Ain’t that just how it goes? Let one CAFO in and there goes the neighborhood.

But CAFOs spawn more than “just” animal and human suffering and environmental devastation. They game the system to gain huge advantage over the Little People.  Back home again in Indiana,

Proposed legislation in the Indiana General Assembly appears crafted to give agricultural businesses special protections and could discourage citizens from exercising their right to access the courts.

 House Bill 1091 was authored by Rep. William Friend, R-Macy, and co-sponsored by Rep. Donald Lehe, R-Brookston. It requires courts to award agricultural operations such as confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, that are the subject of a nuisance lawsuit with payment of their legal fees. The proposed bill recently passed its second reading in the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. article

The real kicker? Rep. Friend owns a hog CAFO! (I absolutely am not making that up.) “This sends a strong message to trial judges that CAFOs are to be protected,” said Kim Ferraro, water and agricultural policy director for the Hoosier Environmental Council. “It adds a whole other level of threat to taking action against a CAFO. It would have a chilling effect.” Ferraro, according to an IndyStar editorial, “…has had some success representing poor clients pro bono against CAFOs. She says she would not advise them to sue if HB 1091 became law.” And according to the StarPress, another similar bill (SB 0184) “…would make it illegal to surreptitiously take video while visiting an agricultural operation.” Ag gag rides again.

Janet and Marjorie, two unassuming Hoosier women in Claypool (pop. 340 in 2009) tell a snippet of their story in a two-minutes-plus video filmed on the porch of a rural Kosciusko County home 50 miles west of Fort Wayne. It’s impossible to miss the David and Goliath dimensions of their situation–humble taxpayers engulfed by corporate hog factories, talking of health horrors and water woes. They seem beaten down but not beaten. One reveals that “they”–state officials they’ve appealed to for help–“keep suggesting that we have our water tested and our houses appraised…people don’t have the money to do that kind of stuff.”

But according to Gov. Mitch Daniels, those who were critical of his plan to double hog production are terrorists– “eco-terrorists” (not sure if that qualifier hurts or helps). His Big Ag allies at the Animal Agriculture Alliance even found a way to insinuate an outlandish Al-Qaeda link to further tarnish the efforts of hard-working rural people fighting to protect their lives, investments, and resources. Despicable? Yes, and it reeks of hysterical desperation.

If Gov. Schweitzer’s hog heaven is built in the Treasure State, will the Janets and Marjories of Shelby one day find themselves the subjects of a video chronicling a similar desperate plight? Whether they’ll be branded eco-terrorists remains to be seen, but given that the industry they’ll be fighting wreaks suffering, death, and destruction on animals, people, and the Earth, there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind who the real terrorists are.

See also: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations: What are the Potential Community Costs?

This post was updated 2/19.

7 Responses

  1. All this terror and trauma … for the taste of bacon.

    Making the personal choice to satisfy that oral indulgence *seems* so harmless.

    Believing that pigs are made to be eaten *seems* so culturally correct.

    Not caring about their suffering *seems* so normal.

    But behold the devastation caused by the seemingly harmless, seemingly correct, seemingly normal act of biting into a strip of salty, greasy fat, of letting it glide over the tongue and slide down the throat.

    Where does this single sensual, self-centered, speciesist, and, yes, sinful, pleasure get us?

    In deep doo doo, literally and figuratively.

    As Kathleen’s post tells us, the signs of doom from our wrong thinking and actions are obvious. They’re telling us that we cannot continue to treat our animal friends as our food. They’re telling us that we must move past beliefs and behaviors that once were acceptable.

    Whether it’s wild bison being hunted in national parks or domesticated bison being confined in feed lots so that we may chow down on buffalo burgers … or pigs being stuffed in warehouses so that we may gratify our appetite for pork … or cattle being grazed on public lands where wild horses once roamed free so that we may dine on sirloin — it’s all equally cruel and needless, and it all serves to keep us enslaved to sensuality and materiality.

    So, we can continue to live in the illusion that we are material beings subject to lusts and lies. Or we can awake to the truth that we are spiritual beings governed by an intelligent Mind, influenced by unselfish desires, and capable of doing only what is honest, compassionate, merciful, and just. Only what is good for all, and bad for none.

    These words sum up what I’ve taken too much space to say: “To cause suffering as the result of sin, is the means of destroying sin. Every supposed pleasure in sin will furnish more than its equivalent of pain, until belief in material life and sin is destroyed. To reach heaven, the harmony of being, we must understand the divine Principle of being” (Science and Health, p. 6).

  2. Give thanks for your Patriot Act and indefinite military detention law for your loss of civil liberties. Syria, anyone?

  3. I grew up in Montana, but went through Shelby only once – nice little community.

    I lived for years in the vicinity of pig and dairy CAFOs in the Twin Falls area of southern Idaho. Nasty things.

  4. Will Potter has a book out called _Green is the New Red_ which discusses the AETA (Animal Enterprises Terrorism Act), a broadly worded act, which labels as terrorism conduct which causes economic harm to animal enterprises. This could include boycotts, leafletting, and other acts of protest. I believe at least one animal rights activist was sent to one of our lovely CMUs (communications management units, uber-jails wherein the inmate is deprived of almost all contact with the outside world), after being prosecuted under the AEPA, the precursor to the AETA.

    Ag-gag rides again, for sure.

  5. If you value your respiratory system – Or just want to hold your vegan cookies down – Do NOT stop off the interstate in North Carolina. If disease and death has an odor – it’s there!

    That House Bill 1091 is sure a shrewd piece of legislation… Figures it would be supported from someone who owned a hog/crap/waste facility called “Green Acres Ham”. So gross!

    And the poor residents held captive on their own property is infuriating! Of course the hog-hell-hole neighbors could just take antibiotics for their troubles… Nope! Those have even been compromised for the sake of greed.

    No justice – Not for anyone! This “cheap meat” system has failed miserably!

  6. Inspite of all the stink and the mess, I am heartened to see a debate on this issue. Finally, greedy humans are realizing the horrors and abuses that animals have to endure behind the walls of these CAFOs. If we all create a big noise and stand up for our rights and those of animals, we will be able to rectify the situation. Maybe this is the beginning of the end for Factory Farms.

  7. […] All factory, no farm: And the CAFOs go rolling along ( 44.532117 -87.490109 Rate this: Please share this!Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in Civics, Family, Farming, Just in case and tagged Animal feeding operation, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, EPA, Kewaunee County Wisconsin, Lynn Henning, United States, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Wikipedia by Todd Lohenry. Bookmark the permalink. […]

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