Neighbors Fight Factory Farms in Court

by Jerusha Klemperer

Published: 6/07/18, Last updated: 5/23/19

When we talk about Americans’ ever-increasing insatiable love for pork — especially bacon — on their plates, we also have to picture the supply side of that “food trend.” In order to get 23.2 billion pounds of pork product to our breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert plates, hogs have been raised in increasingly confined quarters, and their mountains of waste must be dealt with. Figuring out what to do with all of that poop is much less a palatable proposition than figuring out what to do with all of the bacon. No one feels this more acutely than the neighbors of these factory farms.

In North Carolina, where several counties rank highest for pork sales and where at least 9 million hogs are raised in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), the fecal waste is gathered into lagoons and then sprayed over neighboring fields. For community members living nearby, like Elsie Herring, that means the air is putrid and when they head out to their front lawns, they can feel fecal mist raining down on their skin.

"FecesFeces slurry sprayed on a field. Adobe Stock / galam.

In Iowa, the top pork-producing state, this means putrid air — that arises from the waste that has dropped through slats in the floor to storage pits — is then blown with giant fans out of the CAFOs and into the air around neighboring homes. For people living there, their quality of life — and for some, their health — has diminished greatly, much as it has in North Carolina. It has also decreased their home values, for obvious reasons.

Americans’ appetite for cheap pork shows no sign of flagging, and legislation shows no sign of regulating these facilities. In the past few months there have been some exciting new developments, however, all the result of grassroots activism on the part of community members fed up with their homes, nostrils and lungs under siege from our nation’s passion for pork and the systems that big companies have devised for meeting demand.

There are other suits in the works in Pennsylvania and Kansas, and probably beyond that in the coming months.


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