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Industrial Pig Farming

The December 2006 edition of Rolling Stone magazine includes an outstanding article entitled "Boss Hog" with the sub-heading "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."

An accompanying photo shows a large pile of pig carcasses with the caption, "Pork producers generate millions of tons of hog waste each year including millions of dead pigs."

Here are some excerpts:

"Smithfield Foods, the largest and most profitable pig processor in the world, killed 27 million hogs last year."

"Smithfield's pigs live by the hundreds or thousands in warehouse-like 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 dying...”

"Taken together, the immobility, poisonous air and terror of confinement badly damage the pigs' immune systems. They become susceptible to infection..."

"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 antibiotics."

With an environmentalist, the writer flies over the Smithfield area and sees "several farmers spray their hog shit straight up into the air as a fine mist." "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."

In a span of four years, Smithfield's 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 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."

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