New Report: Over Seven Million Gallons of Pig Waste Spilled Across Missouri

According to a new report, Smithfield’s factory farms in Missouri have spilled more than 7.3 million gallons of pig waste on land and into waterways. Socially Responsible Agriculture Project (SRAP)—who drafted the report—reviewed three decades of public records and found that over the past 15 years, Smithfield’s factory farms were responsible for an average of 25 spills per year in Missouri, with an average total volume of more than 244,000 gallons of pig feces, urine, and other waste each year.

SRAP’s mission is to inform the public “about the negative effects of industrial livestock operations” and “provide direct assistance to communities impacted by this destructive industry.” The report, The Rap Sheet on Smithfield’s Industrial Hog Facilities in Missouri, provides further evidence of Smithfield’s extensive history of pollution.

Factory Farm Pollution

While these numbers may be shocking, they are not surprising. Factory farms around the world are known for their devastating impact on the environment and neighboring communities. These farms often keep animal waste in vast manure pits called “lagoons.” Manure lagoons can hold waste from thousands of farmed animals. To get rid of the waste, factory farms sometimes use irrigation systems to literally spray animal feces and urine into the air.

Unsurprisingly, keeping feces in giant lagoons—and spraying it in the air—has disastrous consequences for the surrounding area. It can wash into local waterways, poisoning fish and contaminating rivers with nitrogen and phosphorus. According to an analysis by environmental protection organization Mighty Earth, America’s biggest meat companies are largely to blame for the Gulf of Mexico dead zone.

Environmental Racism

Besides harming the environment, factory farms dramatically lower the quality of life of people living around them. Unfortunately, the consequences often fall on some of the country’s most vulnerable communities. Factory farms are often built in low-income communities of color, and many residents suffer from headaches, nosebleeds, breathing problems, heart conditions, and irritation to their noses and throats, as well as increased rates of depression, stress, and fatigue. Sen. Cory Booker, whose father grew up in North Carolina, explained:

I saw firsthand in North Carolina how corporate interests are disproportionately placing environmental and public health burdens on low-income communities of color that they would never accept in their own neighborhoods. In North Carolina, large corporate pork producers are mistreating small contract farmers and externalizing their costs on to vulnerable communities, polluting the air, water, and soil, and making kids and families sick while reaping large financial rewards.

Take Action

We cannot continue subjecting animals, people, and the environment to the many harms of industrial animal agriculture. Take action this Earth Month by pledging to eat plant-based foods for seven days! See the impact you can make simply by eating more kindly.