The world’s largest pork company, Smithfield Foods, is set to close a massive meat production facility by the end of October, according to reports. The move comes as Smithfield consolidates business operations in Clayton, North Carolina, with its larger processing facility in Tar Heel, laying off about 100 employees.
The news broke just weeks after the company lost three federal lawsuits for reportedly failing to take measures to cover waste pits or otherwise contain the smell and bacteria from liquefied waste. North Carolina residents were awarded damages of around $75 million in two related lawsuits.
Residents brought a third lawsuit that prompted a jury to award $23.5 million in compensatory damages and $450 million in punitive damages for “unreasonable nuisances.” Because of state law, the damages will be reduced to $94 million.
North Carolinians filed the lawsuits after enduring intense stench from Smithfield’s properties, which hold thousands of pigs in cramped, filthy conditions. A neighbor not involved in the lawsuits stated the odor was comparable to that of rotting corpses he encountered during his career as a police officer and firefighter. Other neighbors had to flee their homes when the sickening smell became overwhelming.
Owned by Hong Kong-headquartered WH Group, Smithfield continues using open-air pits as a low-cost method of handling waste, even though North Carolina banned this method for new factory farms in 1997. The facilities empty these large pits by spraying liquid excrement onto fields, but winds can carry it, along with its putrid stench, to neighboring houses and cause serious health issues.
According to an article by Civil Eats, North Carolina pig factory farms produce nearly 10 billion gallons of feces and urine each year. That’s enough to fill 15,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Smithfield’s lack of compassion, not only for the animals in its care but for the people in local communities, is well-documented.
Pork producers not only blatantly disregard surrounding communities; they treat the animals they raise like meat-producing machines.
Undercover investigations at hog farms throughout the country and around the world have revealed a culture of cruelty: animals subjected to extreme confinement, brutal mutilations without painkillers, and violent slaughter.
Thankfully, we can do something to protect animals and rural communities: leave meat and other animal products off our plates. Download our FREE Vegetarian Starter Guide for tips, tricks, and delicious vegan recipes.
*Photo by FactoryFarmDrones.com