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Look, PeTA, this is how it's done: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/12840743/porks_dirty_secret_the_nations_top_hog_producer_is_also_one_of_americas_worst_polluters

It is no secret that PeTA drives me up a fricking wall. Their misogyny, their over-weening arrogance, their non-practical approaches mixed with fervent ideology generally put me off their message. And you know what, sometimes there is a message there to be had.

Like in this case. Rolling Stone has an expose of sorts on Smithfield's hog farming. (Somebody linked to it when discussing the sketchy history of the hog farming company that is alleged to be at the heart of the bacon lung outbreak.) In some ways, it's as graphic as anything PeTA is trying to push. But it gives a more holistic picture of the situation than PeTA is willing to give. For example, it points out that Smithfield's way of doing business pushed small hog farmers right out of the market. PeTA would never point that sort of thing out, because PeTA wants NO hog farmers, periood....but if you believe that there is a way to humanely raise pigs for their meat, it probably lies with smaller operations, not big greedy ones. At the very least, the larger operations driving the smaller ones out of business mean that the consumer has less choice about which companies to patronise.

The description of the hog farms as a pollutant is pretty amazing. Tightly packed production facilities as far as the eye can see, each with a small lagoon where the waste product of the hogs is being filtered off to. Lagoons that are so vile and toxic that people have died trying to rescue people who fell in. (There's a scene in Elizabeth Moon's first Heris Serrano book which is actually very similar to this, and deals with waste treatment facilities that have been overburdened. I wonder if she'd been thinking of farms like this, or where she drew the inspiration from that scene from, but it crossed my mind immediately.)

BTW, when I joke about the WORST SMELL IN THE WORLD, which I smelled at the corner of Jackson and Kearney in San Francisco, I'm joking about a smell that Clare and Amy told me was very likely the smell of rotting pig entrails and pig shit. (They'd learned to recognise it from their stay in China.) I am trying to imagine that smell multiplied by a thousand, because apparently that is the smell wafting off of those pig farms. Apparently the smell is SO bad, pilots are sometimes affected by it 3000 feet up. Eeesh.

As for the pollutants themselves, imagine what kind of waste you would be getting from 500,000 pigs. Apparently parts of North Carolina have had the nitrates from the run-off ecologically impacting numerous rivers. The nitrates and whatnot are more than the crops of the entire state could manage to absorb. And the airborne pollutants are causing extreme problems for asthma sufferers in the region. Sometimes people apparently can't hang out laundry to dry, because the odors get into the clothes. Elderly people with respiratory issues tell stories of collapsing in their front yards, even though there were supposed to be spraying fields to absorb the stench and particulates before it gets off Smithfield property. Doesn't work, it seems. Containment failures of Smithfield lagoons have led to fish dying in the millions--the sort of thing you associate with oil spills. Eurgh.

Here's the thing. I'm probably not gonna stop eating pig any time soon. What I probably will do is limit my pig to locally farmed products and stop patronising Smithfield products when I can.

Oh, and maybe I'll give the Jungle that re-read I've been meaning to.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 29th, 2009 09:04 pm (UTC)
I'd give The Jungle a pass and instead read some of the anthropological writings on factory farms (poultry isn't much better than the pigs it just isn't quite the same polution especially since poultry manure is in demand as a product itself) I'll have to see if I can find some (I know I have some pdfs for sure) and send them to you. The Meat Packing industry of today still has a lot of issues, especially with migrant workers and how workers are treated.

The other issue to do with pigs (and I think this will proabably come to the forefront with the current flu thing) is that pigs have an immune system very much like our own, and to raise them in these cramped conditions the pigs must be constantly innoculated with anti-biotics. Since the pigs are over exposed to anti-biotics the diseases they do get are particularly awful. This is probably part of the reason the current flu is resistant to some drugs.
Apr. 29th, 2009 09:26 pm (UTC)
http://www.michaelpollan.com/ has one of the books on this sort of subject I've been meaning to read. I believe he wrote a shorter article recently ah ha... here it is http://www.michaelpollan.com/article.php?id=97

Apr. 29th, 2009 09:46 pm (UTC)
I've got his Omnivore's Dilemma, but only read as far as the corn chapter. (Although the last two times we've had corn, I keep brandishing the tassels at John and saying, "Corn genitalia! Corn genitalia!")
Apr. 29th, 2009 09:49 pm (UTC)
I think the article sums up the problems, and the possible solutions quite well. It isn't overly preachy or doom and gloom. I have that same problem (getting to one point and no further) with a lot of non-fiction of that sort. I managed all the way through Guns, Germs, and Steel, but never got further than half way through the Third Chimpanzee. I think I need outside motivation to get past the humps.
Apr. 29th, 2009 09:54 pm (UTC)
http://www.kingsolver.com/home/index.asp This one might be a bit easier to read. I think I'll try to pick it up. It appeals to me and my 1.6 acres.
Apr. 29th, 2009 10:53 pm (UTC)
Pig manure is a problem even with family farms around here. The thing is, family farms have grown to rather big sizes in order to compete. The average size of a family-run pig farm is about 2000 animals and that's enough to produce huge quantities of pig manure. No year goes by without news of how a major river was dangerously polluted by a leak from a pig farm. The containment basins are so big that just a tiny leak is enough.
May. 8th, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC)
Actually, if you're really thinking of reading
The Jungle, you might consider joining in the discussion at Non-Believing Literati (http://yunshui.wordpress.com/non-believing-literati/). It's the book we're reading this month!
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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