Judicial Watch: Hogs in Court
A key trial kicked off in federal court last week over neighbors’ nuisance claims against international hog giant Smithfield Foods. The question: Should Smithfield be required to compensate those neighbors for the impacts of living under the pervasive stench and clouds of flies generated by the corporation’s contracted factory farms?
This is the first of a set of trials ultimately involving 26 lawsuits filed by more than 500 individual plaintiff neighbors of these factory-style hog farms in eastern North Carolina. This case directly involves 10 plaintiffs who live near a large factory hog farm in Bladen County. The plaintiffs assert wide-ranging ills, including health impacts, nausea, burning eyes, stress, and loss of property value. They say that the problems could have been prevented and addressed by the defendant’s application of contract standards requiring more effective (but more costly) treatment of the hog enclosures and wastes. They’re seeking action including financial compensation.
Decisions by the court on evidence and other standards in this case could have major implications for the other cases down the line—and for what the corporate factory farm industry is required to do overall in controlling the health and environmental impacts of its operations and wastes. The details make for powerful witness testimony, but are difficult to measure with technical instruments alone.
Rural farming neighbors and the agribusiness industry will be watching these cases carefully. Their outcomes are highly likely to impact our state’s rural environment for years to come. Our state’s legislators should be listening as well.