This time it was the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals’ turn to say it: Big Hog, it’s time to pay up.
In a ruling last Thursday, a majority of the three-judge panel upheld Smithfield Foods/Murphy-Brown’s liability for damages to neighbors in clear and often blunt terms. The majority opinion noted specifically that the company “persisted in its chosen farming practices despite its knowledge of the harms to its neighbors.”
The panel did rule that the case had to go back to the lower court for further consideration of the amount of damages, finding an error in that process. However, the thrust of the decision was clear enough that Smithfield announced just hours afterwards that it had settled with the plaintiffs in this and other cases to pay unspecified damages. Overall, the decision was another clear win for damaged neighbors over the international corporate hog giant and its polluting ways.
The message may be getting through to Big Hog at last. Though in a separate but related issue, Smithfield and Dominion Energy are trying to build a biogas pipeline through largely poor communities of color in rural Eastern North Carolina to transport methane from these hog farms to processing facilities for use in electricity generation. These communities and environmental advocates like the Southern Environmental Law Center are speaking up about the health dangers of a pipeline and the use of this gas, which is not a clean, renewable resource.