May 08 2009: Smithfield Foods, the largest and most profitable pork processor in the world, killed 27 million hogs last year. That’s a number worth considering. A slaughter-weight hog is fifty percent heavier than a person. The logistical challenge of processing that many pigs each year is roughly equivalent to butchering and boxing the entire human populations of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose, Detroit, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Columbus, Austin, Memphis, Baltimore, Fort Worth, Charlotte, El Paso, Milwaukee, Seattle, Boston, Denver, Louisville, Washington, D.C., Nashville, Las Vegas, Portland, Oklahoma City and Tucson.
Smithfield Foods actually faces a more difficult task than transmogrifying the populations of America’s thirty-two largest cities into edible packages of meat. Hogs produce three times more excrement than human beings do. The 500,000 pigs at a single Smithfield subsidiary in Utah generate more fecal matter each year than the 1.5 million inhabitants of Manhattan. The best estimates put Smithfield’s total waste discharge at 26 million tons a year. That would fill four Yankee Stadiums. Even when divided among the many small pig production units that surround the company’s slaughterhouses, that is not a containable amount.
Smithfield estimates that its total sales will reach $11.4 billion this year. So prodigious is its fecal waste, however, that if the company treated its effluvia as big-city governments do — even if it came marginally close to that standard — it would lose money. So many of its contractors allow great volumes of waste to run out of their slope-floored barns and sit blithely in the open, untreated, where the elements break it down and gravity pulls it into groundwater and river systems. Although the company proclaims a culture of environmental responsibility, ostentatious pollution is a linchpin of Smithfield’s business model.
A lot of pig shit is one thing; a lot of highly toxic pig shit is another. The excrement of Smithfield hogs is hardly even pig shit: On a continuum of pollutants, it is probably closer to radioactive waste than to organic manure. The reason it is so toxic is Smithfield’s efficiency. The company produces 6 billion pounds of packaged pork each year. That’s a remarkable achievement, a prolificacy unimagined only two decades ago, and the only way to do it is to raise pigs in astonishing, unprecedented concentrations.
Smithfield’s pigs live by the hundreds or thousands in warehouse-like barns, in rows of wall-to-wall pens. Sows are artificially inseminated and fed and delivered of their piglets in cages so small they cannot turn around. Forty fully grown 250-pound male hogs often occupy a pen the size of a tiny apartment. They trample each other to death. There is no sunlight, straw, fresh air or earth. The floors are slatted to allow excrement to fall into a catchment pit under the pens, but many things besides excrement can wind up in the pits: afterbirths, piglets accidentally crushed by their mothers, old batteries, broken bottles of insecticide, antibiotic syringes, stillborn pigs — anything small enough to fit through the foot-wide pipes that drain the pits. The pipes remain closed until enough sewage accumulates in the pits to create good expulsion pressure; then the pipes are opened and everything bursts out into a large holding pond.
The temperature inside hog houses is often hotter than ninety degrees. The air, saturated almost to the point of precipitation with gases from shit and chemicals, can be lethal to the pigs. Enormous exhaust fans run twenty-four hours a day. The ventilation systems function like the ventilators of terminal patients: If they break down for any length of time, pigs start dying.
From Smithfield’s point of view, the problem with this lifestyle is immunological. Taken together, the immobility, poisonous air and terror of confinement badly damage the pigs’ immune systems. They become susceptible to infection, and in such dense quarters microbes or parasites or fungi, once established in one pig, will rush spritelike through the whole population. Accordingly, factory pigs are infused with a huge range of antibiotics and vaccines, and are doused with insecticides. Without these compounds — oxytetracycline, draxxin, ceftiofur, tiamulin — diseases would likely kill them. Thus factory-farm pigs remain in a state of dying until they’re slaughtered. When a pig nearly ready to be slaughtered grows ill, workers sometimes shoot it up with as many drugs as necessary to get it to the slaughterhouse under its own power. As long as the pig remains ambulatory, it can be legally killed and sold as meat.
The drugs Smithfield administers to its pigs, of course, exit its hog houses in pig shit. Industrial pig waste also contains a host of other toxic substances: ammonia, methane, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, cyanide, phosphorous, nitrates and heavy metals. In addition, the waste nurses more than 100 microbial pathogens that can cause illness in humans, including salmonella, cryptosporidium, streptocolli and girardia. Each gram of hog shit can contain as much as 100 million fecal coliform bacteria.
Smithfield’s holding ponds — the company calls them lagoons — cover as much as 120,000 square feet. The area around a single slaughterhouse can contain hundreds of lagoons, some of which run thirty feet deep. The liquid in them is not brown. The interactions between the bacteria and blood and afterbirths and stillborn piglets and urine and excrement and chemicals and drugs turn the lagoons pink.
Even light rains can cause lagoons to overflow; major floods have transformed entire counties into pig-shit bayous. To alleviate swelling lagoons, workers sometimes pump the shit out of them and spray the waste on surrounding fields, which results in what the industry daintily refers to as “overapplication.” This can turn hundreds of acres — thousands of football fields — into shallow mud puddles of pig shit. Tree branches drip with pig shit.
Some pig-farm lagoons have polyethylene liners, which can be punctured by rocks in the ground, allowing shit to seep beneath the liners and spread and ferment. Gases from the fermentation can inflate the liner like a hot-air balloon and rise in an expanding, accelerating bubble, forcing thousands of tons of feces out of the lagoon in all directions.
London Times Apr 28, 2009 – CHRIS AYRES
Mexico outbreak traced to ‘manure lagoons’ at pig farm
The facility, Granjas Carroll de Mexico, is partly owned by Smithfield Foods, a Virginia-based US company and the world’s largest producer and processor of pork products. Residents of La Gloria have long complained about the clouds of flies that are drawn the so-called “manure lagoons” created by such mega-farms, known in the agriculture business as Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). go to story
Material nature reacts to the slaughter of animals
excerpt from Chaitanya-charitamrita Madhya-lila (24.250-251, text & purport)
“Narada Muni continued, ‘My dear hunter, your business is killing animals. That is a slight offense on your part. But when you consciously give them unnecessary pain by leaving them half-dead, you incur very great sins.’
This is another good instruction to animal-killers. There are always animal-killers and animal-eaters in human society because less civilized people are accustomed to eating meat. In the Vedic civilization, meat-eaters are advised to kill an animal for the goddess Kali or a similar demigod. This is in order not to give the animal unnecessary pain, as slaughterhouses do. In the bali-dana sacrifice to a demigod, it is recommended to cut the throat of an animal with one slice. This should be done on a dark-moon night, and the painful noises expressed by the animal at the time of being slaughtered are not to be heard by anyone. There are also many other restrictions. Slaughter is allowed only once a month, and the killer of the animal has to suffer similar pains in his next life. At the present moment, so-called civilized men do not sacrifice animals to a deity in a religious or ritualistic way. They openly kill animals daily by the thousands for no purpose other than the satisfaction of the tongue. Because of this the entire world is suffering in so many ways. Politicians are unnecessarily declaring war, and according to the stringent laws of material nature, massacres are taking place between nations.
prakriteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sarvashah
ahankara-vimudhatma kartaham iti manyate
“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Bg. 3.27)
The laws of prakriti (nature) are very stringent. No one should think that he has the freedom to kill animals and not suffer the consequences. One cannot be safe by doing this. Narada Muni herein says that animal-killing is offensive, especially when animals are given unnecessary pain. Meat-eaters and animal-killers are advised not to purchase meat from the slaughterhouse. They can worship Kali once a month, kill some unimportant animal and eat it. Even by following this method, one is still an offender.
“Narada Muni continued, ‘All the animals that you have killed and given unnecessary pain will kill you one after the other in your next life and in life after life.’
This is another authoritative statement made by the great sage Narada. Those who kill animals and give them unnecessary pain—as people do in slaughterhouses—will be killed in a similar way in the next life and in many lives to come. One can never be excused from such an offense. If one kills many thousands of animals in a professional way so that other people can purchase the meat to eat, one must be ready to be killed in a similar way in his next life and in life after life. There are many rascals who violate their own religious principles. According to Judeo-Christian scriptures, it is clearly said, “Thou shalt not kill.” Nonetheless, giving all kinds of excuses, even the heads of religions indulge in killing animals while trying to pass as saintly persons. This mockery and hypocrisy in human society bring about unlimited calamities; therefore occasionally there are great wars. Masses of such people go out onto battlefields and kill themselves. Presently they have discovered the atomic bomb, which is simply waiting to be used for wholesale destruction. If people want to be saved from the killing business life after life, they must take to Krishna consciousness and cease sinful activity. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness recommends that everyone abandon meat-eating, illicit sex, intoxication and gambling. When one gives up these sinful activities, he can understand Krishna and take to this Krishna consciousness movement. We therefore request everyone to abandon sinful activity and chant the Hare Krishna mantra: [Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare]. In this way people can save themselves from repeated birth and death and from being killed like the animals in slaughterhouses.