Smithfield Foods has provided a few statements in response to our investigation. We respond to statements of theirs in turn below:
Smithfield Foods: On our farms we strive to be good neighbors and respect the rights and property of those who live near our operations.
Our response: We do not believe that placing multiple-acre pits of sewage near people’s homes, and spraying their contents high into the air, falls within behavior that would generally be viewed as that of a “good neighbor.” Community members will readily describe their homes regularly being overwhelmed with a sudden stench of sewage. In our documentary Speciesism: The Movie, for example, an elderly man describes falling down in front of his home because these odors made it so difficult to breathe. Furthermore, many specific and significant public health impacts of such facilities are also well documented.
Smithfield Foods: We work to meet strict environmental management policies that encourage continuous improvement and exceed most state and federal compliance standards. Our treatment systems require sign off by state and federal regulators, and inspectors visit our farms regularly (up to four times per year) to ensure compliance. Permits and records for all of our farms are publicly available.
Our response: Part of the problem we are seeking to expose is that it is legal to place multiple-acre pits of sewage near people’s homes, and to spray their contents into the air. As discussed in the video, and as detailed here, the documented consequences to nearby individuals and communities are devastating.
Smithfield Foods: We also take seriously the well-being and humane treatment of our animals. In 2007, Smithfield announced an industry-leading goal of phasing out individual gestation stalls in favor of group housing for pregnant sows at all company-owned sow farms by 2017.
Our response: Smithfield agreed to phase out gestation crates – where mother pigs used for breeding are held in cages so small that they are unable to turn around to take a few steps forward to backward for months at a time – after years of efforts by animal advocates (see this investigation). Multiple serious problems remain in their system of housing thousands of animals in factory buildings. To provide one example, male piglets are castrated without anesthesia, by using a razor blade to slice open the scrotum, and ripping out each testicle by hand. More broadly, pigs are comparably intelligent to dogs, and thus suffer severely when crowded by the thousands into concrete and metal pens for months at a time.
Smithfield Foods: Animal manure is separated from the hogs using specially designed flooring.
Our response: Yes, the waste falls through slats in the concrete floors.
Smithfield Foods: The fertilizer is applied to corn, soybeans, and other crops.
Our response: During the significant time period we spent in the vicinity of the Smithfield pig factories, we did not observe any crops growing on the fields above which the waste was being sprayed.
Smithfield Foods: The fertilizer is hauled or pumped to the field, and applied with carefully calibrated equipment.
Our response: During the significant time we spent observing Smithfield sprayfields, we did not observe the downward-spraying equipment that Smithfield has described and diagramed. Instead, as shown in the video, we observed devices spraying the waste many feet upwards, and the detrimental impacts to neighbors.