Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Hog Farm Factory Cruelty - To Animals And Humans

It was 10 minutes before the meeting. I'd just managed to get our little boy settled in his seat. The lady sitting on the other side of him stood up up her seat to an elderly lady and her husband... Her frail, thin husband struggled with his oxygen tank, carefully positioning it in the narrow confined space. His hands shook slightly, and I could tell it was quite an effort for him to be here in this hot, stuffy court house.

Five minutes to go and the man at the front of the room leading the meeting stated... "We have to change rooms. We'll move to the Judge's Chambers to see if we can fit more people in. Give us 5 minutes to get the AV equipment set up... then you can all file in."

The Audio-Visual equipment wasn't for the more than 200 highly concerned citizens who had shown up. The equipment was for the lawyer and company representatives of the new hog factory farm before the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Needless to say, there wasn't much more room in the other chambers... and several people still had to stand out in the halls, unable to hear the full proceedings.

If you are unfamiliar with what a hog farm factory is, once you know the details of how they run --- you might never want to buy pork that comes from such a source again. By rights... and by law, in my humble opinion... they should be required to BRIGHTLY label their meat before reaching the grocery store shelves, so that concerned and caring people such as myself have a choice NOT TO BUY from factory farm operations, like those operated by Belstra Milling Company in Northern Indiana.

For those who don't know, the breeding sow's agony is prolonged for years. As the HFA describes it:

"After impregnation, the sow is locked in a narrow metal gestation crate. The width of the crate varies from 18 to 24 inches, and the length is 7 feet, extending just beyond the sow's own body. She is restrained in this unbedded, cement-floored crate for her entire pregnancy - nearly four months. She is unable to walk or turn around.

She is fed at one end of the crate, while her feces collects at the other. Some crates are so narrow that simply standing up and lying down require strenuous effort. On some factory farms, the sow is literally tied to the floor by a short chain or strap around her neck. Deprived of all exercise and any opportunity to fulfill her behavioral needs, she lives in a constant state of distress."

Picture hundreds upon hundreds of pigs stuffed into a building like sardines excreting their waste -- in fact, studies show that hogs produce 2-4 times the amount of waste than humans do -- and you might begin to imagine the smell... but you may not be aware of the toxins that can become airborne and be emitted into the environment, spreading as far and wide as a five mile radius around such factories.

You might not realize this, but because they are classified a "farm" they don't have to abide by certain sewage treatment laws normal factories of this size would be forced to meet.

You probably aren't even aware of the neurological damage the fumes cause for workers inside such factories... and how their olfactory senses can be permanently damaged. It's no wonder that many of them claim there isn't much smell. The sad truth is, statistically 58% of all hog factory farm workers will develop chronic bronchitis, and as high as 78% will have upper respiratory problems later in life. Most of them aren't even aware that factories such as these are not under OSHA guideline requirements. An employee gets sick, or permanently damaged, working in such environments and it's --- tough luck, next!

The primary gases produced that are of major concern include Hydrogen Sulfide, Carbon Dioxide, Ammonia, and Methane. Each produces it's own range of symptoms. One website claims workers have died from the HS that can reach lethal limits within 2 minutes during periods when the waste is agitated ...and that rescuers have also died in an attempt to save them.

Which brings up the point of how many pigs die on such farms. It's estimated that a swine facility of 1,000 hogs typically produces about 40,000 pounds of dead animals per year. Not only do the decomposing bodies produce odors during storage and transport periods -- if they're even transported out of the vicinity -- they can also attract all manner of pathogens, a cesspool for disease, particularly tuberculosis.

Bellstra Milling Company has no intention of transporting the dead bodies away from it's proposed new 2,496-head hog facility, but instead are planning to use traditional composting methods... you know the kind -- where you put a layer of dead pigs in the ground, poor some sand over them, then add another layer of dead pigs, then poor some more sand over them... and so on... letting the bodies rot and decompose naturally. Picture it! Just imagine what one hot day will do to that compost heap!

"Odor is usually the most obvious impact of hog livestock factories. Odors from livestock factories typically come from four areas: The buildings that house the animals, waste storage and treatment procedures, land application of the waste, and carcass disposal. The swine buildings contribute to about 35% of the odor emissions. The land application of manure contributes to about 40% of odor, and waste storage facilities account for about 20% of swine odors."

And, in this day of fresh water shortages -- indeed, crisis in some countries -- the contamination to groundwater supply, and reduction in water availability caused by such factory farms is almost criminal. It takes 3 gallons of water per day for each pig ...and that does not count the water required for other uses. Some areas surrounding large hog factory farms have experienced water table drops of as much as 150 feet! As for contamination, that's an entire article in itself.

There's more I could tell you, but back to the meeting...

When we changed court rooms, I ended up having to stand way back in the hallway, barely able to hear the proceedings. In fact, I stood directly behind 3 or 4 workers from one of their other factory farms -- and I gotta tell ya, the fumes coming off their clothing scortched my throat, burned my eyes, causing me several bouts of dizziness... so I'm assuming -- keep in mind, I'm just guessing here -- that maybe the farm they work on does not follow the very stiff "shower-in/shower-out" polices PIC insist on...

But I'm also guessing, in small communities like Jasper County, managers and owners of such factory farms can get away with bending a few rules...

For instance, after already having been kicked out of another area they had planned to build just north of this planned location, they rushed the original "special exception permit" through the Zoning Board by using a land deal where they were going to buy 20 acres contained inside 20 acres owned by the sellers of the land, Harper Farms. In this way they wouldn't have to inform other area landholders about what they proposed to do... but they screwed up. The land deal wasn't completed in time, and by law, they were required to inform adjoining landowners of their proposal.

One adjoining property owner didn't even know what was going on until she looked out her kitchen window and saw the construction in progress.

Needless to say, I'm beginning to think they have the local politicians "eating out of their hands" ...since this isn't the only formality the were able to get away with...

The IDEM permit, a large part of what this meeting was about, was issued without any notification at all to any of the many residents within a wide range of the proposed hog factory site.

It's interesting to note that the meeting was held in Rennselaer -- almost an hour's drive south from the proposed site. And that the owners, workers and managers live almost an hour's drive north of the proposed site. Neither the decision makers, nor the owners will be affected by any potential contamination and/or destruction to their homes, air, and environment.

In fact, when the Board convened the meeting and asked if any residents had a lawyer there to present their case, he practically sneered at them for not being able to bring one. You see... the residents did have a lawyer from a very large firm ...a lawyer who was very eager to take the case, had even drawn up a complete strategy... then 2 days before the hearing he quit -- citing "conflict of interest" for his firm. Yes, in small towns, big companies have a long reach of power.

Why did Bellstra Milling Company chose the number 2,496 head of hog for their facility (even though they are building it for a much higher capacity)? According to one individual present at the meeting ...because this keeps them under the radar of Federal regulations -- that magic number 2,500. Oh, did I mention they supply the majority of seed and feed to farmers in this region? That's gotta be some kinda leverage to keep some people's mouths shut, don't you think?

I was disgusted by the small town politics, the flagrant disregard for residents who will be forced to suffer and endure the contamination to their area -- some already fighting major illnesses, some cancer survivors, and many old, frail ...trying to live out their retirment years in peace. It's truly heartbreaking.

But here's what really BURNED me... in fact, made me FURIOUS!

The representative from the DNR.

You know, a lady from the Audobon Society was there, quoting the dangers and impacts to Sandhill Cranes in this area that such a factory farm can cause. The DNR rep -- who gets paid by taxpayers and hunting/fishing license revenues -- basically stated that was "hogwash" but he neglected to provide any environmental studies or any other proof to substantiate any of his statements.

Now, you see... here's something the entire USA should be truly upset about in my humble opinion.

The proposed cesspool of hog waste and factory CAFO style farming is planned to be built right next to the Jasper/Pulaski game reserve, one of the largest Sandhill Crane migration resting areas in the State. This is the largest wildlife conservation and reserve area in North Central Indiana ...and they already have concerns over tuberculosis, in fact are right now closely monitoring deer in the region. Plus, the grasslands, small lakes, rivers and streams feeding the reserve have had algae problems in the past -- problems which have high probabilities of resurfacing, according to some studies completed on environmental damages caused in and around hog factory farms.

Bottom line, Bellstra Milling Company won their right to proceed in a 4-1 vote in their favor -- however the more than 1,000 on the protest petition and more than 200 angry residents who showed up for the meeting plan to appeal --- if they can just scrape enough money together for a good lawyer well-experienced in matters such as this --- and gather support from people who truly care about the future we're leaving behind for our children.

If you're interested in helping fight the good fight, contact me and I'll put you in touch with the people leading the way to hopefully prevent this factory from operating next to so many precious wildlife resources.

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Anonymous said...

Concern about CAFO consider writing James A Lewis, and his phone is 1-800-382-9467, he is interested in writing a bill to slow or stop the CAFOs being planned for Indiana. Families Against CAFO in Reddington, Jackson Co. will be meeting with him Tuesday 12/6/05

kmyers said...

Thank you! I forwarded your information to the group working closely with the Press and the lawyer on this case and they are definitely going to contact Senator Lewis. We all wish you luck on your fight, too!