Day: March 14, 2007

Hog Factories Hit the NY Times

The tale is told from the pig’s viewpoint. Of course, as I have mentioned before, hog factories are evil and affect the people (mostly poor and black) who live around them in very many horrible ways.

Pig Out – NY Times

Of the 60 million pigs in the United States, over 95 percent are continuously confined in metal buildings, including the almost five million sows in crates. In such setups, feed is automatically delivered to animals who are forced to urinate and defecate where they eat and sleep. Their waste festers in large pits a few feet below their hooves. Intense ammonia and hydrogen sulfide fumes from these pits fill pigs’ lungs and sensitive nostrils. No straw is provided to the animals because that would gum up the works (as it would if you tossed straw into your toilet).

In my work as an environmental lawyer, I’ve toured a dozen hog confinement operations and seen hundreds from the outside. My task was to evaluate their polluting potential, which was considerable. But what haunted me was the miserable creatures inside.

They were crowded into pens and cages, never allowed outdoors, and never even provided a soft place to lie down. Their tails had been cut off without anesthetic. Regardless of how well the operations are managed, the pigs subsist in inherently hostile settings. (Disclosure: my husband founded a network of farms that raise pigs using traditional, non-confinement methods.)

The stress, crowding and contamination inside confinement buildings foster disease, especially respiratory illnesses. In addition to toxic fumes, bacteria, yeast and molds have been recorded in swine buildings at a level more than 1,000 times higher than in normal air. To prevent disease outbreaks (and to stimulate faster growth), the hog industry adds more than 10 million pounds of antibiotics to its feed, the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates. This mountain of drugs — a staggering three times more than all antibiotics used to treat human illnesses — is a grim yardstick of the wretchedness of these facilities.

Eminent Domain gets deadly in India

Eminent domain is the concept that governments can acquire private land for “improvement” and “development” purposes. But what happens when you combine

  1. Farms that have been in families for generations
  2. A situation where land is the only thing you own, where all your value, your life and your sense of worth is tied to the land you own
  3. The insecurity that comes from knowing that your livelihood and shelter is being taken away from you and things are going to change. In the end, they might be for the better, your farm was not doing too well to begin with, but the uncertainty and fear of the unknown are much bigger in the short term than any possible long term benefits.
  4. The typical high handed situation in which the government dealt with the villagers in question

Well, in India, people die.

BBC NEWS | South Asia | ‘Seven die’ in India farm clash

At least seven people are reported to have died after police fired on farmers protesting at the acquisition of farmland for industry in eastern India. The clash happened in Nandigram in West Bengal state where thousands of riot police have been sent to quell protests against a planned chemical hub. Police say they met fierce resistance from thousands of villagers. Police say two people have died, but doctors in a local hospital say five more men have died of bullet wounds. ‘Land grab’ Farmers in Nandigram have been resisting the West Bengal government’s plan to acquire farms for setting up a hub for chemical industries by an Indonesian company.

As India’s manufacturing infrastructure and increasingly rapid industrialization starts to catch up with its already booming software economy, watch for these tensions to get worse. Indian governments are not used to handling issues like these in an equitable fashion. Hopefully, the sacrifices of these people will change something, but I am not optimistic. Lives are cheap in India. Nobody’s going to write a song about these 7 dead.