Factory farming is full of unethical and unhealthy practices, many of which are destroying our environment and are not doing our bodies any favors. All of these practices are kept secret, hidden from the eyes of the public and even journalists until an investigator sneaks in to expose them. The good news is, with the growing access to different technology, taking a look at what is going on behind the scenes is getting easier.
Video footage from drones, taken above and all around the farms, is now the new way to get a sense of the situation, and many people are taking advantage of it. Anyone can get an access to a drone these days. This may soon become illegal nationwide, however.
In Texas, for example, House Bill 1643 went into effect on September 1st this year. It made it illegal to fly drones over oil and gas well pads, cell towers, and animal feeding operations.
Farmers claim that drone usage could be used to infect their livestock for disease. The bill’s critics say that it is a way to silence animal rights and environmental activist groups. For the investigative public, it also sound like a way to hide evidence for some of the bigger factory farms.
Because some of these factories do have a lot to hide.
In 2011, it was a drone that took aerial photos of something that looked strange – a creek full of blood. David Mimlitch, who was looking through this evidence, thought to himself “surely that can’t be legal” and told the authorities.
What was found was illegally dumped pig blood and waste from the Columbia Meat Packing Company, and a Dallas slaughterhouse into the Trinity River. The company and two executives were indicted by a grand jury on 18 counts, but they were later dropped. Columbia did have to close its slaughterhouse, but later reopened as a meat-packing facility.
This illegal activity on the farm would not be discovered if it was not recorded by a drone.
Smithfield Foods Farm Exposed
In a more recent footage, a similar practice was discovered used by the largest pork farming facility in the United States – Smithfield Foods, Inc. A drone footage shot an eagle-eye view of what seems like a four-times football-stadium sized “lake” full of blood. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that it is urine and feces from the pigs.
Secretly recorded by Mark Devries, this footage is a part of his investigative documentary on factory farming called “Speciesism: The Movie.” According to the movie review, it is full of “troubling revelations” of society’s denial, ignorance and indifference towards the treatment of animals as well as our environment.
As shown in the secret footage, Smithfield seems unmoved by harsh criticisms of its practices.
The video shows a row of long buildings where pigs are jammed together, unable to even move. Their feces are urine is flushed into an outside “pool.”
But it’s not just the animals that suffer. People pay a price for this practice too.
“…The pit will fill up, so it has to be emptied. And it’s emptied by spraying the liquid waste…If you are familiar with a garden sprayer, they are gigantic versions of that. They are making droplets of fine mist out of this liquid waste and that can drift downwind into the neighboring communities,” explains Dr. Steve Wing of University of North Carolina.
People living around the farm have to tolerate the horrible smell from the factory. It doesn’t just make people gag, it also carries health repercussions.
“There are a number of studies of asthma and asthma symptoms particularly in children near these facilities. Among adults there are reports of several types of upper respiratory symptoms. These pollutants are affecting blood pressure,” Dr. Wing said.
Communities around these factory farms are usually low-income families, who do not have the money or the resources to fight against a big corporation. They have to live inside, without fresh air, with doors and windows shut. Sometimes it sounds like it’s raining, but it is the factory sprayer.
“Children are being made sick…animals are being abused, and everyday people’s lives are ruined by the stench of cesspools in their backyards. Thousands of lakes of toxic waste must be among the most bizarre and disturbing environmental phenomena that I have ever confronted and they’ve been kept well hidden from the public for long enough,” said Speciesism: The Movie director Mark Devries.
Smithfield Foods’s response to the footage was brief and emotionless.
The company said all of the practices were done following regulation; all the permits are available to public; and that the farm appeared “clean and well maintained.”
Does it look clean to you?
Watch the segment about Smithfield Foods from the movie:
More farms exposed: