Lawyers Wrap Up Case Against Industrial-Scale Hog Producers in North Carolina

The Associated Press reported yesterday that, “Industrial-scale hog producers knew for decades that noxious smells from open-air sewage pits tormented neighbors but didn’t change their livestock-raising methods to keep production costs low, the lawyer for farm neighbors told jurors in a federal lawsuit Tuesday.

The first in a series of federal suits raising accusations of nauseating hog operations in eastern North Carolina headed to a 10-member jury after attorneys summarized the evidence presented at a three-week civil trial. The test case involved 10 neighbors of one, 15,000-hog operation producing an estimated 76 tons of waste per day.

“More than 500 neighbors in nearly two dozen lawsuits contend they have suffered for decades from open-air cesspools that afflict them with intense, putrid smells that can’t even be removed from clothing. The lawsuits targeted the hog-production division of Virginia-based Smithfield Foods, which uses strict contracts to dictate how farm operators raise livestock that Smithfield owns. Smithfield was bought in 2013 by China’s WH Group, the world’s largest pork producer.”

The AP article noted that, “Smithfield attorney Mark Anderson said it’s too soon to herald new technologies, which haven’t proven particularly effective in North Carolina. He told jurors the smells, traffic and noise don’t hurt neighbors’ ability to enjoy their own property. And before lawyers came looking for a payday, any complaints were negotiated by operators and neighbors between friendly greetings, he said.

“‘Why are they suing Smithfield? They’re suing Smithfield because Smithfield is a big company,’ said Anderson, who practices in Raleigh and New York City. Jurors should reject the plaintiffs’ ‘anti-agriculture, anti-corporation‘ rhetoric.”

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