Justice is served: North Carolinians should not be required to sacrifice their health and well-being for the corporate factory farm next door.
A groundbreaking lawsuit filed by people living next to a factory hog farm in Bladen County, North Carolina against Murphy-Brown/Smithfield Foods was heard in federal court last month.
And the verdict is finally in: the jury awarded the 10 plaintiffs $50 million.
Summary of the Factory Farm Lawsuit
The jury found that Murphy-Brown “substantially and unreasonably interfered” with the plaintiffs’ use and enjoyment of their properties around Kinlaw Farms, which raises hogs under contract with Murphy-Brown.
This is what the actual complaint said:
“Plaintiffs have suffered episodes of noxious and sickening odor, onslaughts of flies and pests, nausea, burning and watery eyes, stress, anger, worry, loss of use and enjoyment of their property, inability to comfortably engage in outdoor activities, cookouts, gardening, lawn chores, drifting of odorous mist and spray onto their land, inability to keep windows and doors open, difficulty breathing and numerous other harms.”
It’s being referred to as a “nuisance” lawsuit, but it’s far worse than you can imagine. During the trial, an expert testified to finding bacteria from hog poop on 14 of the 17 homes located within a half mile of Kinlaw Farms.
Take a moment to consider that– bacteria from the 15,000 hogs raised on the industrial factory farm next door making its way to the walls of your home.
No More “Nuisance” Lawsuits Against Factory Farming in North Carolina
There are still seven more groups of lawsuits to go to trial. However, these will be the last “nuisance” lawsuits of their kind…. even though another 850,000 North Carolinians live within three miles of a factory hog farm. This is not because other people aren’t suffering, and not because other people aren’t deserving of justice.
No, these lawsuits will be the last of their kind because in 2017, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a terrible bill (House Bill 467, often called the “hog nuisance bill”). It stripped the citizens of North Carolina of the ability to use the court system to hold toxic and polluting hog farms accountablefor anything other than lost property values.
Governor Roy Cooper vetoed this bill, but the legislative supermajority, comprised of many members who receive robust campaign contributions from Big Pork, easily overrode his veto.
North Carolina Lawmakers Want to Protect Factory Farms from You
It’s bittersweet: the Kinlaw Farms lawsuit and the eight that will follow are both groundbreaking and the end of the road.
Across the country, and here in North Carolina, Big Ag spends lavishly to elect sympathetic politicians. As of 2017, according to The National Institute on Money in State Politics, the four original sponsors of the nuisance bill had raised $417,900 throughout their time in office from Big Ag—including $45,750 from the North Carolina Farm Bureau and $30,000 from the NC Pork Council. The North Carolina Farm Bureau gave $458,000 to the 2017 legislature; the North Carolina Pork Council gave $235,200.
Thanks to a legislature that is beholden to Big Pork, if the toxic and polluting factory farm next door makes you sick, makes your life unbearable, or causes you to lose income, you no longer have any recourse.
Our democracy is broken, and passage of HB 467 is a perfect example.
Corporations like Smithfield/Murphy-Brown use their economic and political power to influence elected officials and to buy public policy.
When corporate influence shapes public policy, corporate profits come ahead of people’s interests. And if our elected officials are carrying water for Big Pork, they certainly aren’t accountable to us, the citizens of North Carolina.
Corporate influence in our political system is one of the biggest threats to our health, environment, food, and water.
But we have a huge opportunity before us.
What You Can Do
2018 is an election year, and we can elect leaders who will be accountable to us and not to Big Pork. If you can vote, you have the political power to make our democratic process work for us. From local races, to races for the US House and Senate, you can vote for candidates who care about our issues and who refuse to take contributions from corporate polluters that put their profits over the health of our communities.
North Carolina’s primary is May 8th. If you can vote, join us on May 8. It’s the first step in taking back our democracy.