Iowa Public Television


Riverkeepers Target Big Pork

posted on December 14, 2001

In past weeks state governments along with environmental and citizen groups have won significant legal settlements against large-scale pork operations. In recent days hefty fines have been levied on pork operations found guilty of violating environmental regulations. Most of the fines were attributable to the improper handling and disposal of manure.

The simple fact is large-scale animal confinement operations, A.K.A. CAFOs, remain one of largest sources of rancor in Rural America. Not surprisingly they have also become the focus of a broad and well-financed coalition that seeks to end their existence.

Riverkeepers Target Big Pork

Increasingly, environmental groups are targeting livestock producers, and particularly the pork industry, as polluters.

In September, a grass roots environmental group known as The Waterkeeper Alliance won a major environmental decision in North Carolina, against the nation's largest pork producer, Smithfield Foods.

Last week, The leadership of the Alliance was in Minnesota warning citizens of other states of the pitfalls of large-scale pork production.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: "This industry has been coming to states like Minnesota and Illinois for years and saying we have the state of the art in North Carolina, we know how to do it best, we know how to produce hogs in that

state and to do it economically and to do it efficiently.

We're here to tell you that it's nothing but trouble."

Led by its founder and President Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the Alliance has quickly become a powerful force for environmental change. The group maintains that the protection and enjoyment of a community's natural resources requires the daily vigilance of its citizens.

The organization has assembled an all-star cast of law firms, and launched a broad based legal assault on the pork industry, alleging among other things that large-scale pork producers, like Smithfield Foods, are willfully violating the law.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: "Every one of these facilities is in violation of the law. It is an outlaw industry and we just got a federal court decision in North Caroline that says exactly that. The judge said that every one of these CAFO's or concentrated animal feed operations requires, needs a Clean Water Act permit in order to operate. Well, there's not a single one of these facilities in Minnesota that has that permit. "

Kennedy alleges that Smithfield is in direct violation of "The "Racketeer influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act." Better known as RICO.

One of the contentions of the suit against Smithfield is that the operation is funded by its illegal pollution-based profits.

By willfully violating environmental laws as part of its business strategy, Kennedy alleges Smithfield is unlawfully shifting the cost of handling its pollution to the American public.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.: "You've got to comply with the law. And even though you've been able to buy off the state agencies and the federal agencies and paralyze enforcement, there is a day of reckoning coming. We are going to go after every single one of these operations until they're all in compliance with the law and they can not make money while they're complying with the law under the current way of doing business."

Tags: agriculture courts industry livestock meat news pigs pork