Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Smithfield Threatens Documentary makers Over ‘Pig Business”

A documentary about Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations-CAFO’s due to be shown this coming Sunday at the Guardian Hay festival in London England is facing legal action by the company it criticizes, Smithfield Foods.

Smithfield denies its alleged responsibility for environmental pollution and health problems among residents near its factories.

The film was due to be broadcast on Channel 4 in February but was cancelled because of legal fears. A planned screening at the Frontline Club in London earlier this year was also called off.

Each cancellation emboldens Smithfield to keep fighting to keep it from the public. Residents near the factories could come forward and either validate or discredit the film.

Pig Business shows the cramped conditions in which pigs are reared, similar to those of battery hens, and claims that waste is inadequately disposed off, leaking into the surrounding environment.

Filmmaker Tracy Worcester, pictured here, interviewed people who live near Smithfield farms in the US, where the company started out, who complain of health problems including asthma and digestive illnesses, and fishermen who report that stocks have been destroyed.

The film documents the company's move to Poland, where locals claim to experience similar health problems.

Worcester, who spent four years making the film, said: "It's crucial that consumers are able to watch this so they know what is being done to their food."

Smithfield's poor environmental record was documented in Felicity Lawrence's book Eat Your Heart Out, where she notes that the company was fined $12.6m for illegally discharging pollutants into the Pagan river in Virginia. There is no reason to believe the company ‘cleaned up its ways’.

Since Smithfield is fighting this so arduously, there is probably some truth to what the documentary is trying to get out to us. The funny thing, those of us who have followed CAFO’s already now how damaging they are to our environment. So why is Smithfield fighting so hard to keep it from us? They think the general public is too easily swayed by whatever someone puts in front of them. They don’t give the public credit for thinking for themselves.

The thing Smithfield needs to learn is that the internet can spread the truth without any of their lawyers interfering.

Facts about CAFO’s:
Facts about CAFOs, Local Control, and Health Ordinances
Facts about CAFOs by Sierra Club, Michigan Chapter
CAFOs – Economics, emotion and passion

Photo credit: Guardian News and Media Limited