North Carolinians Sue Over Pig Manure Lagoons

In 2013, when Shuanghui International bought Smithfield Farms, America’s largest producer, some in the U.S. raised environmental and food safety concerns about the takeover. Last year, the Center for Investigative Reporting produced a two-part series looking into the deal. Now, more than 500 residents near the sprawling pig farms in North Carolina have filed a suit against the company for toxic pig manure lagoons which they contend are damaging their environment and living standards. In response, lawyers for Shuanghui, which has changed its name to WH Group, have asked the judge to forbid the plaintiffs from mentioning the company’s connection to China in court. Nathan Halverson of the Center for Investigative Reporting writes:

One manure lagoon cited in the lawsuit captures 4.3 million gallons of feces, urine and flush water per year. To empty the lagoon, its foul-smelling sludge is sprayed on adjacent fields – creating a fine mist of feces, urine and water that neighbors complain blows onto their properties and homes. The lawsuit calls it a nuisance.

[…] Attorneys for the Chinese company, WH Group, don’t want any mention of China or the company’s plan to expand exports, calling the concerns “immaterial and impertinent.”

“Plaintiffs’ allegations are also scandalous and clearly designed to inflame the jury and the public,” attorneys said. “Even if true, the allegations contained in the objectionable paragraphs are completely irrelevant to plaintiffs’ claims.”

They have asked the judge to banish references to the Chinese owners and their efforts to expand pig farms and exports to China. [Source]

Video footage from a drone flying over the Smithfield properties shows the condition of the surrounding areas:

In 2006, seven years before Smithfield was purchased by Shuanghui, a report in Rolling Stone looked at the environmental impact of the company’s farming practices and said it, “churns out a sea of waste that has destroyed rivers, killed millions of fish and generated one of the largest fines in EPA history.”