In the past 10 years there have been many news stories that have documented the horrific problems associated with industrial hog production and its consequences in North Carolina. A number of these stories have appeared worldwide. In March of 2002, I had the honor of testifying about these matters before the US Congress. My testimony, given before the U.S. Senate Committee on Government Affairs, can be accessed at http://hsgac.senate.gov/031302dove.htm
The green area is where most of the hog factories are located
Hog production in North Carolina takes place in the worst possible place, the flood prone coastal plain. This area has a great deal of sandy soil and a high water table. To make it suitable for farming, a massive ditching system was built. This ditching drops the water table by promoting runoff. Without this runoff, much of this area would be too wet to farm.
One of many different kinds of signs posted throughout the Neuse estuary warning people of the consequences of coming in contact with the water.
Hog waste is extremely harmful to wetlands, streams, creeks and rivers. When hog waste gets into the water it can instantly kill fish and other small life forms that come into direct contact with it. Worse is the significant damage caused over time from the cumulative effect of the continuous runoff of the nutrients from hog factories and other sources, especially nitrogen and phosphorus. When these nutrients arrive at the estuaries, they settle out into the sediments. There they promote plant and animal life that is out of balance with the ecosystem. Nature out of balance is a dangerous force to deal with. Human illnesses, fish and other animal kills, ugly water, loss of fisheries, declining property values, loss of tourism are but a few of the consequences that result. In varying degrees, at different times, we have suffered through all of this and more. Pollution, especially that resulting from industrial hog production, has severely tarnished the reputation of North Carolina as a place of clean air and water--as a safe place to live, work and raise a family. It is a reputation many feel is justly deserved in light of the state's failure to take affirmative action to stop the massive pollution that comes from hog production and other sources.
Above, a waterman is pictured working his crab pots in the Neuse River. His livelihood and that of other fishermen is negatively impacted by hog pollution. The second picture was taken on August 31, 2003 along the shore of the Neuse River at Carolina Pines. On that day, more than 2,000,000 fish died as a result of low oxygen levels induced by nutrient pollution. The messages on the roadside signs are just two of the many that have regularly appeared critizing hog pollution. This sign is seen by more than 40,000 people each day who drive the busy 70 West Highway from Atlantic Beach to Raleigh, North Carolina. Many of the people who see this sign are tourists or newcomers searching for a place to live, work and retire. Its negative impact on such activities is clear.
This book details one of the consequences of nutrient pollution--Pfiesteria. This one-celled animal, so tiny a hundred thousand would fit on the head of a pin, produces a neurotoxin that is used to neutralize fish. It then sloughs the skin from the fish to get to its blood cells. Then it consumes the blood by sucking it out of the cell. It has been shown to eat human blood cells under laboratory conditions. Fishermen and others who frequent waters where Pfiesteria is active have been known to develop sores that do not heal, memory loss, impaired vision, immune system deficiency and respiratory problems. One the the world's leading medical journals, The Lancet, published the results of a Maryland study that documented these and other human health problems. The Maryland study took place during a Pfiesteria fish kill on a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay in 1996/1997. In the Neuse River, this killer vampire has been involved in many of the fish kills that have taken place since 1991. During this period more than one billion fish have died, most with open bleeding lesions covering their bodies.
And the Waters Turned to Blood is a book that also reports on the concerted effort of a number of North Carolina officials who tried to silence the scientist who discovered Pfiesteria, Dr. JoAnn Burkholder.
To learn more about Pfiesteria, its origin and destructive power, read the book and visit the website of Dr. Burkholder at www.pfiesteria.com.
The sores on the above fish and fishermen were the likely result of Pfiesteria attacks that occurred in the Neuse River. During the last major Pfiesteria event in the Neuse in September 1995, more than 20,000,000 fish died and scores of fishermen and residents complained of health problems. The state was forced to close the Neuse to fishing for approximately two weeks. The news related to this event traveled worldwide in just a matter of days. The consequences were severe. Fishermen were financially devastated, property values declined, tourism and development suffered and the state got a well deserved black eye.
The citizens of North Carolina, especially those from the coastal plain, have protested the hog industry practices for a long time (see picture above). When you have industrial hog production, you have something no one else wants. Quiet and friendly neighborhoods have been turned into battle zones. In North Carolina the hog industry has pitted family members against each other and otherwise caused citizen unrest throughout the areas where they are situated. In the picture below, local residents, including many local farmers, protested with weapons to stop a hog factory from coming to their community. Fortunately, this violent behavior did not escalate. The hog factory has, so far, not been built.
Cruelty to animals
Some say we must have industrial production of pigs in order to supply the market. That is not true. There are roughly 60,000,000 hogs in inventory in the US today, about the same as in 1915. What is different is that the industry has taken production away from the traditional family farmer. Now the profits from hog production are siphoned from the farming communities for the benefit of corporate executives and stockholders living in cities like New York and Los Angeles. Worse yet is the manner in which the animals are treated in the industrial process. Sows are forced, in most cases, to live in tiny cages, so small they cannot turn around. Most pigs never see the light of day or breathe fresh air. It is reported that the pig shown in this picture never received any veterinary care.
This website and all its pictures copyright protected 2003. If you wish to see other photographs or obtain copies of any of these pictures, please contact me at RDOVE@ec.rr.com