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Environmentalists Plan Lawsuit to End Corporate Control of Hog Farms

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RALEIGH — Environmentalists are taking aim at the hog industry, calling for industry-wide reforms. They came to Raleigh Wednesday to argue their case.

Environmentalists, family farm activists and animal welfare advocates have joined to fight the hog industry in the state.

Calling themselves the Water Keeper Alliance, the group says the government has failed to enforce violations of environmental laws. The group's president, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., says its new legal campaign is not about destroying the family farm.

"There's a fiction going on that this is about agriculture," he says. "In fact, the industry itself has spent millions of dollars on advertising portraying themselves as Old MacDonald's farm and the people who are engaged in this industry as family farmers.

"In fact, this is simply a way to discharge toxic industrial waste into the environment."

The lawsuit's plaintiffs say they want to eliminate corporations controlling huge hog farms, returning control to family farmers.

"Our General Assembly has not done things to protect poor and middle-class North Carolinians," says hog industry opponent Don Webb. "It has taken court action to get anything done. The hog pens are still stinking, and they're still polluting."

N.C. Pork Councilspokesperson Beth Ann Mumford says that the hog industry is the most heavily regulated in the state. She says farms are inspected twice a year.

In 1999, out of 6,000 farm inspections, 98 percent showed no measurable discharge.

The hog industry notes that they have taken steps recently to clean up their operations. In July, the world's largest hog producer,Smithfield Foods, agreed to payN.C. State University$15 millionto create new technologyto replace hog lagoons.

Within five years, Smithfield plans to use whatever system NCSU develops on all of its company-owned farms.


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