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Hurricane Florence and the unbelievable truths

When pigs fly: Hurricane Florence and the unbelievable truths

Hurricane Florence has wreaked havoc in North and South Carolina. 500,000 homes and businesses are without power,25 people are dead and hog manure pits have spilled into the floods causing pollution.

The average pig farm facility hosts around 80,000 pigs. Their waste must go somewhere. So farmers build huge lagoons, a low-tech pond right next to hog houses. The waste is flushed there.

North Carolina is an eastern coastal plain region, prone to flooding. So why would you put in huge lagoons there? It’s not sensible. It’s reckless. It’s almost unbelievable.

The face of the Anthropocene is ugly. The Anthropocene is a period when human activity is having the dominant effect on the Earth's geology and ecosystems, including weather patterns.

Extreme weather events such as flooding and hurricanes are hallmarks of climate change. This can tip environmentally problematic practices such as factory farms over the edge.

In 1999 Hurricane Floyd hit North Carolina and images appeared on media sites showing pigs splayed on the top of the very buildings designed to incarcerate them. They floated up there with the rising floods.

Recent reports indicate that millions of chickens and thousands of pigs have died in the waters of Hurricane Florence.

Let’s face it – they were never going to get out of there with their lives. Those pigs were doomed from the beginning to end up as bacon – their ending was never going to be pleasant.

The pictures of the pig’s final bid for freedom, swimming in the waters polluted with their own excrement should have been be enough to wake us up.

We should have seen the recklessness and indifference that the global market-based economic growth model is having on our environment, human well-being and animals’ lives.

In short, we should have realised our pigeons have come home to roost (well pigs on top of factory farms at any rate).

However, pig farms in North Carolina are as strong as ever. There have been exponential increases in global demand for pork products, which has been behind the densely packed pig farms in North Carolina.

The huge industrial scale pig farms in North Carolina are unsustainable, one of the many agricultural practices stripping future generations of the promise of a world worth living in.

Just when you thought it could not get any worse, another layer emerges. The hog industry in North Carolina is in a region called the “Black Belt” . Historically, this area was home to the salves trade, and after emancipation slaves made this their home. Gary Grant, president of Black Farmers Association, argues that these hog farms are an environmental injustice.

Global environmental impacts from our food production systems are irreversibly shaping our lives. The Earth provides what sustainability advocates call ecosystem services . These are the benefits humanity obtain from ecosystems, including food and water and the regulation of weather.

Our ecosystems have altered dramatically since we began farming animals on an industrial scale. Recent research shows that 86 % of all land mammals are now livestock or humans. Through grazing and feedcrop production, livestock take up 30 % of ice – free productive land. In addition , farming livestock contribute a large proportion of greenhouse gases.

The scale of livestock production globally is impacting ecosystem services. It is also creating the bizarre occurrence of pigs on roofs. They speak a truth that is as unbelievable as it is dire.

They didn’t fly there, but they may as well have for all the notice we take. We need to wake up and urgently address the environmental, animal and human costs of animal agriculture.


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