From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1996:

Pork barrel politics came into the American lexicon
through the political campaigns of North Carolina-born lawyer and
war hero Andrew Jackson, U.S. President 1829-1837, who helped
Tennessee break off from North Carolina and then built a political
empire by allegedly passing out salt pork at the polls.
Off the pig! popped up in the 1960s. In inner city slang,
it meant “kill the police,” but when ANIMAL PEOPLE asked
activists at the recent Midwest Animal Liberation Conference if
they recognized it, none under age 35 did. They guessed, instead,
that it had something to do with living downwind or downstream of
a hog farm.
In the old days, before antibiotics, almost every farm
kept a hog or two, who ate slops––a mixture of kitchen wastes and
barnyard offal––and wallowed at will in a mucky outdoor pen.
Hardly anyone imagined that hybrid corn, motor vehicles, and
penicillin might make possible the use of standardized methods in
rearing the creatures who inspired the expression, “Independent as
a hog on ice.”

“As recently as 1959,” Marty Strange and Liz Krupicka
wrote in their pioneering expose of factory farming It’s Not All
Sunshine And Fresh Air (1984), “hogs were produced on more than
half the farms in America. At the same time, large-scale hog production
was not practical, partly because the animal is susceptible
to communicable diseases when crowded in close facilities. The
introduction of antibiotics helped control these diseases, while
other powerful factors, especially rising land values, made it desirable
to move the hog indoors.”
The only independent hogs in the U.S. these days are the
ferals running amok in parts of the rural south, California, and
Hawaii, whose ancestors bolted to freedom decades ago. At that,
independent hogs may soon outnumber independent hog farmers.
Contract growers accounted for a full fourth of U.S. hog production
in 1994, up from 16% in 1991. Many of the remaining independents
are longtimers, apt to sell out and retire soon. Soaring feed
prices caused by a fodder corn shortage, the
result of adverse weather last year, is accelerating
the exodus.
The contractors taking over the
market tend to be fast expanding conglomerates:
54 of the 66 producers, each turning
out 50,000-plus hogs per year. The amazing
part is that 12 independents have raised
enough ante to stay in the game.
Increasing profits drive the growth.
Contracting enables business people to manage
the business of hogs while farmers farm,
a division of labor that helped bring Missouri
hog farmers an average 18% return on investment
during the 1980s; the most successful
third earned 29%. Back when farmers generally
did their own management, struggling to
outguess the weather and the banks, it was
said that the way to make a small fortune
farming was to start with a large fortune.
You don’t hear that now about Boss Hog.
Traditional hog farming moved
closer toward extinction at the end of 1995,
when Philadelphia ended a half century of
paying farmers to truck away food waste.
The 18 farmers in the program collected $246
a ton, nearly twice the $132 a ton paid to
regular garbage haulers. Hogs reputedly once
ate half the Philadelphia trash. Recently,
their contribution was seen as just eating $1.6
million a year from the city treasury.
Manure summit
The end of slop-collecting in
Philadelphia came as Republican presidential
candidates proclaimed their hog-related concerns
at the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s
annual conference. T i m e put pigs on the
cover of the March 18 edition, just two
months after U.S. News & World Report gave
it a four-page spread. Even Hollywood got
into the act, as the film B a b e, about a
sheep-herding pig who tries not to be slaughtered,
was nominated for an Academy
Economic issues including that
each mega-farm job replaces three small-farm
jobs are all-important to people actually in
the hog business. The cruelty with which
hogs are raised appalls people who care about
animals, including Babe viewers unaware as
yet that pigs are castrated and have their teeth
clipped without anesthetic, two details the
film omitted. But it’s manure really hitting
the fan. The June 20, 1995 spill of 900,000
gallons of slurry in Sampson County, North
Carolina, followed a day later by a 25 million-gallon
spill into the New River in nearby
Onslow County stunk out America.
Reportedly killing all aquatic life from
Richlands to Jacksonville, 17 miles apart,
the New River spill could have filled two oil
tankers the size of the Exxon Valdez, killed
10 million fish, closed 364,000 acres of wetlands
to shellfish collecting, and shut down
whole sectors of the sport fishing and tourism
trades. The New River spill came from just
one 10,000-hog site, Oceanview Farms.
Dramatic as the New River spill
was, it was not a first. The North Carolina
Division of Environmental Management had
cited 250 hog operations for polluting in the
previous 10 years. Even disaster on the New
River scale was presaged in Quebec shortly
after the separatist Parti Quebecois government
took office for the first time in 1976,
planning to promote economic independence
by taking over the global markets for hydroelectric
and nuclear energy, asbestos, and
pork. By 1980, the nuclear and asbestos
industries had collapsed, while rivers choked
with hog slurry from a series of small spills,
deliberate dumping, and runoff from
manure-saturated fodder corn fields forced
the diversion of hydroelectric revenues from
further economic development to the belated
construction of water treatment plants. Parts
of the Yamaska River, a major tributary to
the St. Lawrence providing drinking water to
several cities, at times contained more slurry
than water.
On August 28, 1995, disaster hit
again in Green Castle, Missouri. Over the
next 34 days, six leaks from manure storage
lagoons serving an 8,800-hog facility owned
by Premium Standard Farms, the state’s
largest producer, and two more leaks from a
farm owned by Continental Grain killed an
estimated 267,000 fish in tributaries of the
Grand and Chariton rivers.
“The number nearly equalled the
total of fish killed from animal-waste runoff
in all Missouri streams between 1983 and
1993,” reported Terry Ganey of the St. Louis
That brought talk of action, including
an unprecedented “manure summit” in
Kansas City, at which 13 hog industry critics
talked slurry with 45 hog farmers and other
industry representatives.
“It’s encouraging,” observed Henry
Spira of the Coalition for Non-Violent Food,
“that more environmental groups are now
protesting the damage caused by mega hog
factories. Many environmentalists have spent
too much time trying to save the world from
plastic plates while ignoring the meat served
on them. An ounce of vegetarianism may be
worth a pound of environmental clean-up.”
The “manure summit” was followed
by a similar “hog summit” in New
Bern, North Carolina, at the end of
February, at which public officials acknowledged
their impotence against Boss Hog and
critics of the industry proposed regulations
with slim chance of ever being enacted.
It was small consolation to neighbors
of foul-smelling streams and ditches that
similar regulatory failures occur in other
states and other branches of agribusiness,
too. For instance, a third of the 508 dairy
farms in the Florida Parishes district of
Louisiana are reportedly in violation of
manure handling regulations––and after 30
farms ceased producing in 1995 rather than
clean up their mess, politically savvy office
holders are reluctant to push other farmers
who threaten to go out of business, taking
jobs with them.
Pork barrel politics
The Quebec hog industry collapsed
as quickly as it was created, because
Americans not only adopted the same factory-based
model of production, but did it on
grander scale. As far back as 1969, 6,600
mega-farms, marketing more than 1,000
hogs each, visibly cut into the U.S. pork
market. But there were still 597,600 farms
marketing fewer than 1,000 hogs apiece, the
official USDA cutoff point between “small”
and “big.”
Today, there are four times as
many mega-farms, but only 160,400 farms
still marketing under 1,000 hogs apiece. And
today’s mega-farmers have mega-clout with
pork barrel politicians. Exemplifying the
trend is first-term U.S. Senator Laugh
Faircloth of North Carolina, who on
November 8, 1994 became chair of the
Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee
on clean air, wetlands, private
property, and nuclear safety. What senior
North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms owes to
tobacco industry support, Faircloth owes to
bigtime hog farming, holding a majority
interest in nine corporate hog operations,
selling about 140,000 hogs per year.
In all, Faircloth holds an estimated
$19.8 million worth of hog farming interests,
$100,000 to $140,000 worth of which were
not reported in the financial disclosure statement
he signed on becoming a Senator.
Among Faircloth’s holdings are more than $1
million invested in the Lundy Packing
Company, of Clinton, North Carolina, and
another $1 million plus worth of stock in
Cohairie Hog Farm, a partnership which in
turn owns up to a quarter million dollars of
Lundy stock. In May 1993 the National
Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
discovered that 43 of 154 Lundy workers
tested, among 900 employees, showed “evidence
of significant exposure” to brucillosis,
a livestock disease that causes stillbirths, and
is normally transmitted to humans so rarely
that only 105 human cases were reported
nationwide in all the preceding year. North
Carolina Department of Public Health veterinarian
Lee Hunter traced every human case in
the state to Lundy’s for three straight years
before NIOSH became involved.
Responded Faircloth, “You are
dealing with a mean union,” the United Food
and Commercial Workers. “They have made
ridiculous charges and held a lot of meetings
to try to excite the employees.”
Faircloth repays his economic debt
to hog farming with interest. On October 27,
1994, Faircoth and 15 other U.S. Senators
asked then-Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy
to approve subsidies of up to $20 million to
help facilitate the sale of 20,000 metric tons
of U.S.-produced pork to member states of
the former Soviet Union. Espy ratified the
deal eight days later.
Earlier in 1994, reviewing reauthorization
of the Clean Water Act as a member
of the Senate Environment and Public Works
Committee, Faircloth introduced a bill to
reduce the fines levied against farmers who
pollute wetlands; tried to cut off federal
funding for a wetlands pollution monitoring
project; and tried to make it more difficult
for citizens to sue alleged agricultural polluters.
Faircloth’s own holdings include 105
acres of USDA-designated wetlands; another
450 undesignated acres that University of
North Carolina-at-Asheville soil scientist
Kevin Moorhead has stated are wetlands,
based on a topographical assessment; and 61
acres that Moorhead thinks might also be
Yet the Senate ethics committee on
February 23, 1995 ruled in response to a letter
from Faircloth that he was not in violation
of conflict of interest standards.
In June 1995, Faircloth and eight
other Senators introduced an even more
aggressive bill to roll back wetlands
protection, prompting the Natural
Resources Defense Council to issue a
16-page briefing paper entitled H o g
Wash: Factory Farm Giveaways in
Clean Water Act Proposals. The outcome,
with the Clean Water Act reauthorization
still pending, is uncertain.
Faircloth follows in the tradition
of Wendell Murphy, founder and
chair of Murphy Family Farms, producers
of 550,000 hogs per year via 600
separate contract operations. Annual
sales exceed $200 million.
Murphy got into hog farming
in 1962, then used his wealth to win
election to the North Carolina legislature
in 1982. He served three terms in
the state House, followed by two terms
in the state Senate. He retired from
public office in February 1992, two
and a half weeks before the Kinston
Free Press reported that he had been
questioned in a probe of “alleged irregularities”
in the campaign finances of
another former North Carolina state
senator, Harold Hardison.
While in politics, Murphy
squelched efforts to limit the size of
hog farms, to increase their distance
from residential areas, and to more
firmly regulate mega-farms.
Added a June 1992 expose in
Southern Exposure, “Murphy also used
his power in the legislature to funnel
public money to North Carolina
State––his alma mater––which supplies
the hog industry with valuable research
and technical assistance…The animal
research program at NCSU has also
been supportive of Murphy. Many
graduates and staff members from the school
have gone to work for Murphy, and agricultural
extension employees from NCSU have
traveled from county to county to speak in
support of large-scale operations like
Despite Murphy’s departure, the
influence of the hog industry in the North
Carolina legislature has only grown. One
week before the New River spill, the
Charlotte Observer reported, “Senate
Democrats, who narrowly control the chamber,
were chauffeured to Charlotte for a
fundraiser aboard corporate jets owned by
three of the nation’s leading pork producers
and an industry lobbyist.”
Then, the very week of the New
River spill, the North Carolina House Health
and Environment Committee killed a state
senate bill that would have increased the
buffer zone between homes and new hog
farms to one quarter mile. Earlier, the committee
killed a bill to allow municipalities to
regulate the location of hog farms through
zoning laws. The committee has been
chaired since January 1995 by Representative
John Nichols (R-Craven), who is himself the
majority owner of a large hog farm––who
claims he had no role in either vote.
After the spill, the North Carolina
House quickly approved some restrictions on
the siting of new hog farms and slurry
lagoons, but killed efforts to limit the expansion
of existing hog farms, enlarge buffer
zones around water sources, and tighten antipollution
“There’s an industry out there that
we need to help,” said Representative Billy
Richardson (D-Cumberland).
Similar politics seem to be in effect
in Missouri, among other states where Boss
Hog prevails. On October 19, 1995, the
Ozark Chapter of the Sierra Club dramatized
the frequent appearance of conflicts of interest
at the University of Missouri by complaining
to the university board of curators
that six officials of the university’s college of
agriculture “stepped way over the line” in the
words of chapter director Ken Midkiff, by
testifying in public hearings against stronger
clean water regulations.
There are now two million fewer
hogs in Missouri than the 7.5 million there
were 20 years ago. Now, though, the hogs
are concentrated at fewer sites. The 1995
spills, for instance, came as Continental
Grain was building a four-county, 20,000-
sow complex to rival the 35,000-sow complex
Murphy runs nearby.
Missouri state representative Phil
Tate (D-Gallatin) was quick to argue that the
problems at the leaking hog farms could be
regulated out of existence––and wouldn’t
occur at the new Continental Grain facilities,
some of which will create jobs in his district.
But compliance with regulations
doesn’t necessarily mean much. The
Oceanview Farms spill occurred from an 18-
month-old lagoon that was the first in North
Carolina to be certified safe according to federal
design specs.
Strange vision
Along with Jim Mason, who
sounded one of the first alarms about intensive
confinement husbandry in A n i m a l
Factories (1980), Marty Strange can say he
saw the problems of bigtime hog production
coming. His initial concerns, however, were
economic. After that came worker health.
Warned Strange in one prescient
passage of It’s Not All Fresh Air And
S u n s h i n e , “The confinement system produces
an environment which can be hazardous
to the health of both animals and
workers. Much of the problem lies in the
design of the buildings, which have allowed
crowding to minimize facility cost per animal,
mechanized to move feed without much
labor, and built over manure pits to reduce
the cost of handling animal waste. All this
produces an environment frequently choked
with dust, odorous gases, and bacteria.”
Kelley Donham and Kim Gustafson
were even farther ahead in a pair of 1982
papers on Human Occupational Hazards
From Swine Confinement and R e s p i r a t o r y
Disease Hazards of Swine Confinement.
They wrote, “There is sufficient evidence to
predict permanent lung damage may develop
in a number of confinement workers within
the next 10 to 15 years if intervention to
improve the work environment is not
employed in the relatively near future.”
In September 1995 the University
of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine
unveiled a $6,000 swine confinement chamber
designed to help investigators study a
rapid rise in respiratory ailments among both
hog farm help and hogs themselves.
“At slaughter,” explained
researcher Rika Jolie, DVM, “we are finding
chronic pneumonia lesions in 40% of
market hogs as well as atrophic rhinitis
lesions––inflamation of the snout––in 70% of
the hogs. Our study will investigate whether
airborne contaminants, like dust, mold, bacteria,
and their toxins predispose pigs for
these diseases.”
Antibiotics mixed into feed keep
disease from keeping hogs off the market,
but have had another effect, too––which
scarcely anyone saw coming. The potential
longterm risk to humans caused by routine
prophylactic use of antibiotics on hog, cattle,
and poultry farms got just one sentence in the
first edition of Animal Factories, for
instance, though Mason devoted pages to the
comparatively minute risks posed by residues
of antibiotics and other veterinary drugs getting
into meat and milk. The 1990 updated
edition said little more about the matter.
One of the first strong alerts came
from Dr. Stuart Levy of Tufts University,
who warned in his 1992 book The Antibiotic
Paradox that, “Antibiotic usage has stimulated
evolutionary changes unparalleled in
recorded biologic history.” Even within 100
miles of Tufts, however, Levy’s alarm drew
less note than the attempt of a nearby school
board to forbid the teaching of evolution.
Yet less than two years later,
microbiologist Alexander Tomasz of
Rockefeller University warned the 1994
annual meeting of the American Association
for the Advancement of Science that the
longterm effects of prophylactic antibiotic
applications appear to be “nothing short of a
medical disaster.”
The staph research staff at the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
quickly backed him up, as did researchers
around the world––but especially in the U.S.,
where farm use of antibiotics is all-pervasive.
Explained the March 7, 1994 edition of
N e w s w e e k, “Antibiotics in farm animals
leave behind drug-resistant microbes in meat
and milk,” much more deadly than the
antibiotic residues if they manage to reproduce.
“With every burger and shake, supermicrobes
pour into your gut. There, they can
transfer drug resistance to bacteria in the
body, making you vulnerable to previously
treatable infections.”
Said CDC researcher Mitchell
Cohen, “Many of the diseases we thought we
had under control are coming back.”
Three weeks later, N e w s w e e k
described in depth how medical science isn’t
developing new antibiotics and alternative
treatments fast enough to deal with the fastemerging
resistant bacterial strains. Fourteen
of the 15 major types of antibiotics no longer
work against the microbes that cause staph
infections, causing doctors to fear a return to
the pre-antibiotic mortality rate of up to 80%
for diseases which with effective antibiotics
were usually cured.
Seven types of antibiotic no longer
help against pneumonia, once a common
killer, now relatively rarely life-threatening.
“For sheer overprescription,” said
Newsweek, “no doctor can touch the
American farmer. Farm animals receive 30
times more antibiotics, mostly penicillins
and tetracyclines, than people do. The drugs
treat and prevent infections. But the main
reason farmers like them is that they also
make cows, hogs, and chickens grow faster
from each pound of feed.”
Ironically, even vegetarianism
can’t totally protect anyone against the supermicrobes,
once at large. They can attack
through the air, the water, the soil, or the
most fleeting touch. But a healthier diet may
better equip society to resist them.

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