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Notices of Intent Served to Sue Pig Confinement Facilities

by 5m Editor
12 July 2012, at 11:39am

US - The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) served notice of its intent to sue 51 industrial-style intensive pig confinement operations located throughout Iowa, North Carolina and Oklahoma for unreported releases of the hazardous pollutant ammonia.

These facilities, in several of the top pork-producing states, were identified after The HSUS conducted months of research into an industry that has become heavily consolidated in recent years, with more than 90 per cent of family farms raising pigs going out of business in the last three decades.

According to the HSUS, it was no surprise to find that many of those receiving notice are affiliated with the leaders and spokespersons of the National Pork Producers Council, a trade group that defends confining pigs in cramped gestation crates.

The HSUS says that the crates are so restrictive that the animals cannot even turn around in them. Each of these operations confines thousands, if not tens of thousands, of pigs—with the females typically in gestation crates— and emits hundreds of pounds of airborne ammonia per day. As a result, they regularly endanger communities, farm animals, wildlife and the environment.

Some of the executives for the pork industry giants that received notices, such as the Maschhoffs and Iowa Select, also hold positions as executives and spokespersons for pork lobbying groups like the NPPC. In addition, many of the facilities receiving notice letters are controlled by Jack Decoster, whose operations have a long record of environmental, worker and food safety problems including the 2010 recall of 380 million eggs due to salmonella contamination.

While The HSUS recognizes there are farmers who are attentive to animal welfare and environmental issues, the letters sent today illustrate how some of the wealthiest pork-producing companies apparently refuse to comply with a critical federal law for public health protection.

“These intensive pig confinement operations are a menace to the environment, to the community, and to the animals virtually immobilized in tiny gestation crates for nearly their entire lives,“ says Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at The HSUS. “The National Pork Producers Council’s record on environmental degradation is just as sordid as its record on the systemic mistreatment of animals.“

The notice letters are required under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act before litigation can start, according to that statute’s citizen suit provisions.

The law requires all facilities that release certain amounts of harmful contaminants to report those amounts to state and local emergency response teams. The information provides the state, emergency responders and the local community with essential information about their exposure to hazardous substances, including ammonia.

Because of ammonia’s lethal potential, high production volume and chronic toxicity, the EPA requires reporting by any facility that releases more than 100 pounds within a 24 hour period. All of the operations put on notice today exceed this requirement, and in some cases by vast amounts.