Monday, March 8, 2010

That Stinks!

Fifteen people living near a Missouri Hog "Factory" Farm won an $11 million dollar verdict according to the Kansas City Star.  This is the second time Premium Standard Farms has been hit with multi-million dollar judgments over the stench created by it's farm operations.  Excerts from Karen Dillon's article follow (warning: this is pretty nauseating stuff:)

Farmers near a Missouri factory farm said pig odors nauseated them, forcing them to stay indoors with the windows shut.

An expert testified he had been to the slums of Calcutta, India, and had never seen anything like the cesspits and maggots on the farm 80 miles north of Kansas City.  On Thursday, a Jackson County jury awarded 15 people $11 million after deliberating about eight hours.

Officials for Premium Standard Farms, which owns the Gentry County operation, said in a prepared statement that they were disappointed by the verdict and that they would appeal.  The Kansas City-based company added that the verdict threatened its plans in the state, saying: 'In light of this decision and in view of the continuing hostile environment toward live hog production, we have serious concerns whether we will ever make any future investments in the state of Missouri.'

The case was the second time the 15 plaintiffs have sued Premium Standard over odors. The first time, in 1999, they were among a total of 52 farmers who received $5.2 million total, or $100,000 each. They sued again because the odor problems haven’t been fixed, said Charlie Speer, the Kansas City attorney representing them.

Several are fifth-generation farming families. They testified that the odors and swarms of flies sometimes drove them indoors. The situation made it hard to invite people over for barbecues or picnics, they said.

One woman who sold Mary Kay cosmetics said she couldn’t have parties at her house. The daughter of one couple testified she couldn’t play outside as a child when the odors rolled in.  After a monthlong trial, the jury on Thursday gave 13 plaintiffs $850,000 each. The 14th plaintiff received $250,000 because she and her husband, who still farms the land, live elsewhere. The daughter of one couple, the 15th plaintiff, now lives in St. Joseph and received $75,000.

'We were prepared for whatever they decided,' said Stan Berry, one of the plaintiffs. 'I think it would be advantageous for them to (fix the problem), but I don’t know if they will do it.'

Some of the most descriptive testimony came from a video of a cesspit and the plaintiffs’ expert witness, Robert Lawrence, a medical doctor with the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The cesspit, which is a holding tank for pig manure, urine and afterbirth, is one of 50 on the factory farm that houses 200,000 pigs annually.

'This is fly heaven,' Lawrence testified. At one point, he apologized to the jury: 'I’m sorry. This is really disgusting.' Lawrence said he has been to Calcutta, South Africa and Southeast Asia, but 'I have never, ever observed anything as extreme as the cesspits.' The cesspits are supposed to be covered, but not all are, Lawrence told the jury. This cesspit has a mat of flies and maggots that is at least 6 inches deep, he said.  At the center of the cesspit, the crust thins and there is a 'constant belching-up' of chemicals from the pig waste, sending odors into the air, he told the jury. Trillions of maggots lead to trillions of 'filth flies,' Lawrence said."
Ah, our conscientous corporate neighbors.  By the way, these are the sorts of folks who are buying your judges, and reforming your tort laws for you.


  1. In the meantime, blessedly, the pigs weren't subjected to smell of the neighbors' barbeques.

  2. As Shylock says, "Some men there are that love not a gaping pig..."

    Or presumably, the smell of a living one. Reading stories like these makes me glad I don't indulge in swine-flesh.

  3. Eating is something so instinctual, (duh!) but boy has it become problematic in our lifetime! I still eat meat, but my entire life has been one big move towards a diet of fruit and vegetables.

    Unfortunately in our western civilization we are constantly creating these illusions about what we do to feed ourselves (hamburgers are not Elmore or Bessie), we protect ourselves, (predator drones run from airbases in Las Vegas are not killing,) executing our brothers and sisters is not state sanctioned homicide.