Documentaries about factory farms aren’t usually the best option if you're in the mood for a feel-good, fun-time flick. But they're tremendously important. Because while there’s no shortage of studies, reports and articles that describe the many problems created by industrial livestock production, it’s difficult to fully appreciate the severity of the impact without actually seeing a factory farm and hearing the stories of those whose lives it affects.
We watched the British documentary Pig Business a few weeks ago in the office during lunch. Although I wouldn’t say that the film enhanced anyone’s dining experience, it did provide an outstanding overview of the industrialization of hog production in the US and Big Pork’s subsequent efforts to replicate this deplorable model throughout the world.
The documentary highlights the current situation in Poland, where Smithfield is trying to build new pollution-spewing factory hog farms faster than you can say "Be Inspired." The bacon behemoth’s motivation for pursuing this strategy is that Poland is an economically depressed country where labor is cheap and environmental laws are lax. Moreover, EU bureaucrats are eager to dole out huge subsidies (big pork for Big Pork) to encourage "economic development," and local politicians are willing to bend over backwards to secure short-term revenue – even at great long-term cost to society. This lamentable approach is standard procedure for industrial livestock producers – just take a look at the distribution of factory farms in the US.
But the documentary ends on a positive note, emphasizing the consumer’s ability to effect change through responsible purchasing decisions – and as demonstrated by the Pig Business website, the film is intended to inspire action not only at the grocery store, but at the legislature as well.
You can watch the entire documentary online, or, if you happen to be in Washington, DC on Wednesday, you can catch a free screening of the film at the Capitol Building. Co-hosted by Pig Business and the Center for Food Safety in collaboration with Congressman Denis Kucinich, the screening will be followed by a panel discussion featuring an all-star lineup of experts:
- Robert Kennedy Jr. (Waterkeeper);
- Kathy Ozer (National Family Farm Coalition);
- Michael Greger (Humane Society of the United States);
- Andrew Kimbrell (Center for Food Safety) and
- Bev Eggleston (Virginia Pig Farmer, EcoFriendly Foods)
Pig Business on Capitol Hill – Event Information:
Date : Wednesday March 9, 2011
Time : 6:00-8:30 PM
Location : US Capitol Visitor Center, North Orientation Theater, Washington, DC. The main entrance is on the East front of the Capitol atFirst Street andEast Capitol Street,NE
The event is free and open to the public; find more details here.
Can’t make it to DC? Check out these resources about industrial hog production:
- Factory vs. Sustainable Pork Production: Two Videos, One Case for Transparency – Compare and contrast! Ecocentric Senior Editor Leslie Hatfield’s post about hog production includes a video of the industrial model, along with a companion video of a sustainable hog farm.
- The Price We Pay for Corporate Hogs – published by IATP in 2000, this comprehensive overview of the perils of industrial pork production remains relevant today.
- Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production – The Pew Commission published a series of in-depth reports about industrial livestock production. Of particular interest is the paper, An Economic Analysis of the Social Costs of the Industrialized Production of Pork in the United States.
- Socially Responsible Agricultural Project – Experts at the SRA Project have spent decades working to help communities protect themselves from the environmental and public health threats posed by factory farms; find their collection of hog resources here.