Elsie Herring was a resident of Eastern North Carolina in the United States that fought tooth and nail against the big pork processors in Duplin County. Her grandfather as a former slave purchased tracts of land in the county for farming purposes. The Big Pork Megacorps mushroomed in Eastern North Carolina in the 1980’s and pig wastewater spraying began just across from her property or rather on her property which through deed manipulation Big Pork claimed as its own. Pigs generate many feces and much urine and generate a lot of flatulence. The feces and urine are channelled into lagoons. Much of it is sprayed onto fields creating a dangerous toxic spray. Some of it “leaks” out so Big Pork says. It is a cheap way for disposing of pig waste for Big Pork but it is a huge nuisance making life unpleasant for residents. It poisons residents, groundwater and waterways.
As Peter Finch yells in the movie “Network” and has citizens yell, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” Well the 1990’s saw residents in Big Pork contaminated areas fight back and eventually win massive multi billion dollar settlements against Big Pork. This documentary is a story of their fight.
One Smithfield Big Pork plant processes over 10,000 hogs a day. Truckloads of pigs pour into Eastern North Carolina leaving a trail of pig fumes. Not only that chicken farms compound the problem. Why is it that fisherman in lands adjacent to Big Pork start passing out? Why are so many residents becoming ill incurring massive legal bills?
North Carolina politicians on the whole favoured Big Pork as the biggest industry in North Carolina. Their unwavering support and callous disregard for Big Pork opponents is disgraceful. Big Pork’s opposition and harassment of opponents has labeled them the affectionate term “Pork Mafia”. Why is it the film crew in Big Pork territory was shadowed by no less than 5 police cars?
It was community activists that launched numerous class action lawsuits that wounded Big Pork. Perhaps the call to action intensified with Hurricane Florence in 2018 that killed millions of animals, flooded hog processing plants and caused 50 pig waste ponds to overflow with disastrous results.
Elsie died but the activism continues and Big Pork continues its way. As one Big Pork executive said the smell of pig shit is the smell of money.
One activist admonishes the American public for eating meat 24/7. Big Pork is fuelled by consumer demand.
I would be interested in a sequel dealing what if anything has changed after Big Pork lost so many class action lawsuits.
The documentary is part of Toronto Hots Docs Festival and can be seen at Hot Docs theatres on April 30 and May 3. It will stream (geoblocked to Canada) for 5 days commencing May 1st.
Directed and written by Shawn Bannon.
RKS Film Rating 88/100.