A rare moment of honesty from a Waterkeeper

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The start of the new year brought with it another attack on North Carolina’s pork industry. This one arrived in the form of a 16-minute video from an online outfit called Vox. It produced the video with money from — surprise, surprise — an activist group staunchly opposed to animal agriculture.

Every couple of months, the activists who want to close our farms and drive up food prices peddle a false story to some unwitting media outlet. Vox is the latest to take the bait.

Less than forty seconds into the video, the producer hops into a small Cessna with a leader of the Waterkeeper Alliance. The airplane trip, the video explains, is necessary to really see the hog farms.

Otherwise, “you don’t even know they’re there,” says the Waterkeeper.

It’s a rare moment of honesty from the activist.

“You don’t even know they’re there.”

His goal is to make the case that our farms are hidden, or that something nefarious is taking place on farms shielded from view.

But the location of every permitted hog farm in North Carolina is well-known and documented. You can find them on Google, or by driving through the beautiful Eastern North Carolina countryside. It’s true that not all hog farms are easily visible — most were built on family land along the back roads, and many are buffered by trees and forests (which is an industry best practice, by the way).

And, as the Waterkeeper says, “you don’t even know they’re there.” We know there aren’t strong odors to give away the location, so as the activist explains, you have to take to the air to see the pinkish lagoons situated on the farms.

The video goes on to make all sorts of astounding accusations about our farms. From the “brutal” practice of raising pigs indoors to unfounded air and water quality concerns that ignore the findings of a 15-month air quality study conducted by the state and overlook the persistent water quality threats posed by massive spills from municipal wastewater treatment plants.

Vox makes passing mention of reforms implemented more than 25 years ago — reforms that North Carolina environmental officials have affirmed to be the toughest regulations in the nation for manure management. Since then, farmers have gotten smarter and better as well (something that Vox didn’t acknowledge).

The result of those improvements?

We continue to provide food, affordably.

We continue to provide good jobs, particularly in rural areas that need them.

And we have done so for decades now, sustainably, week after week, month after month, year after year. All the while, activists continue searching for another young journalist they can dupe.