A picture of a tractor harvesting a crop field

The Smell of Money: Inside the Fight To Take On ‘Unbelievable’ Pig Farm Pollution

A new documentary has stirred up anger with its portrayal of a North Carolina community suffering as a result of pork factory toxic waste

October 25, 2023 | Source: The Guardian | by Radheyan Simonpillai

Rural residents in east North Carolina are being shit on. That’s the crude but literal way to put the very grave injustice captured in The Smell of Money, Shawn Bannon’s infuriating documentary about the harm committed by factory farming against humans, animals and the environment.

The film captures the toxic hog waste produced in North Carolina’s concentrated animal feeding operations, which is then sprayed across fields near people’s homes, producing a foul and debilitating stench that has severe health impacts. Longtime residents like Elsie Herring and Rene Miller (who spoke out in a Guardian investigation on the same issue) are among the few who resiliently stand their ground and continue to fight back. They do so despite police harassment, intimidation and other insidious attempts to silence them in a state where many citizens are employed by the same industry.

The main culprit in the film is Smithfield Foods, the pork producer behind Nathan’s Famous hotdogs and Healthy Ones cold cuts. The company’s slogan boasts “Good food. Responsibly.” According to The Smell of Money, Smithfield Foods is largely responsible for the 10 million hogs crowded into North Carolina feeding farms. They create over 10bn gallons of waste, which is poured into greenhouse gas emitting lagoons (again, full of shit) that also cause incredible environmental devastation when overflowing after a flood or hurricane.

“It’s so fucked up and unbelievable,” says Bannon, responding to how the mostly Black residents, whose ancestors lived on the same land since the days of slavery, are slowly being suffocated by pig feces, while most of the US ignores the problem.