sierra club

A Response to Sierra Club's, "Hog Hell"

hog hell

Meet Adam Skolnick  He’s a freelance writer from California. He didn’t study journalism but loved to travel, so he decided to “write my way around the world.”

 His travels recently brought him to Duplin County to write about North Carolina hog farms for the Sierra Club magazine. Most trips like this require a knowledgeable tour guide who knows the lay of the land, and that’s where poor Adam made his first mistake.

Rather than talk to a hog farmer or perhaps a professor of agriculture at NC State, Adam asked the Cape Fear Riverkeeper to be his guide. And when you rely on a guide with a knack for distorting the truth, you end up with an article that gets even the most basic facts wrong.

 In the very first paragraph, Skolnick describes the Duplin County landscape, including barns “built tall for drying tobacco, which along with rice… used to blanket this rich earth.”

 Huh? No one has grown rice in North Carolina since the 1800’s. Even then, it wasn’t much - and it certainly wasn’t grown in Duplin County.

 Adam Skolnick had made a mistake – and he was about to make another.

 He wrote that Smithfield Foods was once a “U.K.-Owned” company. But Smithfield Foods is located in Virginia, not England. It’s never been British owned.

 The blunders continued to pile up.

 He interviewed a local resident and listened to her explain that she never goes outside anymore because of the odor from nearby hog farms. It never occurred to him he was interviewing her on her front porch. Outside.

 He showed a hog farm in a video, then showed a sewage pipe spilling pollution into a stream. But the pipe had nothing to do with the hog farm. It wasn’t even on the farm.

 He wrote about odors from hog farms causing asthma, but official health reports show asthma rates in Duplin County are declining.

 And, of course, he repeated the Waterkeepers’ tale about hog lagoons failing during Hurricane Matthew. He never mentioned, if he even knew it, that more than 99.5% of the state’s lagoons had no leaks or spills.

 Adam Skolnick may have meant no harm. But he didn’t check the facts. And he fell for the Waterkeepers’ mantra about the evils of hog farming hook, line and sinker. Unfortunately, the Sierra Club magazine published it all.