Reviewing the First 4 Hog Nuisance Trials--What You Need to Know

 As we’re waiting for the fifth trial to begin, let’s re-examine the first four trials.

Fact #1: The trials didn’t happen because an irritated neighbor drove to a local lawyer’s office, sat down and said, My neighbor’s hog farm’s a nuisance. I want to sue him. Instead, a group of lawyers came to North Carolina, knocked on hog farmers’ neighbors’ doors and said, ‘We’ll sue the hog farmer. We’ll pay the bills. You sign here and be a plaintiff. And if we win you’ll get part of the money.’ It proved to be an enticing offer. It’s why we have these lawsuits.

Fact #2: Oddly, no juror heard about that fact during the trials. The lawyers for the plaintiffs asked the judge to instruct Smithfield’s lawyers not to mention it to jurors. And the judge agreed. Why did that matter?During the Joey Carter farm trial,four of Carter’s neighbors testified for him. One told the jury: “It’s not what they say. There is not an odor, and I live so close to the farm I can hear the feeders run out in the hog house.” Another said: “We live next door. My wife and kids, we walk on the farm and near it. There’s no issue, no concern, no odor.” A third testified what was being said about Joey Carter’s farm did not make sense. And a fourth testified: “I hate to feel like an innocent man is going down.

A fifth witness, the local postwoman, told the jury, “I can’t tell you the last time I’ve smelled odor from the farm.” Day in and day out, that postwoman had delivered mail to Joey Carter’s farm – and she couldn’t recall the last time she smelled odor.

In addition, a respected scientist who’d done studies at Joey Carter’s farm had found no objectionable odor.

Two neighbors – who signed up for the lawsuits – testified against him.

But neither plaintiff was asked, You lived beside that hog farm for years but didn’t complain – then a lawyer knocked on your door and said, ‘We’ll sue the hog farmer. Join us, we’ll pay the bills and you could make money.’ Is the reason you’re suing to make money?

Wouldn’t that have gone straight to the heart of plaintiffs’ testimony? And their credibility? But no juror ever heard that question asked – or knew even it existed – because the Judge had ruled jurors shouldn’t be told that fact.

Part 2 of a 6 part series

Scaring the Pants Off People

There’s a lot of negative news and fear tactics being used these days, and some recent articles written by Lisa Sorg of NC Policy Watch are no exception. Ms. Sorg wrote two articles (one about a superbug alert & the other about a buy-out program) that utilizes fear tactics and puts a negative spin on the pork industry.On a hog farm somewhere in the U.S. – Ms. Sorg warns that a “wayward gene has… created a bacteria that is resistant to drugs.”Sounds like a nightmare. But is it?Ms. Sorg, an ally of the Waterkeepers, is writing about a report from Ohio State University. But, in fact, hog farmers across the nation voluntarily participate in Ohio State University’s studies for one reason: to help keep our food supply safe.Ohio State University also reported not a single pig “scheduled for slaughter carried the mutant genes.”So the system didn’t break down – it worked.But straining to find a crisis, spinning away, Ms. Sorg went on to report the wayward gene could “enter the food supply through raw meat.”Now think about that: How many people eat raw pork?Ms. Sorg doesn’t stop there with her reports on the hog industry, though. She wrote another article about swine farm buy-outs. What’s interesting about her latest broadside isn’t the story she tells – it’s her spin.Ms. Sorg starts out by reporting about a state program. Back in 1999, after Hurricanes Floyd, Dennis, and Irene the program set out to buy-out and close 42 hog farms located in the 100 year flood plain.Now one thing Hurricane Matthew proved is that the buy-out program and the state’s new regulations worked. During Hurricane Matthew, there wasn’t a leak or spill on 99.5% of NC’s hog farms, but Ms. Sorg didn’t mention that fact.Instead, she reports the state needs to buy-out more farms – to avoid a looming environmental disaster.That’s called pushing the panic button to scare people.And that’s how ‘spin’ works: You manufacture a crisis, leave out facts that say your nightmare isn’t real,  then try to scare the pants off people.pani