Healing Our World: Who's Hogging the Values?

By Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D.

Who’s Hogging the Values?

Hear me, four quarters of the world - a relative I am!
Give me the strength to walk the soft earth,
a relative to all that is!

--Black Elk

The world’s third largest hog farm will be located on tribal land in a remote Indian reservation in South Dakota, further diminishing Native American values, the sovereignty of states, and providing another example of the eroding confidence in some tribal leaders. Those concerned with the humane treatment of farm animals will also be troubled to learn that 869,000 hogs per year will be housed in 232 barns in this massive factory farm.

pig

Pig awaiting slaughter (Photo courtesy Humane Farming Association)
Many believe that this $105 million factory farm was hurried through the political process with virtually no concern for the environmental, humane or social issues involved.

The Rosebud Indian Reservation, home of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe - or the Lakota - is located on 950,000 acres in South Central South Dakota. More properly known as Sicangu (Burnt Thigh), the Rosebud Sioux are from the Teton Lakota band of the Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires). In fact, the words Rosebud and Sioux are not even part of the tribe’s language.

Rosebud is the name for the federal agency created for the Sicangu people in 1877, named because of the abundance of wild rosebuds that grew there. "Sioux" is derived from the French spelling of the Ojibwa word Nadowisiwug which means "little snakes or enemy." The U.S. government officially recognized the Lakota as "Sioux" in 1825 and has applied this alien term to the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota tribes ever since. Such is the tangled history of our relationship with the first peoples of this land.

Many Sicangu creation stories trace the nation's birth to the Black Hills of South Dakota. But the sweeping prairie and land considered sacred by the tribe is soon to be blighted by a 1,200 acre facility consisting of 312 cavernous buildings. The first phase of the project will have 24 buildings housing 48,000 pigs. Of the 1,200 acres, 600 acres will be for waste digesters and open air evaporation ponds for the excrement.

The Rosebud reservation is considered one of the poorest in the nation, with an 85 percent unemployment rate.

The hog farm will produce twice as much effluent as the entire human population of South Dakota. Contamination of underground water supplies is virtually certain, as is serious air pollution from ammonia and methane gas that rises from the evaporation ponds where the pig excrement will be pumped.

children

Lakota children waiting for an uncertain future. (Photo courtesy Rosebud Sioux Tribe)
Critics also claim that the environmental impact study done for the project is quite inadequate and that the project was approved based on the impact of the first phase rather than the entire project. Some claim that the impact on wildlife has been unexplored, including the largest concentration of prairie dogs in the United States.

Oleata Mednansky, co-chair of the opposition group and a member of the tribe, said "our land will be destroyed. Our air will be polluted. Our way of life will be ruined." She said that the project is being constructed on the site of an ancient trail on which Chief Sitting Bull is said to have regularly traveled. "My grandmother was born on that trail and we have always considered it to be sacred," Mednansky said. "This project was approved so hurriedly that our people never got a chance to express their views."

Many believe that the project was rushed through the approval process with little regard for environmental laws. In last year’s tribal election, a hog farm critic was elected president and many hog farm supporters were voted out of office.

Bell Farms of Wahpeton, North Dakota, says there will be no environmental impact. But the Sierra Club’s Clean Water Campaign has joined the list of critics. They claim that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is allowing the project to ignore the requirements of the Clean Water Act.

And critics claim that the company’s move to locate the farm on the reservation was designed to circumvent a law passed by South Dakota voters in 1998 that prohibits corporate farming ventures. The intent of this law was to show support for family farms.

The tribe has been promised 200 jobs, 25 percent of the facility’s profits and an option to buy the operation in the future. This is a powerful incentive to a region where only about 1,000 of the 24,000 resident tribal members have a job.

sow

Pregnant sow in crate (Photo courtesy Farm Sanctuary)
The inhumane treatment of factory farmed hogs has long been documented. Besides being subjected to a variety of diseases and psychological traumas, the confined hogs are allowed very little movement during their six month life. After being jammed into trucks for transport to the slaughter house, a process that kills over 80,000 pigs each year, they are supposed to be stunned to death before being processed. However, stunning is very imprecise, and many conscious animals have been videotaped hanging upside down, kicking and struggling, while a worker tries to stick a knife in their necks. If the worker is unsuccessful, the pig will be carried on to the scalding tank where he/she will be boiled alive.

The Native American community is in desperate need of some sustainable business activity in order to survive. Sadly, often against the wishes of members of the tribe, tribal leaders sometimes work to attract huge business enterprises which pollute and degrade life for all animals and people alike. This model for economic growth is one that has led many developing countries into environmental and social disaster.

This sacred land should not have to feel the environmental pain that this project will generate, nor should the sounds of nearly 900,000 tortured animals be ignored.

Native peoples prayed and thanked animal spirits for their sacrifice when hunted. Who will pray for the harm to the Earth caused by this project and for the tortured souls of these animals?

RESOURCES

1. Read some other articles about this project at

2. Visit the website of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe at http://tradecorridor.com/rosebud/rosebud.htm

3. Read the hog industry account of the project from the National Hog Farmer magazine at http://www.homefarm.com/nhf/articles/9906/990606.htm

4. Take action with the help of the Environmental Defense Fund at

5. Visit the Sierra Club’s action page at http://www.sierraclub.org/cafos/

6. Read a rural resident's perspective at http://www.netins.net/showcase/megahoglaws/b/9802khconf.htm

7. Learn about the abuses of factory farming at the Farm Animal Sanctuary and the Humane Farming Association.

8. Find out who your elected representatives are and e-mail them. Tell them you will not tolerate the environmental and social abuse allowed by huge corporate farming operations. If you know your Zip code, you can find them at http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/ziptoit.html or you can search by state at http://www.webslingerz.com/jhoffman/congress-email.html. You can also find your representatives at http://congress.nw.dc.us/innovate/index.html

{Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D. is a writer and the Environmental Education Programs Manger and the Manager of Discovery Park for the City of Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation. He can be found in his new home in Seattle, listening for the sound of the Earth crying. Please send your thoughts, comments, and visions to him at jackie@healingourworld.com and visit his web site at www.healingourworld.com}