Cassie King

Published on:

What is Smithfield Foods?

Smithfield Foods might just be the most evil company on the planet. Here are just 5 of the many reasons why we must stop this destructive company.

Smithfield Foods is the largest “pork” producer in the world, and DxE is on a mission to expose the company's abuses to the world. Smithfield represents the worst of the animal agriculture industry, but its long list of victims includes more than the pigs they systematically torture. In fact, it might just include you.

Here are just 5 of the many reasons why we must stop this destructive company before it's too late.

  1. Let's start with the obvious. Smithfield Foods tortures animals. Inside Smithfield's factory farms, mother pigs spend almost their entire lives confined in tiny gestation crates barely bigger than their bodies. They are forcibly impregnated over and over again. For years on end, they are trapped inside metal cages where they cannot even turn around. They are forced to sleep in the same place that they urinate and defecate. Imagine going through that kind of physical and mental torture -- all while pregnant, only to have your babies stolen from you at the end and to be impregnated once again.

    The baby pigs are mutilated without anesthetics. They are castrated and have their tails cut off. And when they get sick in the filthy, crowded conditions, infectious diseases go untreated (and make their way into the food supply, but more on that later).

    Smithfield puts millions of pigs through this torture every year. The company slaughters one fourth of all the pigs killed for food in the United States. A single Smithfield slaughterhouse in Tar Heel, North Carolina kills 32,000 pigs a day.  
  2. Smithfield is spraying literal shit into poor communities. Smithfield facilities in North Carolina are spraying out toxic manure into the neighborhoods near its farms. Locals have suffered respiratory illnesses and other diseases, in addition to the persistent odor which is so unbearable some residents have said they avoid even going outside. In North Carolina, around 500 plaintiffs in 29 cases have sued Smithfield Foods. Fortunately, Smithfield continues losing lawsuits brought by community members, with payout rulings totaling over half a billion dollars. The victims are almost exclusively poor people, as those who can afford to move away from these places very much tend to do so.

    DxE gave Smithfield's CEO a taste of his own medicine when we sprayed real pig feces (collected from a Smithfield farm) at his home in Richmond, Virginia.

    Smithfield's history of pollution goes back decades. In 1978, Virginia's State Water Control Board sought civil penalties against Smithfield for failing to make improvements to mitigate wastewater discharge into the Pagan River. The case ended with a settlement that included a $25,000 payment. In 1985, in another Virginia case, a federal judge fined a Smithfield subsidiary around $1.2 million in a Clean Water Act suit filed by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

    But Smithfield still didn’t learn its lesson. And in 1997, Smithfield was fined 12.6 million dollars, the largest clean water act fine in history, for once again discharging illegal levels of pollutants from their slaughterhouse into the Pagan River. Another ruling found Smithfield had falsified documents and destroyed water quality records.
  3. Smithfield was caught in a human slavery scandal. Really. From 2005-2007, workers from Thailand, who had been lied to about prosperous employment opportunities, had their passports seized and were forced to work for little-to-no pay. Meanwhile, they were threatened that their families back home would face financial ruin and worse if they didn’t comply. It’s one of the largest instances of human trafficking in U.S. history.
  4. In April 2020 Smithfield became the “Largest Coronavirus Hotbed In United States.As of April 16, 2020, a Smithfield Foods meatpacking plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota was the largest coronavirus hotspot in the United States, with nearly 600 employees and 135 close contacts testing positive for COVID-19. At another Smithfield plant in Cudahy, Wisconsin, workers spoke out about the company pressuring them to work elbow to elbow without masks. One plant worker with asthma said that when he asked for a mask, an official at the company declined his request because if he was provided one, Smithfield would “have to do it for everyone else.” Smithfield has 54,000 employees worldwide, many of whom are immigrants or low-income community members without many other options for work. Their lives are now being put at risk daily all because Smithfield values profits over safety.

    And if that wasn't bad enough, Smithfield is blaming the outbreaks on the "living circumstances" of the "large immigrant population." Apparently it’s the fault of the undocumented workers struggling to provide for their families. If they were more civilized, they’d choose the mansion lifestyle of Smithfield execs.
  5. Smithfield is brewing the next pandemic. DxE’s investigations of Smithfield have found piglets suffering from antibiotic-resistant staph infections, evidence of coronaviruses among the pigs, and all the perfect conditions for spreading disease: filth, open wounds, and extreme crowding. In a 2020 investigation, DxE trailed a slaughter truck over 700 miles from a Smithfield factory farm in the Utah desert to a newly constructed California slaughterhouse, documenting how factory farm-borne diseases spread around the country. Dead, pathogen-laden pigs were left outside the slaughterhouse where wild animals were seen feeding upon them. This presents a proven risk of zoonotic disease transmission, with pigs, birds and even feral cats potentially infecting humans.

    The investigation also documented workers cutting away infected flesh from slaughtered pigs so they could be sold as healthy, with the removed, infected flesh left outside in open bins. The diseases brewing inside Smithfield’s farms are being spread around the country, and everyone -- animals, workers, and all life on this planet -- is in danger.

    So are you ready to help us shut them down? Join the campaign to #StopSmithfield here.