Robert Kennedy Jr.: 'Factory Farm' Crusader Lives High On the Hog

What is the environmental movement thinking?

Now extending the list of their mistakes is a Robert Kennedy Jr. campaign to dump millions of tons of hog waste into American rivers ... while his trial lawyer acquaintances take billions suing the modern confinement farms that produce most of America’s meat and eggs. How does that square with Bobby’s long-term claim to be the nation’s top “riverkeeper”?

For more than a decade Bobby has been railing against “factory farming,” which he defines as any farm that keeps its birds or animals indoors. Kennedy claims the big hog farms produce more manure than a large city, and claims their waste is ruining our rivers.

Bobby’s got it backwards.

The little hog farmers keep their hogs outdoors, and often use the creeks as hog sewers. Today’s commercial hog farms are zero-discharge. They don’t pour any water or waste into the streams. The hog wastes are carefully collected in ponds and tanks and then used as organic fertilizer on crop fields.

When Bobby Jr. sued Smithfield Farms a few years ago, claiming the hog waste was ruining North Carolina’s rivers, his suit was tossed out of court. The judge even forced Bobby Jr. to pay Smithfield’s legal fees.

The big problem for Kennedy, then and now, is that he can’t demonstrate any impairment of the rivers. In the Smithfield case, North Carolina’s water quality reports have consistently shown that larger hog farms, with 99 percent of the state’s hogs, discharge nothing at all into the rivers. Land-grant university investigating teams found the offending one percent were on smaller, older farms that didn’t have the latest equipment and techniques.