Organic Consumers Association

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'It's Wrong to Stink Up Other People's Lives': Fighting the Manure Lagoons of North Carolina

Pigs outstripped people in Duplin county long ago - but now the residents are fighting back

Two poles that once hoisted a clothes line stand rusting and unused in Elsie Herring’s back garden in eastern North Carolina. Herring lives next door to a field where pig manure is sprayed and the drifting faecal matter wasn’t kind to her drying clothes.

“The clothes would stink so you’d wash them again and again until they fell apart,” said Herring, whose family has lived in Wallace since her grandfather, a freed slave, purchased land in the 1890s.

“You stand outside and it feels like it’s raining but then you realise it isn’t rain. It’s animal waste. It takes your breath away. You start gagging, coughing, your pulse increases. All you can do is run for cover.”

For years here in North Carolina - the second largest pork-producing state in the US - the pigs have been outstripping the humans. They currently number around 38 to one in Duplin county, with the impact, say local groups, falling disproportionately heavily on African-Americans, Latinos and native Americans. But in the last few weeks, two court decisions may have tipped momentum in a new direction, awarding compensation and bringing in new penalties for polluters. 

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