Film maker Mark Devries operated the drone and posted the video on his website. Footage includes aerial views of lagoons, along with interviews with a former hog farmer, a resident who lives near the swine farm and an epidemiologist.
“We were actually pleased with the footage of the exterior of the farms, as it shows what well-maintained farms and lagoons should look like. With that said, and contrary to what Devries’ website says, this is not an expose,” Smithfield said in a statement.
After the Devries released the footage in December 2014, Smithfield issued a statement reaffirming the company’s committed to the health and well-being of the communities where the company operates livestock businesses. Smithfield also noted the company’s “long history of industry leadership in responsible animal care and environmental stewardship.”
“On our farms, we strive to be good neighbors and respect the rights and property of those who live near our operations,” the company said. “We work closely with all of our farmers to meet strict environmental management policies that encourage continuous improvement and exceed most state and federal compliance standards. Our treatment systems require sign off by state and federal regulators, and inspectors visit our farms regularly [up to four times per year] to ensure compliance. Permits and records for all of our farms are publicly available.
“We also take seriously the well-being and humane treatment of our animals,” the company added. “In 2007, Smithfield announced an industry-leading goal of phasing out individual gestation stalls in favor of group housing for pregnant sows at all company-owned sow farms by 2017. We are on track to complete this goal. Click here to learn more about our group housing conversion.”
Animal-welfare advocates opposed to so-called “ag-gag” laws are using drones in an effort to circumvent those laws and film large animal agriculture operations.