Published in The Capital City Hues on February 24, 2020
“If you don’t like it—move!”
That’s the historic response that those of African descent have heard whenever we confront issues of injustice or inequity by racist systems of oppressions. Surprisingly, it is the most common response hurled at small family farmers and residents who oppose CAFOs.
I learned that as part of a recent post-screening discussion on the documentary “Free to Harm.” The documentary exposes the community and environmental impacts of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). An award-winning documentary husband and wife team, Matt Wechsler and Annie Spiecher, focused on the decades of agricultural deregulation and devastating laws favoring massive livestock production.
By the time the film ended, I chucked my prepared remarks. What I just experienced called for a different kind of response. Even though I’m familiar with CAFOs, I was less familiar with the seemingly futile efforts of communities against these Goliath, bloodsuckers.
The illuminating and provocative film also chronicles the valiant albeit futile fight backs of mainly rural communities against big agricultural corporations also known as Big Ag. The industry is guilty of polluting air and water, tainting food supply, perpetuating animal abuses, contributing to small farm closures, impacting the viability of towns and impacting the health and longevity of the poor souls in proximity of the CAFO’s.
What I saw in the documentary caused me to title this column, Free to Kill, even though there’s no body of research that documents all the medical conditions that lead to death. That’s because the industry blocks such attempts to collect such data.
The other disgusting element in the film is how local, county, state and federal officials and politicians unite to block any harm to the megaprofits of Big Ag. Community people talk about how their families are sick, their homes devalued, their farms shuttered. A representative of the chicken industry testified that we must be concerned about the ammonia levels being just right or the chickens will die. It was obvious that he cared more about the welfare of chickens over humans. Chickens equal profits.
I was unapologetic in calling these folks psychopaths with little or no remorse for human life. My panelist remarks were quickly directed to those of us who remain civil when we’re dealing with murderers. Yes, that’s what I called the Big Ag folks. I call ‘em the way I see ‘em.
I challenged the audience as well as the farmers on the panel to get really, really angry. I urged them to stop using the processes set up for us to feel like there’s some democracy or some justice when the outcomes are pre-determined. And not in the People’s favor!