5 min read

This Is One Big Reason North Carolina Isn't Ready For The Hurricane

It's an accident waiting to happen.

Hurricane Florence has just made landfall on the Carolina coastlines, battering the shores with wind and rain. In the coming days, many homes and businesses are expected to be destroyed by the high winds and floods, and thousands of people will be displaced — but there’s another disaster looming as well.

In North Carolina, there are around 2,000 factory farms, some containing several thousand pigs, while others contain chickens or turkeys, who are crammed inside of filthy, overcrowded buildings. Most of these factory farms are located in the state’s floodplains, and there are two big problems with this.

A lagoon of pig waste at a factory farm in North Carolina | Speciesism The Movie

The first is that many of the animals, who are trapped indoors, will drown if the hurricane floods the region, especially since many farmers have chosen not to move their animals in preparation for the hurricane. The second problem has to do with the huge amounts of pig waste produced in these farms — between its pig and poultry farms, North Carolina produces a staggering 10 billion gallons of fecal waste each year.

Flooded pig farm
A flooded pig farm in North Carolina after Hurricane Matthew | Waterkeeper Alliance

“All of the waste that comes from these animals on these farms are flushed through slats in the floors, and are periodically flushed from beneath them and into containment ponds,” Will Hendrick, campaign manager for Waterkeeper Alliance, a group that works to preserve and protect water sources, told The Dodo. “That lagoon or cesspool accumulates increasing amounts of waste, and the operators, to prevent it from overflowing, will then apply it to croplands nearby, using huge industrial sprinklers and spraying the waste onto those fields.”

Flooded pig farm in North Carolina
A flooded pig farm in North Carolina after Hurricane Matthew | Waterkeeper Alliance

But when the hurricane hits, these lagoons are destined to flood, contaminating the nearby rivers, lakes and streams, as well as the local water drinking sources, Hendrick explained.

This exact scenario has happened before. During Hurricane Matthew in 2016, millions of pigs, chickens and turkeys died in factory farms in North Carolina, and countless gallons of waste contaminated the state’s waterways.

Pig farm before Hurricane Florence
A North Carolina pig farm in the path of Hurricane Florence | Waterkeeper Alliance

Of course, it’s not just people and farm animals who will be affected by the hurricane — companion animals like dogs and cats will, too, and animal welfare advocates are urging everyone to take measures to protect animals.

“We each have a duty to ensure animals in our care do not suffer and are harmed in the storm because of lack of preparedness,” Sára Varsa, vice president of animal rescue at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), told The Dodo. “We urge everyone to make a disaster preparedness plan for all animals they are responsible for, whether they are pets, farm animals or other animals in their care. In order for HSUS to assist during disasters, an official request must be made from the appropriate agency.”

To help protect animals during Hurricane Florence, you can make a donation to HSUS. You can also make a donation to Waterkeeper Alliance to support efforts to protect waterways.