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Chilean hog producer brings home the bacon

News Section Icon Published 28/05/2012


Bringing home the bacon

Industrial hog producer Agrosuper1 farms a lot of hogs; according to the San Francisco Chronicle2, their farm in Santiago can house as many as 2.3 million animals, making it (we believe) amongst the largest pig farms in the world.

And it generates a lot of cash along the way, supplying half of the country’s pork, as well as exporting much of the meat to Asia (stated by Jude Webber on the Financial Times website3).

Kicking up a stink

But not quite so super is the way the company deals with its pigs and the impact it is having on people living around the farm. Local residents in the village of Freirina last week kicked up a stink about; well, the stink that was emanating from the copious amount of hog waste produced.

Agrosuper plant closure

Riots ensued and access roads became blocked. Agrosuper workers abandoned the plant on safety grounds, which left the 500,000 (yes, half a million) pigs to fend for themselves.

This means that the pigs "…have stopped receiving food, there is no sanitation, their waste is not being disposed of and we understand there is high mortality among the animals, particularly the young piglets." (Chilean Health Minister, Jamie Manalich, quoted in the Korea Herald4). And there are real dangers arising from the waste problem: Mr Manalich goes on to say that "…the waste overflow could contaminate area drinking water and could be a grave danger for the population".

Cleaning up the mess

Chilean authorities have now declared a state of emergency, stepping in to help Agrosuper control the situation. According to the BBC5, the company is burying the corpses of the dead pigs in specially prepared pits and the site is being disinfected. Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle, Mr Manalich said that the Chilean government will evaluate the permanent closure of the site once it is inspected6.

Where’s the fault?

Agrosuper has now admitted that there were problems with the slaughtering plant's ventilation system, which likely led to many of the initial problems. However, Agrosuper General Manager José Guzmán has been quoted in La Tercera7 blaming the situation on the local residents who protested around the plant and farm: "We didn’t abandon the plant, we evacuated, which is very different... Any lack of attention the animals experienced was produced by the lack of public order."

The critical challenge now is solving the pig problem; how do you evacuate hundreds of thousands of pigs and where should you put them? No simple matter.

UPDATE: We now believe that the pigs will be slaughtered on site rather than moved to another location. While this is a distressing waste of life, swift, efficient and humane slaughter is essential to end their suffering. We hope that Agrosuper and the Chilean government will also deal with the effects of this crisis on the residents of Freirina.

Our sources

  1. Agrosuper (2012), Homepage
  2. San Francisco Chronicle (2012), Biggest Pig Farm Shut Down as Chile Seeks to Avert 'Catastrophe'
  3. FT (2012), Porky pong gets Chile in a stink
  4. Korea Herald (2012), Alert in Chile over half a million abandoned pigs
  5. BBC (2012), Chile evacuates Freirina pig processing plant
  6. San Francisco Chronicle (2012), Biggest Pig Farm Shut Down as Chile Seeks to Avert 'Catastrophe'
  7. La Tercera (2012), José Guzmán: 'La alerta sanitaria se produce por una falta de orden público'

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