Tracy Worcester, founder of Farms Not Factories and producer of film Pig Business, has just returned from filming in Chile. Her visit coincided with the brutal suppression of protestors fighting the existence of a dirty factory farm – a fight that we have also been involved in. Agrosuper has now promised the facility’s closure, but Tracy remains suspicious of the announcement. Here’s her story.
The views and opinions expressed in guest stories are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Compassion in World Farming.
Last May, in the pretty Atacama Desert town of Freirina (see below), the Chilean government ordered the closure of the Agrosuper pig-processing plant. Campaigners had blockaded the site after suffering an unbearable stench from this colossal pig farm, capable of housing several million pigs.
But six months later, it announced that the huge complex could stay open. So in November, I went to film the Freirina community’s renewed struggle against the largest pig factory farm in South America.
On 25th November, the date by which the Minister of Health had said all the pigs must have left the factory farm, it still housed 210,000 pigs. In protest, hundreds of local residents dressed in mourning and staged a funeral to mark the death of their valley. A coffin, followed by a candlelit procession, was carried to the main square and set alight. At midnight, the main road was temporarily blocked by burning tyres and the night sky glowed red from a fire started in a eucalyptus plantation.
Then, in the early morning of 6th December, demonstrators set up blockades to prevent the Agrosuper feed lorries and workers from reaching the complex. The government’s special forces, already waiting on Agrosuper's property, attacked with tear gas, as shown in the following clip:
Before dawn, Yahir Rojas, a schoolteacher and one of the community spokespersons, was illegally abducted and beaten unconscious by Agrosuper guards. He was transferred to intensive care and is thankfully recovering, but this highlights the brutality of a company that resorts to violence against its opponents.
No doubt worried by the bad publicity attracted by this violence, Agrosuper is promising to close the plant, claiming that it is "unable to fulfil environmental considerations". Cesar Orellana, the newly elected Mayor of Freirina, said "this is a triumph for an organised community". But like the townspeople, he has his doubts that Agrosuper will honour their promise. Cesar and other local mayors have had meetings with national authorities, but without any firm agreements.
If the local campaigners do succeed in forcing the company to close permanently, it’s not only a local victory, but also a victory in the global war against this flawed factory pig-farming system. When investors see that communities have the power to close such a huge factory, they might think twice about expanding or building new pig factories.
The Pig Business Chilean editor, Camilo Lanfranco, reports from Freirina that "the community is more united than ever and they won’t back down until the closure is definite. They want Agrosuper’s guarantee that it will close the pig factory and leave the territory for good".
A note from Compassion in World Farming: It has now been confirmed that the Agrosuper plant will be closing – a huge victory for the residents of Freirina, Chile.
The Pig Business films highlight the true cost of pig factory farming to the pigs, to human health, the environment and rural communities around the world. The new film, Pig Business in Chile, will be complete in the next few months. Find out more at www.pigbusiness.co.uk. And you can see more photos on the Pig Business Flickr album.