August 11, 2009
A River of Waste
Exposing the hazards of industrial animal agribusiness
"A River of Waste: The Hazardous Truth About Factory Farms" is a new documentary film by Cinema Libre studios that focuses on the public health and environmental consequences of industrial animal agribusiness.
Released on July 14th, it has already won the "Best Documentary" award at the Eugene International Film Festival and the "Silver Remi" award at the Houston International Film Festival.
Both Paul Shapiro and Dr. Michael Greger of The HSUS were interviewed in "A River of Waste." Paul Shapiro recently sat down with Don McCorkell, the film's director, to ask him some questions of his own.
How did you first become interested in factory farming and what led you to make a feature-length documentary about it?
I first became interested in this subject by observing the reported impact on the Illinois River in Oklahoma near my home town of Tulsa. Drew Edmonson, the state's attorney general, had filed a major lawsuit against the poultry industry which was responsible for the waste and related pollution.
When I started studying it, I began to realize it was not just a local or regional issue, but a major international one, with factory farms being compared to "mini Chernobyls" by a number of reputable scientists. It went beyond the poultry industry and included pig and cattle production as well and that the damage was being leveled on a massive scale.
In the trailer we hear that "The notion that our food system is the safest in the world is a lie—a very convenient and very big lie"—could you elaborate on this?
Well, we all like to think that we do things better here than anywhere else. I was shocked by the radical difference between European and American standards on a whole range of issues: abuse of antibiotics, waste management, use of arsenic, humane treatment of animals, and other environmental and health concerns.
As a former senior member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, how do you recommend we deal with this issue not only on a personal level, but on state and national levels?
You have to attempt to deal with this issue on every level. Action on the local level helps. State action helps. Both are limited for the obvious reason that ecosystems extend beyond state, local, and even national boundaries.
We need really tough standards, at least as strong as European standards, adopted at the national level. We need to insist that the same health, environmental, and humanitarian standards be met by any of our trading partners to avoid industries simply taking the problem overseas.
Can you tell us about what the European Union has done to improve its modern agriculture system and what positive effects this has had?
They have done a number of things that we need to do: prohibit use of arsenic and antibiotics in factory farms, prohibit growth hormones, and require detailed waste management plans and systems, and better standards for animals in confinement.
How did making this movie affect your perspective regarding the treatment of animals on factory farms?
Frankly, I was totally shocked. We had just gone through a fight in Oklahoma on abolishing cockfighting and it was truly repulsive to realize that the vast number of factory farm animals were actually treated far worse than the few hundred chickens used in cockfighting. It's striking to realize how horribly millions of animals in factory farms are treated every day.
Somehow the individual cases are always more "up close and personal" but the suffering of thousands should have a far greater emotional impact on us than the suffering of one. Recently there was a big story about a German shepherd police dog that was left by his officer in his car and died of the heat—a truly horrible story—but where are the stories of the grotesque mistreatment of hundreds of thousands of cattle, pigs, and chickens in factory farms?
Cinema Libre is currently offering "A River of Waste" at half the retail price, but the sale ends on September 1, so hurry on over to Cinema Libre's website and use coupon code arow-070709.