Eighty-five percent of the meat Americans consume are produced by four corporate giants – Tyson, Smithfield, Cargill and JDS. These companies use the methods of mass factory production, including chemical modification, mechanization and concentration, to pump out products where the only concern is their bottom line. They do so without regard for the suffering their methods inflict on animals or the risks their methods pose to consumers, neighbors, employees, and the earth.
Public Justice’s Food Project takes a multifaceted approach to support a more sustainable, honest, humane and safe food system. In our lawsuits, we represent farmers, rural communities, consumers, and workers who share our vision. In our advocacy, we spread awareness of the systemic inequities that have allowed this corporate takeover of our food system and show policymakers and the public how they can support a return to farming focused on sustaining communities rather than extracting profit.
Our Food Project is:
Holding factory farms accountable
Factory farms cram thousands upon thousands of animals into overcrowded barns and pens in order to make as much profit as possible, producing more waste than the farms could ever use in crop production. Many of these farms dump their waste in unlined landfills, onto bare open fields, and in multi-thousand ton mounds that sit unused for years. As the toxins in the manure leach into the groundwater, surrounding communities find well water tainted and the air outside putrid. Instead of managing their pollution, factory farms force it on the public, increasing the rate of infant deaths and cancer.
Public Justice believes that factory farms should be held responsible for these harms and must bear the costs of proper waste management that protects neighboring communities. We’re pioneering the use of suits under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act that seek to ensure discarded farm waste is treated as the hazardous substance it is. We also work with Public Justice’s attorneys in our Environmental Protection Project to use the Clean Water Act to force farms to abide by existing regulations and permits. Our goal is to secure justice for communities across the country by forcing factory farms to take responsibility for their true production costs.
Prompting transparency and protecting free speech
We believe consumers deserve to know the truth about how their food is produced. Many industrial animal agriculture companies want to mislead consumers by labeling their factory-farmed products as “natural,” and support “ag-gag” laws that aim to criminalize and inhibit whistleblowers from exposing the true conditions of factory farms. Industrial animal agriculture wants consumers to believe that their practices are as safe and ethical as those of independent farmers. Investigations like the ones ag-gag laws prohibit, however, have uncovered some of the industry’s dirtiest and most dangerous secrets. They’ve even forced the recall of contaminated food sold to the government for school lunch programs.
Building on Public Justice’s work in securing Access to Justice and protecting consumers we’re at the forefront of using the Constitution and consumer protection laws to prevent corporate agriculture from deceiving consumers and shrouding their operations in secrecy. We helped secure the first victory holding ag-gag laws unconstitutional under the First Amendment and are helping manage national litigation and policy efforts to stop the spread of these dangerous laws. We’re also representing consumers in a first-of-its kind consumer protection challenge arguing that industrial animal agriculture companies cannot advertise their factory farmed meat as natural. We are committed to securing open, transparent markets so that consumers can select the safe, healthy and humane products they desire.
Protecting independent farmers
Corporate agriculture companies have tried to fight competition and close family farms. Other family farmers find themselves trapped in agreements with companies that are unfair and anticompetitive.
Using innovative legal strategies, Public Justice is spearheading one of the only lawsuits focused on reforming industrial animal agriculture’s relationship with farmers. And we’re also working with independent farmers to challenge laws that force them to work with industrial agriculture companies in advertising their products. We believe in the sustainable farms that helped build, and feed America for generations, and we’re fighting, every day on their side.