The Water Keepers’ Alliance, a coalition of more than 30 local, state, regional and national groups, led by Robert Kennedy Jr., has filed suit against Smithfield Foods — the nation’s largest pork producer.

The group charges that Smithfield Foods “has knowingly and systematically violated environmental laws.” The lawsuits were filed under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly called RICO, the federal Clean Water Act, the federal Resources Conservation and Recovery Act and North Carolina state law. In it’s RICO-filed complaint, the Alliance charges that “Smithfield’s operation is funded by its illegal pollution-based profits.” The complaint goes on to charge that violating environmental laws is an intended part of Smithfield’s business strategy, and that it “unlawfully shifts the cost of handling its pollution to the American public.”

Responses from both Smithfield Foods and the National Pork Producers Council have defended Smithfield’s record of environmental stewardship and the record of the pork industry. The pork industry is one of the most heavily regulated segments of American agriculture, and in fact, the pork industry has been commended by the EPA as being a leader in environmental issues in agriculture.

Although their initial targets are large pork producers, the lawyers and activists behind this charge have boldly predicted they will attack poultry, beef, dairy and row-crop farmers in the future. That means all animal agriculture producers should watch closely. Should any of these lawsuits prove successful, a dangerous precedent would be set. And the formula used could easily be replicated and used against producers in other industries.

For more detailed information about the Water Keepers’ Alliance lawsuits, check out the Industry News section of the Web site of our sister publication Pork. Their Web site is: