More than 4.1 million chickens and turkeys have perished during Hurricane Florence, according to new figures released by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services—which previously estimated that 3.4 million chickens and turkeys, and 5,500 pigs died during the natural disaster. Animal-rights organization Compassion Over Killing released new footage of the hurricane’s aftermath, revealing the extent of the flooding on the ground in North Carolina. “Sadly, farmed animals are legally considered—and insured as—property,” COK Director of Investigations Mike Wolf told VegNews. “Not only does this allow the meat, egg, and dairy industries to treat these animals in horrific ways, [but] farmers have more incentive to abandon these animals to die in natural disasters like Hurricane Florence, than they do to evacuate or protect them.” COK reveals that human survivors of the storm, mostly communities of color, are now exposed to serious health risks as factory-farm waste lagoons are seeping toxins into local waterways. “When natural disasters like this occur, often the populations most affected are those that were vulnerable to begin with,” Wolf said. “In the areas of North Carolina devastated by Hurricane Florence, and in many places beyond, factory farms are often located in largely African American, Hispanic, and Native American communities. Because these factories are also often in poor, rural areas, many of the nearby residents do not have the resources to leave their homes when disaster strikes.” Prior to the hurricane, meat company Smithfield was fined $473 million for exposing North Carolinians to toxic waste from its factory farms, a fine that Wolf says is a “slap on the wrist” that will not deter factory farms from reforming waste management issues such as open-air cesspools, “despite their likelihood of bursting and flooding when storms hit.”
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