Righteous Porkchop

Nicolette Hahn / William Morrow / 336 pages

Righteous Porkchop begins with author Nicolette Hahn describing her first exposure to the realities of industrial pig “production” as senior attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance. Nothing she had read prepared her for the stench, pollution or wretched lives of the imprisoned pigs; the impunity with which laws were violated; or the political and administrative corruption in which the system thrives.

Flying with Neuse Riverkeeper Rick Dove over North Carolina's coastal plain dotted with hundreds of liquid manure “lagoons,” Hahn witnessed the deliberate spraying of sewage into the river drainage system. Back on the ground, she observed the results: a once beautiful river clogged with algae and lined with dead and dying fish, as well as fishermen with unhealed lesions from Pfiesteria piscicida, a disease that feasts on red blood cells and has appeared in grossly polluted waters.

On behalf of Waterkeeper Alliance, Hahn filed complaints directly against the world's largest and most virulent hog factory operator, Smithfield Foods. This brought an unequivocal rejection by the Federal Court in September 2001 of Smithfield's contention that its operations were “farms,” exempt from discharge permits under the Clean Water Act.

Hahn studied the growth and origin of industrial animal “production” intensely and has incorporated a wealth of information into the flow of her narrative. The latter half of the book focuses on the ethics of raising animals for meat and describes rather touchingly her own immersion in day-to-day activities of ranch life.