Video still by Steven Higgs

CAFO Fighter Rick Dove told a group of Indiana farmers on July 17 that one definition of fascism is government teaming up with corporations and acting against the public's interest. Dove is a retired Marine JAG who has served as Riverkeeper for the Neuse River in eastern North Carolina.

Editor's note: The Bloomington Alternative videotaped CAFO fighter Rick Dove's "Crimes Against Nature" presentation at the Indiana CAFO Watch Conference and posted it in seven short segments on the Alternative Videos page. Links to each segment, with extended excerpts from them, are published below.

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MUNCIE -- Watching Rick Dove's multimedia presentation "Crimes Against Nature" conjured up memories of Indiana's feisty old Republican Gordon Durnill, a former GOP state party chair who wrote the 1995 book The Making of a Conservative Environmentalist. In addition to calling for the jailing of corporate executives who knowingly poison the environment with harmful toxins, Durnil debunked the environmentalist caricatures that persist in the American media today. Almost without exception, he said, environmentalists are environmental victims.

Despite his peacenikish last name, Dove is no ELF. He's a former Marine and lawyer who, upon retirement in 1987, began living his lifelong dream as a commercial fisherman. Since then, he's lived and worked on the Neuse River along the coastal region of North Carolina, which he describes as one of the most beautiful watersheds in the country.

"And then, all of a sudden, everything went belly up," Dove told more than 100 Hoosier farmers who gathered for the Indiana CAFO Watch Conference in Muncie on July 17. "The fish got sick. I got sick. My son got sick."

"We haven't given up the Neuse River in North Carolina. We're going to save this river."
In 1991, he continued, the largest fish kill that ever occurred on any river in America took place on the Neuse. "A billion fish -- in about three days -- died -- with sores all over their bodies," he said. A vicious organism called Pfiesteria attacked humans and fish alike, leaving both life forms with gaping holes in their flesh.

Dove later read that the Riverkeeper project was looking for someone to serve as a watchdog on the Neuse. "I looked at that, and I said to Joanna, I said, 'I really want this job because this is my chance to figure out who's done this to the river,'" he said, "'why this river has changed.'"

What changed the Neuse and fed the Pfiesteria, he learned, were almost unfathomable quantities of animal waste being released into the environment by CAFOs, or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, that had surreptitiously infested the state's coastal regions east of Interstate 95.

With Dove playing a leadership role as the Neuse Riverkeeper, state farmers revolted against the corporations and government enablers who allowed thousands of factory farms to destroy their livelihoods, health and quality of life. And while they are yet to "save" their rivers, the former Judge Adjutant General and his fellow citizen activists did force their politicians to impose a moratorium on new hog CAFOs in the state in 1997.

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Dove said he brought the North Carolina story to Indiana to help Hoosiers who are dealing with a similarly unhealthy infiltration of CAFOs into their bioregions. Soon after he took office in 2005, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels moved on his campaign pledge to double pork production in Indiana and allowed the very corporations that had destroyed North Carolina to operate in Indiana, effectively unregulated.
"The area in front of my house is typically known as 'fish kill lane' because it is where most of the fish seem to die."
Since then, enormous portions of the state's agricultural areas have effectively become unlivable. Homes have become prisons. The air and water have become polluted. And workers and livestock -- primarily swine, cattle and poultry -- have been forced to coexist under inhumane conditions that, as Dove noted in his presentation, often lead to animal cruelty.

Dove emphasized that he is a meat eater. And he's not a member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. But he uses PETA footage of such abuse alongside that of mainstream media to illustrate his point.

Indiana CAFO Watch (ICW) is the grass roots reaction to Daniels' essentially unregulated corporate ag policies. It's a citizen-run organization of Hoosier farm families who live in the midst of thousands of pigs and the millions of gallons of waste they produce, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This year's conference was ICW's fifth and also featured presentations from the Socially Responsible Agriculture's Terry Spence, a second-generation farmer and livestock producer from Missouri; Lynn Henning, whose work exposing the egregious polluting practices of CAFOs earned her the 2010 Goldman Environmental Prize for North America; and Jillian Parry Fry, a second-year Ph.D. student at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, whose research includes the impact of industrial food animal production sites on surrounding communities.

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CLIP 1: 'Clean coal' and other crimes against nature

"In a very short period of time, as people, we have caused changes to this planet, to our home, that are unequaled in the other time this planet has been in development."

"The consequences of this crime on the Gulf have changed the Gulf, maybe, nobody knows for sure, but maybe forever. Maybe things will never be the same because of that one incident."
"That's a sore on a fish, and that's a sore on a fisherman. I had those same sores. And so did my son."
"This idea of Clean Coal. You watch the television, and gosh, corporations spend so much money on trying to convince us that there's such a thing as clean coal. Clean coal is a dirty lie."

"I challenge all of you to go to your computers and Google mercury in fish. And what you will read will convince you, as I am, that there's an environmental crime that's been committed, of great significance, on the environment that is affecting people as a result of [the coal] industry's activity."

"You know that you have Teflon in your popcorn, you know, in your bags of popcorn. You know that we're finding Teflon in most of the rivers in the United States now. And Teflon, at least in the samples that they've taken with mice, has been shown to be a cancer agent."

"Most of these medicines that we're taking, pharmaceuticals, are ending up in our waterways. ... We're seeing male fish develop into female fish. We're seeing antibiotics in the waterways, not just from human use but animal use as well."

"CAFOs, that's the thing that's in our back yard. They call that NIMBYism, you know, I think it's a good thing. Not in my backyard. We should all be taking care of what's in our backyard."

CLIP 2: The River was healthy

"Dr. Mark Sobsey from the school of Environmental Science reports that each hog, every day, produces 10 times the fecal matter of one person.""If you really do want a Bible that is well documented and footnoted on the consequences of CAFO production Animal Factory is the book." (Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment is a new book by author David Kirby.)

"I fell in love with North Carolina's rivers. They were pristine. There were so many fish."

"The fish were healthy. The river was healthy. We water-skied. We played in the river. We had a wonderful time."

"They were growing here when Christ walked the earth. That's how old some of these Cyprus trees are."

"We haven't given up the Neuse River in North Carolina. We're going to save this river."

"Sometimes we get so much growth of the vegetation on our rivers that we can't even use them. We can't get a boat up and down some of these tributaries."

CLIP 3: Fish kill lane

"You can't go outside. You can't have parties for your kids. You never know when the stink is going to arrive.""In 1991, the largest fish kill that ever occurred on any river in America took place on the Neuse River."
"The area in front of my house is typically known as 'fish kill lane' because it is where most of the fish seem to die."

"The state's response to all of this wasn't to go clean up the pollution to get the river back to health, the state's response was to put signs saying, 'Hey, you own these waters. They belong to you, They're called public trust waters. But you shouldn't use them anymore because these fish are dying, and you could get sick.'"

"How sick could you get? Well, that's a sore on a fish, and that's a sore on a fisherman. I had those same sores. And so did my son."

CLIP 4: Ammonia in the air

"The health officials in North Carolina refused to investigate what was happening here. We kept telling them, people are getting sick. Fishermen are getting sick."
"In the production of animals in CAFOs, to me it's like a prisoner of war camp."
"It's not just hog farms. We know we get nutrients from cities, towns, schools and everything else. But the largest contributor of nutrients in our waterway, and in my opinion, the largest unit responsible for the degradation that we have, are CAFOs."

"In North Carolina there are approximately 10 million hogs. Dr. Mark Sobsey from the school of Environmental Science reports that each hog, every day, produces 10 times the fecal matter of one person."

"Hogs in North Carolina are producing the same amount of feces or fecal matter each day as all the people in the states of North Carolina, California, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and you can throw in New Hampshire and North Dakota."

"Most of the nitrogen getting in the river ... is coming to us through the air as ammonia gas. Ammonia, when it comes out of the air, settles on, eventually, waterways because everything runs down to the water."

"In the Neuse River, we have experienced, in a 10-year period, an 800 percent increase in the ammonia levels in the Neuse River."

CLIP 5: 'Imagine what could happen'

"What the environmental community is against, and what I expect most everyone here is against, is the method of that production and the way that it's done."
"These animals are meant to be outside. Nature created them that way."
"In the production of animals in CAFOs, to me it's like a prisoner of war camp. The animals inside there have to live in an environment that is extremely bad. They don't like the smell of those odors any better than people do. And the workers who have to work inside those facilities. They don't like those odors either."

"Imagine what could happen in certain circumstances, when you put an animal that doesn't want to cooperate along with a person who's aggravated by the circumstances of employment."

"These animals are meant to be outside. Nature created them that way. These animals are being raised contrary to the way nature created them. That cannot be denied."

Clip 6: 'Bodies in varying degrees of decomposition'

"Dead hogs is another problem. We find one of the ways they get rid of these dead hogs is to put them in these dumpsters, and sometimes they will sit out in front of the road for a week or more. Flies are all over them."

"You can't go outside. You can't have parties for your kids. You never know when the stink is going to arrive. In North Carolina, we had so many flies, black flies, around these facilities that in the summertime, you couldn't make it from your house to your car without getting any flies in the house or the car."
"I've spoken to a lot of veterinarians and went to their national conference, and I say shame on them. Shame on veterinarians of the United States of America."
"Here you're looking at dead animals just laying outside the facility. ... Their bodies are in various degrees of decomposition."

"We find them in the swamps and the wetlands when we get in our kayaks and canoes and make our way up into the backwaters of the Neuse River."

"In 1999, we had Hurricane Floyd. ... Our system got a pretty good flushing. And for a few years, we had some real good times on the Neuse River. Things began to come back. But as they began to spray day after day after day, and no hurricanes like Floyd came along, the wetlands again began to fill up, the algae began to come back, the fish kills began to reoccur. So, we're headed back to the days of Phiesteria."

"We have a choice. We can raise animals this way. We can put them in cages and treat them in ways that nature never intended. We can put the meat on the marketplace and we can fill our stomachs with the meat. We can close our eyes to the treatment that many of these animals get. "

"I've spoken to a lot of veterinarians and went to their national conference, and I say shame on them. Shame on veterinarians of the United States of America. Because they are the animals' doctors."

"It's wrong for the veterinarians to know this is happening and not to do something about it."

"There is another way to raise these animals."

"In 1918, there were 60 million hogs in inventory in the United States. In 2000, roughly the same number. They went to market faster now than they did before. But traditional family farmers can raise these animals."

"This is not against farming. This is against the farming methods. Pigs are intelligent creatures. They are more intelligent than horses and dogs. They understand what is happening to them."

Clip 7: How about the generations to come?'

"The Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, greatest laws in this country, because what those laws say is, 'Citizens of America, when you see a source of pollution on your waterways, and the state and federal governments have failed to fix it or at least make those waters as good as they were in the mid-1970s, you have the right to go into federal district court.'"

"You can file nuisance suits and trespass suits, which have been very successful, especially in the Midwest. ... You can do the lobbying and demonstrations, the consumer actions and fighting the good fight all the way around."
"When government and corporations line up against the people, that's a form of fascism. At least, that's one of the definitions."
"There's also the laws of nature, totally independent of any laws that we as men and women create. Those laws are more powerful and have greater consequences, greater punishments, than anything that we provide in the laws of man. When the laws of nature are broken, Mother Nature strikes back with a consequence. In the Neuse River, it was Phiesteria, it was fish dying, it was the economic consequences of that. It was people like my son and I and other fishermen getting sick."

"What happens in nature is the innocent are affected along with the guilty. And the worst consequence of all is it's really on the children. It isn't on us."

"How about the generations to come? What kind of a planet are we leaving for them? What's being left behind for generations to come?"

"Government has teamed up with corporations against the American public. That's happened not just in the CAFO industry, it's happened in oil, coal, global warming, all of these issues."

"The Supreme Court has allowed corporations to become entities and get into our Constitution by interpreting the law to the point where they now share many of the same rights that we have, as people. How stupid."

"There's a lot of what I call fascism. Look it up on the Internet. I looked it up the other day, and I was astounded. When government and corporations line up against the people, that's a form of fascism. At least, that's one of the definitions."

"The real thing that worries me is are we going to be able to fix this problem ourselves before nature is forced to step in and take control. You need to be thinking about that."

Steven Higgs can be reached at editor@BloomingtonAlternative.com.