Judge: Jury won't take smell tour of North Carolina hog farm
Emery P. Dalesio
FILE - In this July 21, 2017 file photo, a hog waste pond is seen at Everette Murphrey Farm in Farmville, N.C. Civil trials begin April 2018, against a subsidiary of the world's largest pork producer, and people are watching to see whether things will change and impact places such as the Everette Murphrey Farm in the country's No. 2 hog state. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
April 02, 2018 - 10:50 AM
RALEIGH, N.C. - A federal judge decided Monday he won't send jurors for a see-and-sniff tour of a North Carolina hog-growing operation at the centre of a lawsuit claiming industrial-scale pork production creates smells too ugly to live near.
Jurors wouldn't get a true feel for conditions with one quick visit to a Bladen County farm growing animals for Murphy-Brown LLC, the hog production division of Virginia's Smithfield Foods, U.S. District Judge W. Earl Britt ruled.
"Plaintiffs' odour and other complaints, of course, cover a much longer period. Conditions when jurors visit would not necessarily be substantially similar to what plaintiffs experienced at a given time," Britt wrote in his order.
The decision came as jurors were due to be selected for a trial that could shake the profits and change production methods of pork producers who have raised hogs in confined conditions for the past generation. The trial could take six weeks.
Industry lawyers asked for the visit so jurors could decide what they think about the smells and flies.
"The presence or absence of odour, as well as the level of its severity at any given time and place, is the most difficult of the five senses to attempt to convey to a jury. No photograph or video or other evidence or demonstrative can provide the jury with an adequate representation of the alleged odour conditions," industry attorneys said in one court filing.
That's funny, lawyers for the neighbours said, since the proposed jury tour was requested just as the farm was removing millions of gallons of waste, something that "never before occurred in the 23-year history of this operation."
The farm and its owners, who raise hogs under contract with Murphy-Brown, are not defendants. Instead, the target is the company that set specific standards of how the farm must operate.
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News from © The Associated Press, 2018