Last Tuesday, Knox College welcomed two grassroots environmental activists to talk about the dangers of industrial farming, including air pollution, disease and health issues that are often hidden from the general public.
Knox students and local farmers listened attentively to farmers Karen Hudson of Elwood, Ill. and Terry Spence from northeastern Missouri.
“The industry fails to realize,” Hudson said, “that most of the people that oppose these things are just wanting clean air and water, humane animal handling and, if they do eat meat, they want it done in a good way, a way that’s very good for the animal and the environment.”
Spence has devoted 17 years to the cause because the government has refused to make the farms accountable for damages they create.
“It’s not a true democracy when your state and federal government won’t work with you with what’s on the books,” he said.
Hudson, despite support from small farmers, has also met fierce resistance from those who support factory farms.
“I’ve been called a terrorist,” Hudson said. “I’ve been called a gang member. The industry actually follows us sometimes.”
Among horror stories of manure filled with antibiotic resistant germs dumped into drinking water and oil wells, Hudson stated that odors from the farms that escaped into neighboring homes are so bad that people have to sleep with candles and perfume near their bed.
Spence reported that, according to the USDA, 2.68 billion tons of meat and poultry staying in cold storage by the end of February 2012, are simply being wasted as imports of beef continue.
If we stay on the track we’re on,” Spence said, “I don’t know what you’ll tell your children.”
Hudson simply wants small farmers in America to be protected.
“Being grassroots is not being a terrorist,” she said. “Being grassroots is doing what’s right.”
Freshman Michael Cooke, who wanted to learn more about how food is developed, walked away from the talk with a heightened sense of awareness.
“We can’t solve it overnight,” Cooke said. “It’s something that’s going to take time.”
Post-baccalaureate Helen Schnoes ‘11, who brought Hudson and Spence to Knox, was excited about the number of people who came to hear the nationally recognized Hudson, who lives near Knox County.
“I saw a lot of people I didn’t know tonight, which is exciting,” Schnoes said.