New Documentary From Kate Mara Exposes Environmental Racism Of Factory Farming

Kate Mara Documentary

The Smell of Money, a new documentary by actress Kate Mara, tries to dispel environmental racism in industrial farming. The new movie puts voice to the suffering endured for years by Elsie Herring and other inhabitants of Duplin County, North Carolina, at the hands of meat giant Smithfield, which runs a sizable hog farm there.

The video, which is executive produced by Kate Mara and produced by Jamie Berger, sheds light on the health crisis brought on by the meat company in the rural area, where the majority of the low-income, Black population live. The hog operation’s untreated waste waters, which are frequently sprayed into the air, have been exposed to the local population for years, causing serious health problems like respiratory ailments and a much lower quality of life.

“We hope the film infuriates people for the factory farming industry’s blatant disregard for animal and environmental welfare, and for the underserved communities in which the industry sets up shop and destroys their way of life… We cannot continue with our current food system and ignore the environmental racism that plagues these communities,” Mara stated.

The Smell of Money seeks to bring Smithfield’s wrongdoings to light, focusing in particular on environmental racism because, as the movie points out, the problem would be different if Duplin’s population were wealthy white people. Herring stated in the trailer that “All the laws protect these industries…  Nobody is defending us.”

The Smell of Money

On the festival circuit, The Smell of Money has already received praise, including a Jury Award at the Sarasota Film Festival 2022 and selection as one of the top five crowd favorites at Hotdocs 2022. The third iteration of the two-day plant-based food and film festival, Mindful Eating, will take place in Northern California in August, and Mara will be there to speak about The Smell of Money. Rancho Compasión is a sanctuary for farmed animals that is run by vegan cheese queen Miyoko Schinner.

“The Mindful Eating Film Festival was launched to be a world’s gathering for sustainable food system advocates in film, entertainment, and industry… We are here to create the Sundance of climate action—and there is no better place to bring this conversation than Northern California, a world-renowned region facing crucial climate and wildlife habitat destruction challenges,” Schinner said in a statement. 

The Game Changers, Eating Our Way to Extinction, Elk Water, and The End of Medicine, a movie about the connection between animal agriculture and human health crises that was executive produced by Kate Mara’s sister Rooney Mara and her partner Joaquin Phoenix, will all be shown at Schinner’s festival alongside The Smell of Money.

Cory Booker Campaigns

Numerous lawsuits have been filed against Smithfield’s hog operation, which is not much different from other concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) around the US. Residents of Duplin County sued Smithfield in 2015 for causing a health disturbance, and a federal jury fined Smithfield $473.5 million for the violation in 2018. Due to a state cap on punitive damages, Smithfield only had to pay $94 million of the total judgment. 2017 saw $1 billion in profits for its parent business, the Hong Kong-based WH Group.

Cory Booker, a senator from New Jersey who went vegan in 2014, has been working to stop the abuse described in the movie The Smell of Money, in which he also appears. “We will destroy our planet unless we start figuring out a better way forward when it comes to our climate change and our environment,” Booker previously told VegNews. “So when you start seeing places like Duplin County and the severe health impact that the industrial pig farming is having there—literally, people that are living in those communities can’t open their windows, can’t run their air-conditioning, can’t put their clothes out on the clothing lines. Where they have respiratory diseases, there are high rates of cancer because of these massive pig farms where the farmers themselves are now being treated more like sharecroppers than small business people. It is grounding down the livelihood, the environment, the health and safety of folks. And all to do what? To produce pork that is being exported back by a Chinese company, Smithfield, being exported back to China,” Booker said.

In 2020, Booker introduced The Farm System Reform Act (FSRA), proposed legislation that aims to transition animal agriculture away from factory farming by prohibiting the opening of new large-scale CAFOs and limiting the growth of existing CAFOs in the meat and dairy industries. Booker was outraged by the way Smithfield’s Duplin County farm and other CAFOs operate. Additionally, the measure wants to phase out the largest CAFOs by 2040, hold major meatpackers responsible for the pollution they produce, and set aside $100 billion over a ten-year period to assist former CAFO owners in making the transition to what it calls better forms of agriculture.

In a statement, Booker added, “We need to fix this broken system… That means protecting family farmers and food system workers and holding corporate integrators responsible for the harm they are causing. Large factory farms are harmful to rural communities, public health, and the environment and we must immediately begin to transition to a more sustainable and humane system.”

Since its inception, the FSRA has attracted support from a number of people, including fellow past candidates for president Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (D-VT).


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