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Hurricane Florence Has Killed at Least 1.7 Million Chickens in North Carolina

In a tragedy that seems to know no end, Sanderson Farms poultry producers says they’ve lost millions of chickens to Hurricane Florence in North Carolina. So far, they know for certain that at least 1.7 million chickens have drowned, but another 6 million may soon be added to the list, as they’re surrounded by flood waters, and feeder trucks are unable to get to them, Huffington Post reported.

The company’s chairman, Joe Sanderson, told HuffPo in a statement that he was “pleased” that the company’s “assets” were not significantly damaged — apparently alluding to the buildings — and that no people had been hurt, either.

However, in late-breaking news that an NBC affiliate posted live on Facebook in midmorning today, we now know that the Lumberton, North Carolina, levy has broken, and water is pouring through the city. Lumberton is where those other chickens are housed, according to Mother Jones.

I know it may sound repetitive, but the dire situation of livestock in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) goes beyond the cramped quarters, inhumane housing and the millions of tons of manure that they produce annually. In this case, the aftermath of the flooding — with poisoned waterways and the threat of disease looming — is only the climax of an overture that began with the deaths of all these animals that had no chance of escaping their cages as the floodwaters rose.

Judging from the statement that Sanderson’s chairman made, the loss of the chickens is merely a setback for the company; HuffPo added that he refused comment on the financial fate of the farmers who were raising these chickens for him. If you’re surprised that Sanderson seems casually callous with his approach to the disaster, don’t be, as this attitude is completely in line with other things the company does, like refusing to stop using antibiotics in their chickens.

While other poultry farms, like Perdue, have promised to cut back or even eliminate antibiotic use — a move to help fight the epidemic of antibiotic-resistant diseases in humans — Sanderson has stubbornly refused to budge, saying the antibiotic-free chicken trend is nothing but a marketing ploy devised to justify higher prices.

And now, now that a hurricane has hit North Carolina one more time, and CAFO animals have died one more time, once more the manure that comes from these chickens will one more time be spilling out into surrounding fields and possibly streams and waterways, and with that runoff, antibiotics that were excreted in the chicken manure.

Add that runoff to whatever was in the pig CAFOs that were also hit by the hurricane, and you can only imagine the drug soup that we have to fight, beyond the nitrates, E-coli, algae and whatever other disease vectors there are in it.

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