THE ROSEBUD PROJECT
In 1998, the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council signed a contract allowing Sun Prairie Partnership, an affiliate of Bell Farms, to build the world's third largest hog operation on tribal trust land. In total, the facility would raise 859,000 hogs annually. Another 25,000 breeding sows were planned to be confined in small metal crates.
Many residents of Rosebud Reservation claim the tribal council did not obtain the consent of the people before signing the contract. This sparked a great debate within the Reservation, splitting the tribe in a contentious battle over whether the hog factory should stay on sacred land or be forced to leave.
Incredibly, despite the fact that the operation was to generate a massive waste product, the Bureau of Indian Affairs signed off on the project without requiring an Environmental Impact Statement, as required by law. This provided the basis for a complex four year legal battle which has recently taken a turn in favor of those trying to stop construction of this project.
As with all factory farms, this project would mean misery for the animals raised under the inhumane conditions characterized by confinement "farming". In addition, however, the project is an example of the injustices of corporate agribusiness taking advantage of an impoverished community. As factory farms increasingly find difficulty locating their operations in more traditional farm venues because of environmental issues, these corporations look to move into areas where environmental standards can be compromised. In the Rosebud case this was a sovereign Indian Reservation, but exporting the model to less developed countries is also happening.
Animal Welfare Trust initiated a nine month campaign to increase public awareness of factory farming abuses and to aid the grassroots efforts of the Lakota Indians who live on the Rosebud Reservation.
In December of 2001, Tracy Basile, then Executive Editor of Animal Welfare Trust, traveled to Rosebud and spent three days on the Reservation with a Native family. The research conducted as a result of that trip as well as from other sources resulted in the writing and publication of five articles in various publications. In addition, information packets and several documentaries on factory farming were sent to activists and professors on the reservation. A grant from Animal Welfare Trust enabled another organization to hold a fund raising event in May of 2002 in Westchester County, New York. Robert Kennedy, Jr. of Waterkeeper Alliance was a speaker. The event raised funds that were sent to the South Dakota Peace and Justice Center.
We are hopeful that these efforts helped raise the public and Tribal awareness of the great harm that would be inflicted on animals, humans and the environment by allowing this project to move forward. Animal Welfare Trust will continue to look for ways to help raise public awareness of the realities of factory farming. Once exposed, we believe the public will reject such inhumane and environmentally destructive methods of raising animals.
The legal battle at Rosebud has been complex and has taken many twists and turns. After originally siding with Sun Prairie in support of the project, the Tribe changed its stand against the project after the election of a new Tribal Council. The U.S. District Judge originally ruled that the federal government and environmental groups could not interfere with the development of the hog farm. But an appeals court then struck down that order. Sun Prairie appealed that order to the U.S. Supreme Court. On February 25, 2003 the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case. There remains a second lawsuit which was filed in 2002 contending that federal and tribal agencies have unconstitutionally interfered with the hog farm and should be liable for any Sun Prairie losses if the operation is shut down.
As it stands, there is more reason than ever to be encouraged that this hog project will be shut down. The project has been on hold, with only two of the proposed thirteen sites having been built and put into operation. A victory at Rosebud would be a major statement to corporate farming that illegal attempts to locate projects will be exposed and not tolerated. There were a number of groups that supported the legal campaign at Rosebud, including Humane Farming Association. Animal Welfare Trust was not involved in funding the legal campaign, per se. These groups should be applauded for their efforts on this campaign.