Using Drones To Monitor Smithfield Foods Factory Farms

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Using Drones To Monitor Smithfield Foods Factory Farms

The Citizen Drone Project, founded by director Mark Devries uses drones to investigate issues such as factory farms. The project grew out of an earlier work “Spy Drones Expose Smithfield Foods Factory Farms.” Mark “wanted to get a look at some pig farms operated by Murphy-Brown, a subdivision of Smithfield Farms, far and away the world’s largest pork producer. There are over 2,000 farms like this in North Carolina alone.” I don’t think Mark is far off when he refers to this as “among the most bizarre and disturbing environmental phenomena that have ever confronted America.”

In the last two decades, the small/medium sized farms that raised animals in a humane fashion have been replaced with factory farms that confine thousands of cows, hogs and chickens in tightly packed facilities. These large scale operations produce millions of gallons of manure that inevitably spills into waterways from leaking storage lagoons or fields where manure is over-applied to soil. (You can see an example of a storage lagoon in the Spy Drones Expose Smithfield Foods Factory Farms video.) Manure, especially in large quantities, creates an environment that is harmful to humans. It is the hazardous air pollutants filled with contaminants that endanger us. Neighbors of factory farms, as well as the workers in them, commonly suffer intensely from headaches, nausea and other long-term health effects.

Spy Drones Expose Smithfield Foods Factory Farms

Behind the Factory Farm Drone Investigation Videos

Filmmaker Mark Devries of Speciesism: The Movie began developing the plan to use drones on farms in 2012, when a Georgetown Law student suggested the idea at a sneak-preview screening of Speciesism: The Movie.  Countless technical problems and cost overruns delayed the project nearly three years, with the series finally being released starting with this video’s publication in late-2014.

The Future of Drones on Farms

Mark Devries will continue investigating factory farms with the use of drones, and will continue releasing videos with the findings of his investigations.

Spy Drones Expose Smithfield Foods Factory Farms
The Citizen Drone Project: Drone Investigations


We’ve known the horrific conditions animals endure when raised in factory farms. One could only hope we have all seen some footage that shows chickens, cows, or pigs crammed into tiny spaces so filled that the animals cannot turn around or lay down. One thing we haven’t seen until now are the cesspools created by factory farming.

Spy drones expose factory farming’s disgusting environmental devastation they don’t want us to know about


Bacon’s a thing these days. Yummy and bad for you — mmmm. But here’s what a drone saw when it payed a visit to some pig “farms” run by the world’s biggest pork producer.

A Drone Flew Over A Pig Farm To Discover It’s Not Really A Farm. It’s Something Much More Disturbing.

UPDATE: Here is a new (well, new to me) link I found on the subject, “Spy Drones Expose Smithfield Foods Factory Farms spraying liquid waste into the air,” and if you have a strong stomach then you can check out “Smithfield Foods: Cruel to Pigs and Humans.”

Mark Devries

Mark Devries

About Mark Devries

Mark Devries produced and directed the award-winning 2013 documentary Speciesism: The Movie, which screened at theaters worldwide and has been featured in Scientific American (“brilliant and compelling”), The Huffington Post (“tremendously entertaining”), CNN Headline News, Psychology Today, and most popularly The Sydney Morning Herald, among many others.

Devries filmed the world’s first aerial drone footage of factory farms, released as part of his 2014 Factory Farm Drone Project, which has been viewed by millions worldwide.

Devries continues to appear and speak at special screenings of Speciesism, while working on several new projects.

Devries currently lives in New York City.

Gestation Crates

Gestation Crates

About Smithfield Foods, Inc.

Smithfield Foods, Inc. is an American company and the world’s largest pork producer and processor.

Headquartered in Smithfield, Virginia, it runs facilities in 26 U.S. states, including the largest slaughterhouse and meat-processing plant in the world, located in Tar Heel, North Carolina. It also has operations in Mexico and in 10 European countries, with a global total of over 46,000 employees and an annual revenue of $13 billion.

Smithfield was founded in 1936 by Joseph W. Luter and his son as the Smithfield Packing Company, now its largest subsidiary. From 1981, it began to purchase companies such as Eckrich, Farmland Foods of Kansas, Gwaltney of Smithfield, John Morrell, Murphy Family Farms of North Carolina, and Premium Standard Farms. It was able to grow as a result of its highly industrialized pig production, raising the animals using a vertical integration system of production that enables the company to control their development from conception to packing. Thousands of livestock are housed together in barns with metal roofs, known as concentrated animal feeding operations, where they are permanently confined.

The company raises around 15 million pigs a year and processes 27 million, producing over six billion pounds of pork. It was the top pig slaughter operation in the United States in 2007, at 114,300 pigs a day, and along with three other companies slaughtered 56% of the cattle processed there until it sold its beef group in 2008. Smithfield sells its products under a variety of brand names, including Cook’s Ham, Gwaltney, John Morrell, Krakus Ham, Patrick Cudahy, Smithfield, and Stefano’s. C. Larry Pope is the president and chief executive officer.

By |2017-08-31T15:24:46-08:00July 13th, 2015|Activism, Drone Agriculture/Farming, Drones|Comments Off on Using Drones To Monitor Smithfield Foods Factory Farms

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About the Author:

Sam Estrin
I'm an avid drone enthusiast and part-time drone blogger living outside of the DC area. I track drone news and write editorials and timely drone news stories that I find interesting. If you like my stories, you can follow me on Twitter or visit me at LinkedIn. If you'd like me to write for your drone oriented publication or blog, you can contact me at