The Smell of Money

Maggie Collins

Editor, Arts and Entertainment

PC: Farm Aid

Environmental injustice is something I had never heard of until I took an environmental communications course at UNCG. Ironically, despite the fact that environmental injustice is an enormous problem affecting more people than you could imagine, it is not talked about nearly enough. “The Smell of Money” is a film that was just recently released in 2022, which focuses on the injustices that pig factories have caused for local communities. This film was shown at UNCG to the public with a discussion after between the producer/writer and two people who were in the film.

North Carolina is the second largest hog producer in the United States, meaning there are numerous hog factories placed around the state. However, they are not just placed anywhere, they’re strategically placed in poor communities and/or communities of color. They are located close to the same path as the Black Belt in North Carolina. 

Marginalized communities are stereotyped to be silent when they are facing injustice, and many times their voices are muffled and ignored when they try to speak up for themselves. 

While there were many important issues brought up in this film, the main topic was the way that hog farms are operated in such close proximity to people who have lived on their land since their families were slaves. In fact, factories have tried to take over some families’ own cemeteries and land with their houses on them. Operating a hog factory is obviously not a clean job and will produce an odor, but the injustices go further than just this.

Worst of all, these factories will put all of the hog’s feces and urine into a big pond structure called a lagoon in the back of the land. This large open hole causes a nasty and powerful odor and releases toxins into the air, harming those who live close to it. From this lagoon, the fecal matter is sprayed over a field for all hours of the day and night. 

The main person in this film, Elsie Herring, and others stated that they have had this fecal water sprayed on their house, in their yard and even on their own bodies. No matter what they say or how much they try to fight against these factories, nothing seems to be done to stop it. North Carolina is currently the only state in the United States where it is even legal to spray untreated farm water. 

The pollutants from the water being sprayed and from the emissions of the factories have caused people to become seriously ill, and even pass away from such serious illnesses. Medical bills are piling up and taking over the lives of close residents to the factories. A recurring theme during the film shows that everyone is losing except the multinational corporations that are causing all of this disruption. 

At the end of the film, the producer, Jamie Berger, and two people who were interviewed in the film allowed time for a discussion. Many questions were asked, and conversations were had, but perhaps the most important conversation was our call to action. It is one thing to not know of this issue and not do anything about it, but now we know. So, what can we do to stop the injustice that hog factories have created in our local communities?

The first to be mentioned was to go to the legislature and fight for change. Whether this is a bill preventing factories to spray unfiltered farm water or not being allowed to operate within a certain distance of a community, anything can help. Secondly, they mentioned staying connected with organizations that are doing work on this issue; this can be through financial support or volunteering.

 The last suggestion was to be mindful of consumption and to know where your meat comes from. Many are dependent on meat for every meal of the day and don’t even know that their purchase of a certain brand or company of meat is adding to the injustice done to local communities. Lessening our consumption of meat overall is a great way to combat this issue, as it reduces the demand for it and, in turn, reduces the number of pollutants released into the air. However, just buying meat from a local market or small farmer is a better option than buying from large chain meat companies. Check out the film’s website: The Smell of Money (

Categories: Arts & Entertainment, featured


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