U.S. Agriculture

Environmentalists Greet New Tyson CEO Dean Banks With “Welcome” Protest on First Week of Work 

NWA citizens rally at Tyson HQ as CEO starts job, calling for fulfilled promises, transparency, regenerative agricultural practices and community health 

Springdale, AR – As Dean Banks arrived at the Tyson Foods headquarters for his first week as CEO, he was greeted by over two dozen protestors telling him “Keep Your Promise.” In 2018, Tyson pledged to implement sustainable farming practices on 2 million acres by this year. However, just months away from the deadline, Tyson has provided no details on how the company will meet that goal. The activists showed up to the headquarters with a 15’ contract renewal, calling on Banks to sign. 

“After years of expanding the Dead Zone in the Gulf, emitting dangerous levels of greenhouse gases, and dirtying drinking water sources, Tyson cannot expect local communities to trust them in blind faith” Mighty Earth activist and University of Arkansas undergraduate Caroline Crawford said. “I came out to protest today so that Banks knows upfront that there’s a strong mandate for him to follow through on company promises and provide full information on how goals will be met.”  

“Regenerative agricultural methods that focus on soil health and micro-biology have been shown by academia and scientific trials to provide higher yields than Tyson's current grain operations that are dependent on the chemical fertilizers that leach into our watershed” permaculture designer and CEO of Biodesic Strategies Tas Zinck said. “The partnerships between these chemical companies and big agriculture and their influence on policy makes it nearly impossible for smaller farmers to transition to these healthier systems. Tyson must lead the way in this transition”  

The demonstrators called on Tyson to clean up the company’s supply chain by implementing a suite of sustainability measures, and specifically demanded that Tyson mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, protect soil health and reduce runoff and drinking water contamination. 

In February, dozens of citizens from Northwest Arkansas converged on the Tyson shareholder meeting calling on company executives to follow through on their commitment. Tyson responded to the protest by re-stating an intention to meet the goal, yet still refused to provide detail.

See Muskogee Phoenix and KNWA and Fox24 coverage

Big Meat Companies Are Making the Pandemic Worse

As the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc with the meat supply chain, Mighty Earth CEO Glenn Hurowitz released the following statement:

"In the midst of a global crisis, the meat industry continues to pack people and animals into factories, fueling the spread of the current pandemic and making the next one more likely. The industry’s dangerous behavior and poor planning have led to the slow suffocation of millions of animals, even as unsafe working conditions force workers to risk sickness and death to keep their jobs.

"The industry’s destruction is also playing out on an international scale. The big meat companies like JBS and Cargill have driven the bulldozing and burning of the Amazon and other forests in South America to expand the area dedicated to raising cattle and planting crops to feed them. In addition to driving mass extinctions and accelerating climate change, this deforestation risks bringing humans into contact with dangerous new diseases. These tropical forest fires also overload health care facilities with new cases of respiratory problems and cause hundreds of thousands of premature deaths under normal circumstances. Allowing these practices to continue only further endangers people whose lungs have been damaged by the coronavirus.

"Supermarkets like Costco, Ahold Delhaize, Casino, and more must end their complicity and stop sending hundreds of millions of dollars in supplier contracts to companies like Cargill and JBS that are acting in such a cruel and reckless manner."

As Massive Dead Zone Blooms in Gulf, Hold Industrial Farming Companies Responsible

Today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that scientists have determined that this year’s Gulf of Mexico “dead zone” is 6,952 square miles, nearly the size of New Jersey. In response, Mighty Earth Campaign Director Lucia von Reusner released the following statement:

“The collapse of one of our most important watersheds is tragic not only because of its size, impact on marine life, and consequences on Gulf economies – but because it’s entirely predictable and preventable. Uncontrolled runoff from industrial meat production flushed down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico is known to be the main source of pollution causing the dead zone. The raw sewage from livestock waste and runoff from grain fields washing into waterways across the Midwest has reached crisis levels – contaminating drinking water, causing toxic algae blooms, and deoxygenating important waterways throughout the Mississippi River watershed.

“The very predictability of this crisis is the most damning indictment. America’s meat companies know where their waste is going and what effect it has on water quality, but are content to leave these problems to communities downstream that have to foot the bill. This is shameless corporate abuse of our public waterways. It is time the companies responsible are held to account for cleaning up American waterways.

“As climate-fueled flooding becomes commonplace in America, the industrial meat companies like JBS and Cargill that are responsible for driving polluting farming practices must immediately take action to implement protections for America’s water.”

A recent Mighty Earth analysis showed that nearly 220 million tons of untreated animal waste and other pollutants washed freely off industrial farms into the Mississippi River watershed in 2018, endangering local water quality and ultimately contributing to the toxic algal blooms fueling the annual Gulf dead zone. This is 500 times more raw sewage than New York City produced during the same year. America’s largest meat companies have concentrated their slaughterhouses and processing facilities near waterways throughout the Mississippi River Basin that are increasingly prone to flooding, while failing to develop and implement practices to protect water quality.

Agricultural giant JBS, responsible for 80 million tons of pollution in 2018, was the top polluter identified in the analysis, while Cargill and Tyson were the most vulnerable to flooding. Polluted runoff from fields producing the vast quantities of animal feed used by these companies is another major source of water contamination causing the dead zone.

This announcement comes shortly after the publication of Mighty Earth’s “Cargill: Worst Company in the World” report, which documents decades of bad acts by Cargill and calls on the company to take action to address the negative impacts of its massive supply chain. Cargill is the second-largest feed beef processor in North America and the largest supplier of ground beef in the world.

Additional Resources: