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Judge: Jury won’t take smell tour of North Carolina hog farm

This July 21, 2017  photo shows young hogs at Everette Murphrey Farm in Farmville, N.C. (Gerry Broome / Associated Press)
This July 21, 2017 photo shows young hogs at Everette Murphrey Farm in Farmville, N.C. (Gerry Broome / Associated Press)
By Emery P. Dalesio Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. – A federal judge decided Monday he won’t send jurors for a see-and-sniff tour of a North Carolina hog-growing operation at the center of a lawsuit claiming industrial-scale pork production creates smells too ugly to live near.

Jurors wouldn’t get a true feel for conditions with one quick visit to a Bladen County farm growing animals for Murphy-Brown LLC, the hog production division of Virginia’s Smithfield Foods, U.S. District Judge W. Earl Britt ruled.

“Plaintiffs’ odor and other complaints, of course, cover a much longer period. Conditions when jurors visit would not necessarily be substantially similar to what plaintiffs experienced at a given time,” Britt wrote in his order.

The decision came as jurors were due to be selected for a trial that could shake the profits and change production methods of pork producers who have raised hogs in confined conditions for the past generation. The trial could take six weeks.

Industry lawyers asked for the visit so jurors could decide what they think about the smells and flies.

“The presence or absence of odor, as well as the level of its severity at any given time and place, is the most difficult of the five senses to attempt to convey to a jury. No photograph or video or other evidence or demonstrative can provide the jury with an adequate representation of the alleged odor conditions,” industry attorneys said in one court filing.

That’s funny, lawyers for the neighbors said, since the proposed jury tour was requested just as the farm was removing millions of gallons of waste, something that “never before occurred in the 23-year history of this operation.”

The farm and its owners, who raise hogs under contract with Murphy-Brown, are not defendants. Instead, the target is the company that set specific standards of how the farm must operate.

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