Indigenous, human-rights, conservation and public health groups asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to hold a thematic hearing on human-rights abuses caused by industrial meat, egg, and dairy facilities across the American continents.
The request urges the commission, which monitors human rights within the Organization of American States, to investigate human-rights abuses resulting from the unchecked expansion of concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, across the Americas. The groups are asking the commission to issue a report with recommendations to address those abuses.
The coalition previously requested a thematic hearing on the CAFO abuses in October 2021 and met with representatives of the commission in November 2021. It now seeks a full hearing before the commission.
The 20 petitioning groups include groups from Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Ecuador, and the United States. The request is additionally supported by 243 organizations.
The request highlights a new report showing that industrial animal feeding operations in the United States disproportionately harm Indigenous communities, communities of color and low-income communities.
Several of the parties joining the request represent Indigenous tribes, such as Mayan tribes in the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, whose rights of self-determination, autonomy, and self-governance have consistently been ignored as CAFOs have expanded in the region. Those rights include the rights to free, prior and informed consent and consultation before the approval of any activity that affects Indigenous territory.
“The government has authorized a 49,000-pig farm in our Mayan territory that is located in two natural protected areas,” said Doroteo Hau of Guardianes de los Cenotes, México. “We organized ourselves to resist the operation, we held a consultation process, and the people said ‘no’ to the farm. Water is the most important thing, and we know the farm will damage the water. Scientists say our soil is karstic, we say it is porous, and everything seeps into the groundwater. We are defending what is ours and what will be for our children.”
The expansion of CAFOs has caused a range of human-rights abuses across the American continents. Those abuses include human health harms and drinking-water contamination, both of which constitute violations of the right to a healthy environment.
“In Chile we can no longer sustain megafarms,” said Andrea Cisneros of Movimiento Socioambiental Valle del Huasco, Chile. “We live in a country where all the water is privately owned and the little that is left is contaminated. In addition, these operations produce nauseating odors that do not allow us to live or enjoy our daily lives.”
“In Ecuador, intensive animal husbandry megafarms cause pollution around rivers that communities use for their food sovereignty,” said Xavier León Vega of Acción Ecológica, Ecuador. “Despite this, these megafarms continue to expand thanks to financing from international organizations such as the World Bank.”
Many of the abuses detailed in the request occur alongside threats and other intimidation by agribusiness interests looking to continue with business as usual to the detriment of neighboring communities. A recent report found that at least 200 environmental activists and Indigenous defenders were killed in 2021 — nearly four people a week. Agribusiness, logging, and mining interests are considered key drivers of the violence.
“In the province of Chaco, Argentina, in 2020, the executive branch signed an agreement with the company Feng Tian Food as part of a strategic partnership agreement with China for the installation of integrated pig production complexes,” said of Nora Gimenez of Conciencia Solidaria, part of Colectivo Somos Monte Argentina. “This generated a lot of resistance among the population that mobilized and protested the agreement despite facing intimidation from the provincial police that included following people, power cuts, and threats to impose fines. The lack of official information on the agreement and the repression has extended the conflict from the city to the municipalities where we have never been able to obtain official information.”
The request details the grave harms to human health and the environment associated with CAFOs across the Americas. These harms include contamination of water, including naturally occurring freshwater wells known as cenotes, emission of noxious air pollution, the spread of dangerous pathogens, and contributions to climate change.
“Factory farms can’t be allowed to keep trampling on the fundamental human right to clean air and water,” said Hannah Connor, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’ve simply got to find ways to stop the ongoing daily harms from this destructive industry.”
The request is being filed on behalf of 20 groups: ARTICLE 19 México y Centroamérica, Acción Ecológica, Asociación Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente (AIDA), Asociación Argentina de Abogados Ambientalistas, Cátedra Libre de Soberanía Alimentaria de la Escuela de Nutrición de la Universidad de Buenos Aires, Center for Biological Diversity, Colectivo de Derechos Humanos Yopoi, Conciencia Solidaria, Earthjustice, Kanan Derechos Humanos, Guardianes de los cenotes “Kanan Ts’ono’ot”, Greenpeace México, Movimiento Socioambiental Valle del Huasco, Museo del Hambre, Programa de Derechos Humanos, Universidad Iberoamericana Ciudad de México, Red de Abogadas y Abogados por la Soberanía Alimentaria (REDASA), Representantes de la Infancia de Homún, Seminario sobre el Derecho Humano a la Alimentación Adecuada de la Facultad de Derecho de la UBA, Slow Food Chile, and Waterkeeper Alliance. The request is additionally supported by 243 organizations.
View the request in English.
View the request in Spanish.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is a quasi‐judicial body that promotes and protects human rights as part of the Inter‐American Human Rights System. The regional system was created to monitor and ensure the protection of human rights within the 35 member states of the Organization of American States, including Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Ecuador, and the United States.
Non-governmental organizations in member states have the right to request that the commission hold a thematic hearing on human-rights abuses. These are used to compile information about a particular human-rights issue in one or more member states. The commission has the discretion to accept or reject hearing requests.
Thematic hearings can address a wide range of human-rights concerns. Recent hearings have dealt with human-rights harms from environmental issues such as fracking, large dams, and the right to water. Hearings have also dealt with solitary confinement, juvenile justice, national security, Indigenous rights, racial discrimination, human trafficking, rights of migrants and farmworkers, excessive use of force, detention at the U.S.‐Mexico border, and stand-your-ground laws.
For additional information on thematic hearings at the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.