Is Google Encouraging Pig Abuse?


Factory-farmed pigs know a lot about animal abuse. So forgive my lack of excitement over the news that Google is buying into Duke University’s new scheme for turning “hog waste” into energy. The company calls it renewable energy. I call it greenwashing.

I am a longtime Google fan and admire the company’s innovative spirit and their commitment to being environmentally responsible. I just hope they will give more thought to where “hog waste” comes from and whether it really fits into their green efforts.

On the Green Side

Pigs in CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) do produce a lot of waste. It is an environmental disaster. So it is not surprising media reports on Google’s move have been glowing.

Duke University and Duke Energy have developed a carbon neutral system that is open-sourced. That means anyone can install the technology on their own pig farm, with a promise of lower energy costs and fewer carbon emissions.

The $1.2 million prototype can be found in Yadkinville, North Carolina, where Loyd Ray Farms has an 8,600-head swine finishing facility. Here’s how the Duke Sustainability site describes it:

“The project involves the capture of methane generated by the hog waste which is captured and collected under a plastic cover over the anaerobic digester.  The gas collected under the digester cover is used to power a 65-kW microturbine, the electricity from which is used to support the operation of the innovative waste management system. From the digester, the liquid waste flows to an aeration basin which treats the water for ammonia and remaining pollutants so that it can be re-used for irrigation and barn-flushing.  Any electricity not needed to power the innovative system is kept on the farm to support normal farm operations.

“The project creates carbon offsets through the destruction of the methane, which will be shared by Duke University and Google.  It also produces renewable energy credits (RECs) which Duke Energy counts towards its NC Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS) requirements for the generation of electricity from swine waste. ”

So far, so good. The anaerobic digester turns an ongoing environmental problem into reusable water and green energy. The technology will be available to anyone. No wonder Google is receiving kudos for adopting it.

However, there is a dark side.

The Underbelly of Green Energy

The problem with the scheme is that it depends on an energy-intensive system that abuses living creatures. The reason hog farms have so much waste to turn into “green” energy is that they raise pigs in abominable conditions. These are intelligent creatures, smarter than the average dog. They are sociable. They have feelings.

The abuse starts at birth. Since their mothers are trapped in gestation crates, piglets are have to lie on cold, feces-spattered concrete while they suckle. Less than a month later they are weaned, though normal piglets would stay with their mothers for several months. Their teeth are clipped, their tails chopped off. Boar piglets are castrated. Nothing dulls the pain of these procedures. When sow piglets are old enough to reproduce, they are artificially inseminated and then imprisoned in cages too small to allow them to turn around or lie down comfortably.

The details of their abuse are grotesque, and you can learn more about them from sites like PETA and End Factory Farming. But this is a post about carbon offsets so it is important to consider the energy costs that go into factory farming pigs.

Because they are unable to graze or root, CAFO pigs have to be fed grain. Grain farming is a major energy hog, needing fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and machinery fuel. It is delivered to huge barns that require massive amounts of water to provide even a modest level of sanitation for the overcrowded pigs. Every aspect of pig farming — farrowing, weaning, finishing, feeding, waste handling, heating, ventilation — consumes energy.

The only part of this equation Google and Duke are addressing is the waste handling. The digester system may reduce dead zones caused by runoff from CAFOs. It may reduce costs to farmers and provide energy for their operations. What it will not do is provide green energy. A system that depends on animal abuse may have environmental benefits, but the cost is too high.

Related Care2 Stories

Data Show 20 Percent Growth in Factory Farming in Past 5 Years

People Buy Less Meat Thanks to Animal Welfare News Coverage

Tyson Fined $2M for Mucking Up Missouri River

First Photo from eutrophication&hypoxia, Second Photo from dok1 via Flickr Creative Commons


W. C
W. C5 months ago

Thanks for the information.

William C
William C5 months ago

Thank you for caring.

Christina B.
Christina B6 years ago

Jane B., I feel like I should answer some of your claims.

9) Pig Heart Valves are Routinely Implanted into HUMAN HEARTS
That's correct. As a result, people LIVE longer. Live tissue valves cause less damage to the red blood cells that collide with them (thus, the patient is less anemic), compared to metallic ones. Pig heart valves are used because they are biologically similar to human valves. So, until more human grafts are available (which means that more healthy people will have to DIE to donate) or until the tissue can be cloned (the Holy Grail of Biology, which I'm eagerly looking forward to), we should just be grateful for this option.

15) Eating Pigs Causes Retardation
That one should go in the books, right next to "masturbation causes blindness".

16) Pigs are DISCRIMINATED AGAINST because they are Beautily Challenged.
THAT much political correctness makes me want to throw up. They are not "beautily challenged", they are *ugly* (some of them, Babe was cute). It's just a word, don't be afraid of it.

17) Head Hunters Who Eat Humans Say That Pigs Taste Like People.
Is that a serious argument?? People who eat toad legs say they taste like chicken... Both claims are equally idiotic.

I agree with you on the matter of inhumane treatment, but your abrupt and at times rude comments will not persuade anyone on the validity of your claims.

Diane L.
Diane L6 years ago

Well, John, you then either can't read, or you're blind, since I've posted dozens of times about the fact that the conditions depicted in the videos are indeed, disgusting, but they do not occur everywhere. I HAVE posted about local sources of meat (beef, pork, poultry and dairy) but apparently, you choose to ignore that and focus ONLY on the negative sites, the factory-farms and the CAFO's, which I agree, need to be shut down. What details would you like? Would you like the names of the local butcher shops I patronize which supply meat ONLY from local farms where animals are raised naturally? Would you like me to describe how my next-door-neighbor for 24 years had a cow or a pig butchered every year for his own consumption and I saw it done? No abuse, no cruelty, no "chutes", just a mobile farm slaughterer that came in, walked out to the pasture and "did it" and the animal was never stressed.........never knew what was coming, never tried to get away, but could have, since none were ever even restrained.

John Doe
james rico6 years ago

diane L what i described in 1962 has changed very little up to now .well i commend google for makeing things green like the exsrement pollution thats about all that has changed there is a more humane method called controled atmophere but i think its only being used in europe as its an exstra cost they are allways going to use estreme cruelty because all animals want to live so must that they resist. so they get more brutal to make them go into killng rooms or chutes its a fact i gave my version i have yet to see yours

Diane L.
Diane L6 years ago

Jane, I'm trying to help you out here, so did your "homework" for's the part of Care.2's C.O.C. I am referring to:

"Disruptive posts - No member may disrupt the discussion boards by posting repeatedly with the same information or by otherwise preventing the use of these boards by other Care2 members

You should be aware that this behavior can result in reports of being "inappropriate" and Care.2 states flat out that such comments as you are making SHOULD be reported as such.

Diane L.
Diane L6 years ago

BTW, just repeated your asinine "list" for the 3rd time in this discussion, not to mention the same list with just "pig" replaced with "cow" in the one about drinking MILK. If you read Care.2's C.O.C. and T.O.U., it says doing this behavior is against the rules. It's called trying to prevent other from posting comments that are different with the attempt at monopolizing the discussions.

Diane L.
Diane L6 years ago

Jane, it goes both ways! None of us who aren't vegan come here to PROMOTE anything except using some common sense and stating facts. None of us are paid by anyone. We could all ask the same of YOU, since you are so determined to ignore facts and keep ranting about the same things. You said nobody is paying YOU, and nobody could pay you enough to "eat that stuff", yet you've said over and over again that you ARE an omnivore (that's somebody who eats meat, in case you never looked it up). When did you become a vegan or

How many times does anyone have to repeat the facts to you about not all slaughterhouses being those as depicted in the videos provided by PETA and other such groups showing how it is done on such places affiliated with factory farms? How MANY times do we have to state facts, statistics and other details that you refuse to read? No, you aren't here to "expose lies", since you have done NOTHING except to agitate and misconstrue everything stated by everyone else, and can't even stick to your own "story" half the time. I said I wasn't wasting more time with you, so I won't go back and copy and paste all your previous comments which prove you can't stick with your original opinions and change your words from day to day and from discussion to discussion, depending on whether it concerns beef, pork or dairy...they're all right there for you or anyone else to read that might be interested in knowing how disoriented you come across as

Jane Barton
Jane Barton6 years ago

Factory-farmed pigs know a lot about animal abuse.

The above is the first sentence in the topic article. Here are a few reasons not to EAT pigs:
1) Reduce Polution
2) Lower Carton Footprint
3) Avoid Ass Lard
4) Get the Stink Out of North Carolina
6) Help Stop World Poverty
9) Pig Heart Valves are Routinely Implanted into HUMAN HEARTS
11) They Put Pressure on Our Water System
12) Greedy, lazy factory farming industry SLAUGHTERS, BRUTALLY BUTCHERS in a
13) The MEAT INDUSTRY LIES and SAYS they kill in a PAIN-FREE way but they
HACK OFF LIMBS of ANIMALS without pain killers.
14) When you Eat Pigs, You Start Looking Like One!
15) Eating Pigs Causes Retardation
16) Pigs are Highly Intelligent but they are DISCRIMINATED AGAINST because they
are Beautily Challenged.
17) Head Hunters Who Eat Humans Say That Pigs Taste Like People.

Jane Barton
Jane Barton6 years ago

When certain people come on this site over and over and say how the slaughterhouses have improved you can be sure they are bought and paid for by the MEAT INDUSTRY. I am indeed here to EXPOSE their lies and gossip. If these people just wanted to EAT MEAT they would
just SHUT UP and eat MEAT but they are on here to PROMOTE meat eating so the MEAT
INDUSTRY won't LOSE MONEY!!! I hope they pay well. I'm not getting paid ANYTHING.
In fact the meat industry couldn't pay me enough to EAT that pesticide, hormone injected,
artery clogging, high blood pressure causing, CANCER causing bloody dead animal tissue.
I love to eat delicious pecans and berries and shitake mushrooms and all manner of wonderful and varied foods. I'm totally happy with all those ass lard, pea brained meat eaters out there eating ALL the meat they CAN. They will just die 7 years sooner, more room for me on the planet. ;)