Soil and water

A Mexican court is asked to rule on behalf of indigenous Mayan youth in a constitutional challenge to the massive exploitation of factory pigs in the Yucatán Peninsula

MEXICO, Mexico– Conservation groups, scientists, doctors and public health experts today filed a legal case supporting constitutional claims raised by Mayan children who oppose the approval and operation of a huge industrial pig farm on ecologically sensitive and culturally significant land in the Yucatán Peninsula.

Friend of the Court (amicus curiae) The brief filed today in the Second District Court of the State of Yucatán outlines the significant body of scientific evidence on the serious and irreversible damage to human health and the environment associated with industrial hog operations. These harms include water contamination, such as natural freshwater wells known as cenotes; emission of harmful air pollution; the spread of dangerous pathogens; and contributions to climate change.

Many of the experts who join the amicus brief are the authors of the scientific literature cited in the brief.

“Many scientific studies provide evidence that industrial hog operations release contaminants into nearby communities, where they affect the health and quality of life of neighbours. Such operations have been associated with increased wheezing and asthma symptoms, blood pressure, stress and anxiety in residents living nearby,” said Dr. Jill Johnston, Assistant Professor of Medicine. preventive at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California who joined the amicus brief.

Today’s brief supports a lawsuit challenging a decision by Mexican authorities to allow industrial animal exploitation of 49,000 pigs in an environmentally sensitive area near the Mayan city of Homún. The lawsuit describes how the decision to allow the mass installation, despite the risks to air and water quality and human health, violates the rights of Mayan children to a healthy environment and autonomy in life. as an indigenous people.

Last year, the First Chamber of Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice upheld the suspension of the mega pig farm until the merits of this challenge could be decided by the lower court. Many of those who joined today’s brief also submitted a brief to the Supreme Court in support of this suspension.

“We are proud to support the Mayan children’s battle to preserve their ecological and cultural heritage against the existential threat posed by this destructive industrial mega-farm,” said Hannah Connor, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We hope the court will apply the environmental principles enshrined in the Mexican constitution to protect the rights of the Maya indigenous people to a healthy environment.”

Industrial animal farms are notorious polluters. The operation at issue in this lawsuit is expected to generate more than 600 million pounds of urine and feces each year, more waste than the entire human population of Tijuana generates. This waste would have to be disposed of on site, which poses a permanent threat to nearby people and the surrounding environment.

“The scientific studies described in today’s brief document span 40 years of evidence that industrial pig farms are poisoning workers, communities and the environment. Authorities should not wait for children to get sick to address these harms,” said Guillermo Zúñiga Martínez, lawyer at Earthjustice. “Instead, Mexican and international law require authorities to take all necessary steps to ensure that such unacceptable harm does not occur.”

In fact, as documented in the Greenpeace report The meat that consumes the planet, the uncontrolled growth of industrial pig farms has already degraded the air, soil and water of the Yucatán Peninsula. The challenged facility threatens to exacerbate that damage.

“The factory farming model is very polluting and has a negative impact on the environment and people, especially Mayan communities,” said Viridiana Lázaro, food and agriculture activist for Greenpeace Mexico. “This type of intensive production is close to population centers and cities, which leads to increased exposure to disease. This is why we must seek a transition from the agro-industrial model to agroecological, sustainable and healthy production that respects the cycles of nature and guarantees respect for people’s rights.

The Yucatán Peninsula is home to four sites protected by the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental treaty that protects spectacular wetlands: Laguna de Terminos, Ring of Cenotes Geohydrological Reserve, Laguna de Yalahau State Park and of Ría Celestún Biosphere.

The Ring of Cenotes Geohydrological Reserve, located in Homún, is a unique and culturally significant wetland that is particularly vulnerable to pollution from the disputed operation. The reserve’s cenotes are home to endangered and threatened species, including three fish: the Mexican blind brotula, the blind swamp eel, and the Yucatán molly.

Cenotes also provide resting places for waterfowl during their southward migration and vital habitat for native species such as Yucatán box turtle, Yucatán mushroom-tongued salamander, rough-winged swallow Ridgway and the Yucatán jay.

“Extensive scientific research has demonstrated that industrial-scale pig confinement operations using waste pits and waste disposal can contaminate groundwater, pollute surface waters and emit dangerous gases into the air. said Kelly Hunter Foster, attorney at Waterkeeper Alliance. “It is well established that these outdated practices pose significant threats to people and natural resources.”

Earthjustice filed today’s brief on its own behalf, on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, Coastal Carolina Riverwatch, Greenpeace Mexico, La Paz Waterkeeper, Waterkeeper Alliance and experts Larry Baldwin, Dr Lawrence Cahoon, Dr Meghan Davis, Dr. Mike Fliss, Dr. Jill Johnston, Dr. Robert S. Lawrence, Robert P. Martin, Dr. Arbor JL Quist, Dr. Ana María Rule, Dr. Kendall Thu, Dr. D’Ann Williams and Dr. Sacoby Wilson.