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By Erin Smith

A group called Vegan Outreach was protesting outside the Smithfield Foods plant in Tar Heel on Thursday afternoon. Law enforcement officials on the scene estimated 150 protesters were present at the facility. 

The protesters were lined up behind yellow police tape and shouting, “Animal liberation. Shut it down.”

Law enforcement officers with the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office and North Carolina Highway Patrol and Smithfield Company Police kept a watchful eye on the protesters and directed traffic in and out of the plant because of the protest.

Captain Jeff Bridgers with the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office said, “The company asked us to provide extra security.”

Two officials from Smithfield Foods were also watching the protesters but refused to comment. 

The company reports the Tar Heel facility is the largest pork production plant in the world. The Tar Heel facility processes 30,000 hogs per day and employs 5,000 people, according to the company.

Smithfield recently announced plans to construct a new 500,000 square foot distribution center and a blast cold storage expansion which will increase the facility’s capacity by 140 million pounds.

Vegan Outreach, which is headquartered in California, touts itself as an advocacy group for animals. The group’s website states they are attempting to expose cruelty in slaughterhouses and cruelty on factory farms. Their website states, “Vegan Outreach is a 501(c)(3)

nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the suffering of farmed animals by promoting informed, ethical eating.”

Patricia T., one of today’s protesters, said, “I’m standing here to give a bit of a voice to the animals. A pig’s life matters to the pig.”

She also explained that she is passionate about animals. Patricia recounted how she once drove 15 hours to Florida to protest the conditions of Lolita, an Orca whale captured in the wild, and taken to Miami’s Seaquarium. 

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