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Tingerup, Denmark, 13 March 2019. The body of a dead piglet sticks out of a broken bin outside one of the industrial pig farms affecting the small rural villages in the area. More bodies of dead piglets can be seen inside the bin through the broken lid, dumped as trash on the side of the road. Tingerup farm is known for regularly dumping dead pigs on the side of the road. © Selene Magnolia
Kirke Eskildstrup, Denmark, 13 March 2019. Bente lives in an old rural house very close to Vandværksgarrden pig farm. When the smell is strong, she has to wear a face mask that she keeps on the whole time she spends outdoors. She says the smell is so awful that it makes her feel sick, her head aches and her eyes are red and swollen. Bente wears the mask while taking care of her garden. When the smell is bad, she has to wear the mask when she carries out any outdoor activity. © Selene Magnolia

Bente Jørgensen, a former high school teacher living with her husband Soeren in the village of Tingerup, Denmark, used to spend her days outside with her horses, amid the lush green landscape. This has been her home for more than two decades, but in recent years, the presence of a Vandvaerksgaarden pig farm, an industrial factory farm located 100 meters from her house, has forced her to spend much of her time indoors. The smell coming from the farm makes her eyes red and swollen, and she wears a mask whenever she has to go outside. 

For neighbors of the farm in Tingerup, the screams of the pigs keep them up at night. Headaches and diarrhea are common. Dead piglets can be seen dumped in trash bins on the street. In 2018-2019, the photographer and investigator Selene Magnolia teamed up with Greenpeace through Wildlight to document life in Tingerup, along with two other communities located close to factory farms, including the Valle de Odieta Scl dairy farm in Spain and the Gallès SAS egg-laying hen farm in France. 

“These three locations are very different: green or arid, colder or warmer, humid or dry landscapes,” Magnolia says. “But they all had in common the extreme discomfort experienced by people living in once-peaceful natural environments that were severely damaged by the factory farming facilities that they have next door. Medical complaints that I documented varied from chronic migraines, eye irritation, sleeping issues, breathing problems, corrosive smell for the throat, constant nausea, or digestive issues.”

Near Caparroso, Spain, sits one of the largest dairy farms in Spain, where calves are separated from their mothers and kept in rows of small containers, barely able to move or turn around. In Lescout, France, a factory farm houses 185,000 hens, far more than the 700 human inhabitants of the village, who worry that the polluted air could cause cancer. “In this community in France, the cancer rate is three times higher than in the rest of the country,” Magnolia explains.

“The farm has been built very close to the village’s primary school. I was shocked to learn that many children consequently fall ill, and often, the smell coming from the farm is so bad that the teachers have to keep the children inside the school. Many parents find themselves forced to move their children to schools farther from home in order to protect their health.” 

The photographer stayed for approximately one week in each location, spending as much time with the locals as she could. “One week’s exposure is not enough time to experience the physical symptoms and medical conditions that the locals are experiencing, of course, but I did experience what it feels like to suddenly have to go inside because the wind has changed, and a putrid smell is coming from a nearby farm. I also experienced what it was like to hear pigs screaming while trying to relax in the garden.”

Magnolia has been documenting stories related to animal and human welfare for years, and it’s never gotten easier. “Every time I witness injustice, it hits me just like the first time,” she says. “And I’m grateful for this. I have always been afraid of somehow getting used to it and losing the power that comes from anger or shock, but I haven’t.

“Ending this kind of injustice will require radical change and a shift in our habits to create a more sustainable future. That can mean many things, including a plant-based diet, of course, and I also hope to see our communities care for each other more fully. We need to understand the impact of our daily choices, take responsibility for them, and use that social and political responsibility to change things for the better.”

For these families and individuals living close to factory farms, speaking out about their experiences isn’t easy. “Locals can receive backlash from the farm owners,” the photographer says. “Some people were threatened or assaulted by the farmers because they are openly fighting against the presence of factory farms at their doorsteps. There was some intimidation happening against our team as well, though I cannot imagine giving in to that intimidation and not documenting injustice. We can’t let perpetrators in powerful positions shape the narrative.” 

Magnolia was unable to visit the farms themselves due to the hostility between the factory farm owners and the communities affected. She does, however, have experience investigating other factory farms around the world. “The conditions of factory-farmed animals are always horrific,” she says. “Hygienic atrocities and constant suffering are the norms, not the exceptions. In Denmark, where I witnessed dead piglets dumped in trash bins on the street outside of the pig farm, it was not hard to imagine what the conditions inside the farm must be like.”

When they do find the courage to share their stories, locals are often ignored. “Sometimes, they are supported by the mayors, but even then, nobody from upper levels seems to be listening to them,” Magnolia explains. Meanwhile, they continue to suffer. “In Denmark, I witnessed stories of people on long-term medication because of the exposure to the farms,” the photographer adds. 

“I met people who were desperate to sell their homes but unable to do so because of the presence of the factory farms. Nobody would buy these homes at a fair price. One lady had to cancel the wedding anniversary she had been dreaming of for years because of the smell and the screams of the pigs. One old man was unable to sleep every night.”

Despite threats of intimidation and the lack of support from higher-ups within their governments, the locals persist in the steadfast hope that someone will listen. “The people I met were very open with us and motivated to share their stories,” the photographer tells me. “And I will always remember my conversation with Bente Jørgensen in Tingerup. 

“As she was explaining her former life, her passion for the outdoors, the toxic air, and the consequences that the farm has had on her health, she looked out of the window with dreamy, wistful eyes and started crying. I think after experiencing lockdowns during this current pandemic, we can all understand what it means to be forced into isolation inside our homes. But for Bente and others living near the factory farm in Tingerup, this has been happening for years.” 

Lescout, France, 11 December 2018. The egg laying hen factory farm of Lescout, located a few hundred meters away from the village, is the only industrial facility for animal agriculture of the area and is currently farming 185,000 hens. First built in the ’80s, it steadily grew and was expanded in 2016 to the modern and highly industrial facility it is now. The inhabitants of Lescout report frequent smells, noise pollution and suspect the presence of toxic substances in the environment. Symptoms like airways irritation and gastric problems are common. Several cases of mysterious illness have been recorded, especially among the children in the nearby primary school of the village. The residents of the town have inexplicably high rates of cancer. © Selene Magnolia
Hvalso, Denmark, 14 March 2019. Annette and her husband have lived right between the three farms Edelgrundegaard, Vandværksgarrden and Bolettesminde for 30 years. Since then, the smell has been constant, especially when the manure is spread or when pens are being ventilated. The life of the couple is severely affected by the presence of the farm. Windows need to stay closed most of the time, as you don’t know when the wind will blow carrying the bad smell with it. “I get a heavy headache when they spread manure. I cannot open our bedroom window, because it is right opposite the stables. I never dry clothes outside. Everything stinks and is green from algae. We cannot sell our house”. © Selene Magnolia
Kirke Eskildstrup, Denmark, 13 March 2019. Ellen’s house is located only a hundred meters away from Vandværksgarrden pig factory farm. The presence of the farm has a big impact on her life. Woodwork and tiles in her property are covered in green algae, as is her greenhouse and everything else. Ellen is washing away the algae from the glass walls of her green house, which will grow again because of the substances in the air coming from manure produced by the farms. © Selene Magnolia
Kirke Eskildstrup, Denmark, March 2019. Bente and Søren sit by the window in the house they has been living in the small village of Kirke Eskildstrup for many years. Unlike it was years ago, now the pleasant surroundings of their property are dominated by the presence of Vandværksgarden industrial pig farm, and other farms in the area. Bente spends a lot time sitting on her chair and staring out of the window, and it makes her sad. According to her, the smell is awful. Her head aches, and her eyes get red and swollen. Almost everybody living so close to the farms have trouble breathing and get headaches or diarrhoea. © Selene Magnolia
Lescout, France, 12 December 2018. In the courtyard of their house, children are playing football with their faces covered because of the smell hanging in the air. According to Nicolas Mougel, their father and father of five, this is not an isolated case. The smell coming from the factory farm located a few hundred meters away is noticed several times a day. It is usually felt in the evening and in the morning, but can also occur throughout the day. © Selene Magnolia
Hvalso, Denmark, 14 March 2019. Annette and her husband have lived right between the three PKK farms Edelgrundegaard, Vandværksgarden and Bolettesminde for 30 years. Since then the smell has been a constant, especially when the manure is spread or when the pens are being ventilated. The life of the couple is severely affected by the presence of the farm. “In a way you get used to the smell, but visitors notice it immediately. It is a nauseous smell and it makes you sick.” her husband says. He has collected many articles during these years about the farms and the poisonous substances released by them. © Selene Magnolia
School of Lescout, France, 13 December 2018. It’s early in the morning, and some children are playing in the courtyard of Lescout’s primary school before the lessons of the day start. The only running class left consists of twenty-three students. In the past two years, seventeen children have been removed from the school, almost half of the initial number. The school is located only 500 meters away from the factory farm impacting the village, and is affected by its noise and smells that it emits. Several cases of mysterious illness have been reported among the children, most frequently headaches and stomach aches but also leukaemia. More and more parents are questioning whether they should educate their kids in Lescout. © Selene Magnolia
Lescout, France, 13 December 2018. In the past ten years, cases of cancer in Lescout have been recorded at 2.9 times higher than national rates. Martine Salvignol has lived in Lescout for almost thirty years and is the only survivor of two cases of eye cancer recorded in the village, an extremely rare form of cancer. Martine was lucky that the tumor did not affect her brain. She is administering eye drops to keep the eye hydrated. Even though the malignant disease is healed, Martine’s vision remains affected: she cannot see colors or straight lines anymore. Doctors couldn’t identify the cause of her tumor but suggested potential uranium exposure, and they don’t know of any, or possibly the factory farm.
Kirke Eskildstrup, Denmark, 13 March 2019. Bente lives in an old rural house very close to one of the pig farms of Kirke Eskildstrup. When the smell is strong, she has to wear a face mask that she keeps on during the time she spends outdoors. She says the smell is so awful that it makes her feel sick, her head aches and her eyes are red and swollen. © Selene Magnolia
Lescout, France, 13 December 2018. In the past ten years, the rate of cancer disease in Lescout has risen to 2,9 times higher than in France. This is the angiogram of an eye tumour, seen as a black spot. Eye tumours are an extremely rare form of malignant cancer, and Martine Salvignol, who has lived in Lescout for almost thirty years, is the only survivor of the two cases of eye cancer recorded in the village.
Lescout, France, 12 December 2018. The smell and noises coming from the factory farm affecting the village of Lescout, located a few hundred meters away from the house of Nicolas Mougel, who works as a keeper at Chateau du Gua and is father of five children, are felt several times a day. It happens mostly at regular times, usually in the evening and in the morning, but can occur at other times of the day. When the air smells bad it becomes difficult to enjoy the outdoors, and his children sometimes have to cover their faces if they want to play outside. Nicolas is concerned about potential toxicity of the air they’re breathing, and for his family, including his three month old child. © Selene Magnolia
Hvalsø, Denmark, 13 March 2019. Karin and her husband’s house is situated right between the three PKK-factory Farms Bolettesminde, Edelgrundegaard and Vandværksgarden. The couple have lived there since 1975. Back then, the farms and animal numbers were much smaller. Their quality of life is now severely damaged by the farms. Karin looks at photographs taken during her silver wedding anniversary. It was a special day that she remembers with sadness as the celebration was ruined by the wind suddenly blowing from the northeast, carrying the smell coming from the farm. Karin says, “I almost cried. I feel ashamed, when we have guests and it’s smelly. Our social life is ruined. I feel nauseous and uncomfortable – ammonia comes with toxic substances.” © Selene Magnolia
Caparroso, Navarra region, Spain, 20 February 2019. © Selene Magnolia
Lescout, France, 13 December 2018. In the past ten years, the rate of cancer disease in Lescout has reached 2,9 times higher than the national rate. Martine Salvignol has lived in Lescout for almost thirty years and is the only survivor of two cases of eye cancer recorded in the village, an extremely rare form of cancer. Martine was lucky that the tumor did not affect her brain. However, she regularly undergoes check-up X-Rays to make sure there are no metastases. Even though the malignant disease is healed, Martine’s vision remains affected. Doctors couldn’t identify the cause of her tumour, but supposed it could be caused by uranium exposure (but they don’t know of any), and possibly by the factory farm. © Selene Magnolia
City hall of Lescout, France, 13 December 2018. A high amount of letters written by community members addressed to the mayor of the village of Lescout describe how inhabitants are affected by the presence of the factory farm, the substances released by it and the impact it has on their everyday life. Topics covered by the letters are mysterious illnesses, cancer cases, smell, constant noise, concern for their own health and the health of their children. © Selene Magnolia
Lescout, France, 12 December 2018. A child is closing the window inside his house. According to Nicolas Mougel, his father and father of five, the smell coming from the factory farm of Lescout, which is located a few hundred meters away from where they live, is noticeable several times a day. It’s usually noticeable in the evening and in the morning, but can also occur throughout the day. When the air smells bad it is difficult for Nicolas and the children to enjoy being or playing outside. © Selene Magnolia

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