Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., nephew of a former president and son of a former attorney general, is one of the environmental movement’s most obnoxious firebrands. A recent interview with the man who declared pig farmers “a bigger threat to America than Osama bin Laden’s terrorists” illustrates some of his favorite tactics: distortions, omissions, and outright falsehoods. The interview was recently published in the quarterly journal of the Conservation Law Foundation.

Kennedy claims: “I got involved with the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association in 1984.”

Kennedy’s association with the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association started with a conviction for heroin possession. When the judge sentenced him to 800 hours of community service, Kennedy “got involved.”

Kennedy complains: “Instead of hiring community organizers, the big environmental groups began hiring technocrats — people who were economists and scientists.”

Last time we checked, the environmental movement hires plenty of activists — like Kennedy himself, who draws a paycheck from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Heaven forbid they attempt to inject some real science into their work.

Kennedy laments: “Environmentalists could not produce their own parables” [to counteract stories of Americans’ lives being ruined by environmentalism run amok].

How about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? Or the Spotted Owl? Or “frankenfoods”? Or the NRDC’s own 1989 fable about Alar? We could go on.

Kennedy insists: “In North Carolina, there were 27,000 hog producers 15 years ago, and today there are none. Instead there are 2,200 factories, and 1,600 are owned by this one company, Smithfield Foods.”

According to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, in 1988 there were actually 14,000 farms in North Carolina with at least one hog on the premises. That’s barely half Kennedy’s claim. The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which issues permits to farmers with over 250 hogs, says that today there are approximately 2,500 such farms in the state, or 300 more than Kennedy says — not including all the “family” farms with fewer than 250 animals. About 1,800 of the 2,500 largest hog farms in North Carolina are independently owned and operated. Many of these independent farmers contract with a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods. This doesn’t mean they’re “owned” by Smithfield.

Kennedy lectures: “The Clean Water Act was supposed to eliminate all discharge of pollutants by 1980. We’re not even close, the waters are now becoming more polluted, not less.”

The Clean Water Act did no such thing. It established a regulatory regime for discharging pollutants into waterways — including limits and permits. It said nothing about “eliminating” all pollutants. And our waterways are becoming cleaner and cleaner — according to former president Bill Clinton, among others.

Kennedy brags: “If the American people – Republicans and Democrats – hear the message, we win on the merits. The trouble is, industry has all the money.”

He had something very different to say last year about his campaign to sue the pork industry out of business: “We have lawyers with the deepest pockets, and they’ve agreed to fight the industry to the end.”

Kennedy asserts: “Pollution is an attack on democracy. It always is, in one form or another.”


Paper or plastic, Mr. Kennedy?