Rosebud's Struggle

The Animal Welfare Institute previously reported on the Rosebud Sioux Tribe's struggle to extricate itself from an economically and culturally disadvantageous lease arrangement with Sun Prairie and Bell Farms to create the world's third largest hog factory (AWI Quarterly, Spring 2003). After the US Supreme Court refused to hear its appeal of an earlier court ruling favoring the Bureau of Indian Affairs and hog factory opponents, Sun Prairie sued the Bureau and the Tribe in South Dakota Federal District Court, demanding financial damages. Inexplicably, Judge Richard Battey agreed with Sun Prairie and ordered the parties to negotiate a settlement.

Tribe members who fought the hog factory did not favor settling. Jim Dougherty, attorney for the opponents, pointed out Sun Prairie had no defensible grounds on which to sue for damages. However, a newly-elected Tribal Council was in place. Sun Prairie's new owner appeared before the Council and claimed Rosebud would be liable for millions of dollars. Assistant US Attorney General Tom Sansonetti put further pressure on the Council to settle the case.

On April 27, 2005, the Council voted to accept the settlement offer the government negotiated with Sun Prairie, and on May 19, Judge Battey approved it. Under the settlement's terms, no new hog facilities may be built, but the existing sites, which annually produce about 192,000 hogs, may operate for 20 years. Sun Prairie must pay rent and water use, including past water use. The settlement still does not guarantee environmental justice, safe and fair conditions for workers or safe and humane conditions for the pigs who have received shockingly cruel treatment for years (AWI Quarterly, Fall 2004). Several Tribe members say they wish to contest the settlement.