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Michael Lester

Jefferson City

Dear Editor:

Some values are so deeply ingrained in the American soul they define who we are as a people. These values are expressed in the country's founding documents. Our Declaration of Independence states "all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." The document goes on to establish the foundational proposition that governments are established by the people to protect those rights. When a government fails in that basic function it must be held accountable. In our democratic system we, the people elect from among ourselves those who are supposed to represent our interest and protect our rights and freedoms.

On Tuesday, Oct. 22, the documentary film "Right to Harm" will be shown at 6:30 p.m. in the Pawley Auditorium, in MLK Hall, 812 E. Dunklin St. on the Lincoln University campus. This is a public educational event presented free to the public. The film chronicles the failures of state and local politicians and regulatory agencies to protect citizens from harm afflicted upon them by industrial animal agriculture.

Known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations — or CAFOs — these facilities produce millions of gallons of untreated waste. These waste by-products poison their neighbors' air and water denying them basic rights of breathable air and potable water — foundations of life itself.

Recent changes in Missouri law appear to relax CAFO regulations and favor the rights of corporate industrial agricultural interests, many owned by foreign entities, over Missouri family farmers and Missouri citizens. "Right to Harm" offers a cautionary tale of what others states and communities that have traveled this road before us have encountered — how CAFOs have negatively affected quality of life in rural, small farming communities like ours across the country.

A panel of Missouri family farmers who have been directly impacted by CAFOs taking root in their community describe from their own experience how Missouri lawmakers are failing those who put them in office. After brief presentations, the panel will field question from the audience.

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