Burning Questions
Fellowship Award Winners

Karen Hudlet Vázquez

Location: U.S.
Academic field: Geography
Award category: PhD Student

Guidance Memo

  • Title: A human rights approach for resisting CAFOs: The Mayan community of Homun against a 49,000-pig operation in Yucatan, Mexico
  • Keywords: Large-scale pig farming. Human rights. Environment. Mexico.
  • What We Learned From It:
    • We learned the reasons why using human rights frames and litigation has been successful in resisting a government-approved project to build a mega industrial pig farm in Mexico.
    • The Guidance Memo explains the concept of framing, and how it can be used to understand social issues and strengthen social resistances. It shows four ways to frame the problem of CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations):
      1. Frames that stress risks and uncertainties (e.g. the negative consequences of CAFOs for the environment and human health in the present and future).
      2. Context frames that work as a helicopter view that allows factors surrounding CAFOs to be viewed in a broad context and connection with other human rights cases/ abuses (e.g. CAFOs as part of larger food systems and problems with agribusinesses and other extractive projects).
      3. Frames that underline the specifics of a case or region, such as legal, historic, economic, or cultural aspects that are of special significance to a particular community or region (e.g. its water).
      4. Situational frames that focus on actors and stakeholders, their roles, interests, and relationships, emphasizing power and injustices, and empowering those resisting CAFOs (e.g. environmental defenders).
    • It is also important to note that human rights frames have advantages and disadvantages, and is only one of various frames that one can use to resist CAFOs in developing economies.


Some of the Things We Really Liked when We Read the Application

  • The case is very much about the “here and now” (not an old case with little relevance for today).
  • NGOs are very interested in actual examples and practical steps of building networks and alliances. The analysis of an actual current case that also includes recommendations on how different groups can share information and cooperate fits the bill perfectly.
  • The applicant writes that there is “no single strategy” to oppose industrial farms or to orchestrate an informed debate about the impact of these facilities, but by learning from others and sharing information, local actors faced with such a farm coming to their neighborhood for the first time have “an opportunity for shortening the learning curve”.
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