The Toxic Link: Animal Factories & Mother Earth March 02, 2006 3:06 PM
Kinship Circle's column runs bimonthly in The Healthy Planet. Ms. Shoss is
also a contributing writer for The Animals Voice, VegNews, and other
publications. If you would like to reprint this column, please request
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The Toxic Link: Animal Factories & Mother Earth
Meat, It's What's Rotting The Planet
by Brenda Shoss 3/1/06
Happy (almost) Earth Day! Think nature. Conservation. Harmony. Poop. Yep,
2.7 trillion pounds of the stinky stuff is annually stockpiled in
football-field length lagoons across Missouri, Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio,
Illinois and other states. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)
expel 130 times as much fecal matter as the entire population.
Other than the preschool set, no one is giggling over this much poop. In
modern agriculture, BIG is the operative adjective. The USDA's 2005 Manure
and Byproduct Utilization Action Plan shows just 2% of U.S. livestock farms
now generate 40% of all "food animals." Mega-farms stress turnout and
revenue over environmental integrity, human safety, and animal welfare.
Methodic disregard for nature
Cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, rabbits, and other animals are
processed assembly-line style. Hog factories warehouse 600-pound sows in
metal gestation stalls for a motionless life atop cement slats. The USDA's
2002 Census of Agriculture found half of all hogs confined in industrial
barns with 5,000 or more hogs.
Dairy plants restrain cows in concrete encased feedlots, where they are
artificially inseminated to stay pregnant and lactating. Attached to
mechanical milking devices up to three times daily, many are injected with
Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) and suffer bovine mastitis, a
painful infection of the udder.
Male calves born to dairy cows are taken within 24 hours of birth for sale
to veal farms. Before they can stand, they're chained by the neck inside
two-feet-wide crates. To create white, tender veal, they are fed a
liquid-only diet that suppresses muscle growth and induces anemia. Most go
to slaughter disabled with leg and joint disorders at 20 weeks of age.
Egg producers typically pack six to nine hens inside wire coops no larger
than a filing drawer. Each bird occupies a space half the size of a sheet of
paper. The College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences at South Dakota
State University maintains 98% of egg-laying hens live in battery cages
stacked inside dark sheds. Many U.S. egg manufacturers starve birds in 10-14
day cycles (forced molting) to jump-start egg output.
"Broiler" chickens are overcrowded inside windowless grower houses. To
curtail fighting and cannibalism, workers amputate the bottom third of each
bird's beak. In the race to fatten chickens and turkeys for slaughter within
6 to 20 weeks, geneticists breed anatomically altered birds who cannot
support their own weight. "If a seven pound [human] baby grew at the same
rate that today's turkey grows, when the baby reaches 18 weeks of age, it
would weigh 1,500 pounds," Lancaster Farming asserts.
If “we are what we eat...”
We're chock-full of the antibiotics, hormones, steroids and pesticides fed
to sick animals. Massive beef feedlots in Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and
Colorado contain steers and heifers raised on hormones and antibiotics to
spur growth. Livestock ingest more than 70% of all antibiotics in the U.S.,
states Katherine Shea, MD, in When Wonder Drugs Don't Work. The American
Medical Association and World Health Organization oppose antibiotic overuse
because it fosters fresh strains of cure-resistant bacteria.
Despite all the drugs, 76 million cases of foodborne illness (including
5,000 fatalities) arise yearly, the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention affirms. One of every four cows on the kill floor may have E.
coli. Campylobacter is present in 42% of 500 grocery-store chickens
(Consumer Reports 2003). Salmonella is evident in 12% of chickens, with up
to 90% of the bacteria repellent to antibiotics. For every 50 egg eaters, at
least one is annually at risk for salmonella poisoning.
Most consumers price shop meals with little concern for where their food
originates. But the stakes have grown higher as avian flu is linked to
oversize poultry mills. Indeed, nations without industrialized livestock are
mainly free of the lethal H5N1 strain of avian flu. Those with stringent
post-outbreak controls for the import and flow of poultry have inhibited
"In intensively farmed poultry, the high density of birds and constant
exposure to feces, saliva and other secretions provide ideal conditions for
the replication, mutation,
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March 02, 2006 3:07 PM
recombination and selection through which highly
lethal forms can evolve," states Dr. Leon Bennun, Director of Science,
Policy and Information for Birdlife International, in BBC News. With "the
global nature of the poultry industry... we have the most plausible
mechanism for the spread of the virus."
From an environmental perspective...
Animal agriculture has mutated into the "FrankenFarm," a man-made monster
that gobbles air, water, and soil. Livestock now outnumber humans by
estimates that range from 3 to 1 to as high as 25 to 1. In America, 80% of
the yearly grain harvest goes to livestock. A 10% reduction in meat
commodities could free enough grain to nourish 60 million people, Harvard
nutritionist Jean Mayer contends.
Grain-fed livestock also guzzle 80% of U.S. water reserves. Chicken
factories alone can drain 100,000 gallons a day and beef production exhausts
more water than the total amount expended on U.S. fruit and vegetable crops.
"You'd save more water by not eating a pound of California beef than you
would by not showering for an entire year," author John Robbins asserts in
The Food Revolution.
If depleted resources don't bother you, the poop just might.
Waste-filled lagoons harbor dusts, molds, bacterial toxins, and some 400
vaporizable elements like nitrogen, hydrogen sulfide and methane. When
nitrogen particles convert to gas, they disperse ammonia mist within 50
miles of their source. Some transform into particles that can move over a
250-mile range. In 2001, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
noted remnants of undiluted animal urine in rainwater.
Waste runoffs seep into ground water and local aquifers, leading the
Environmental Protection Agency to classify CAFOs as America's chief source
of water contamination. In North Carolina, home to 10 million farmed hogs,
the toxic microbe Pfiesteria piscicida killed one billion fish in coastal
waters. Hog, chicken and cattle waste generates 70% of pollution in rivers
and 49% in lakes, an EPA study reveals.
Exposure to waste-polluted air and water has been blamed for respiratory
disorders, chronic headaches, diarrhea/vomiting, earaches, seizures, memory
loss, vertigo, and other neurological complications.
Nonetheless, the EPA recently snubbed guidelines submitted by its Clean Air
Scientific Advisory Committee, a panel of impartial scientists Congress
appoints to curtail air pollution. Instead, the EPA's Clean Air Act
revisions will grant immunity to rural districts, along with the toxic dust
produced from industrial livestock farms.
In a February 2006 St. Louis Post Dispatch report, research microbiologist
James Zahn, an Agriculture Department advisor, claims he was routinely
prevented from "from publicizing his research on the potential hazards to
human health posed by airborne bacteria from hog farms." Furthermore, the
White House Office of Management and Budget modified relevant scientific
documents. For example, the office erased a reference to how revised
air-quality regulations "may have a substantial impact on the life
expectancy of the U.S. population."
The Bush administration's leniency might trouble folks in Aulding, Ohio. In
2003, a rash of symptoms from lung burns to nosebleeds left most of the town
dependent on inhalers, nebulizers and oxygen tanks. One doctor finally
traced the health mystery to virulent gases emitted from waste lakes at a
nearby hog plant.
People in Putnam County, Missouri can probably relate. Statistics from a
Family Farms for the Future survey published in In Motion Magazine show more
than half of residents in a two-mile radius of huge hog farms endure more
allergies, sinus infection, nasal blockage, and lethargy.
Plainly stated, factory farms don't work.
They cannot function without irreversible damage to the environment,
animals, humans, rural economies, and global resources.
At the international level, more than 47 billion animals are slaughtered for
their flesh each year. In America, 10 billion land animals, plus an
estimated 17 billion fish, die for human consumption. Every hour, roughly 1
million birds, pigs, cows and other sentient creatures are killed.
While the statistics are staggering, anyone who eats can make a difference
by simply removing or reducing animal foods from their diet. If a single
plant-based eater preserves one acre of trees per year (World Resources
Institute), a legion just might save the planet.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. Ask your U.S. Representative to oppose H.R. 4341, a bill that exempts
factory farms from reporting toxic emissions associated with intensive
livestock operations. Request sample letter: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Kinship Circle subscribers were alr
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March 02, 2006 3:08 PM
already sent this letter campaign 3/1/06).
2. If you are already vegan, share this article with a carnivore you care
about. Going meatless is a cinch with all the scrumptious "mock meats" in
supermarkets and health food stores. For recipes and veg-starter tips, try:
Going Veggie - A Beginner's Guide
Sign-up for MeatOut Mondays & Request a Free Vegetarian Starter Kit
Order or Download Your FREE Vegetarian Starter Kit!
BEAR WITNESS. SPEAK. DEMAND. ACT.
Kinship Circle - Letter Campaigns I Literature I Action For Animals
Brenda Shoss, president * Janet Enoch, vice-president
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