Fecal Matters

“Agricultural runoff is the single largest source of water pollution in the nation’s rivers and streams, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.). An estimated 19.5 million Americans fall ill each year from waterborne parasites, viruses or bacteria, including those stemming from human and animal waste, according to a study published last year in the scientific journal Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology.”

– The New York Times

The NY Times recently ran an illuminating story about the pollution of Wisconsin drinking water caused by the run-off from neighboring animal farms.

“In 2006, an early thaw in Brown County melted frozen fields, including some that were covered in manure. Within days, more than 100 wells were contaminated with coliform bacteria, E. coli, or nitrates — byproducts of manure or other fertilizers… As parasites and bacteria seeped into drinking water, residents suffered from chronic diarrhea, stomach illnesses and severe ear infections.”

The Times states that the federal laws created by the EPA – intended to prevent pollution and protect drinking water sources – only apply to the largest farms, meaning those with at least 700 cows. According to the EPA:

“Thousands of large animal feedlots that should be regulated by those rules are effectively ignored because farmers never file paperwork.”

In other words, thousands of intensive animal farms do not comply with laws that require the responsible treatment of waste. And further (listen carefully folks), small farms – which are growing in popularity as a result of the increased awareness of the problems with factory farming – are not even obligated to comply with federal laws.

In Virginia, small animal farms make up approximately one-tenth of the 87,000 farms in the huge watershed of Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States.

According to The Washington Post:

“Manure that washes off their plots, which tend to be small and filled with livestock, causes harmful algae blooms in the Chesapeake.”

Amongst other things, algae blooms can lead to the development of ‘dead zones’. In 2005, scientists reported finding more than a third of Chesapeake Bay was a dead zone.

The problem is not confined to meat production either…

“In Brown County, part of one of the nation’s largest milk-producing regions, agriculture brings in $3 billion a year. But the dairies collectively also create as much as a million gallons of waste each day. Many cows are fed a high-protein diet, which creates a more liquid manure that is easier to spray on fields.”

Mmmmm… Liquid manure… Veganic agriculture is starting to sound better all the time.

The problem is not only with cows, and it’s not limited to Wisconsin and Virginia.

“In Arkansas and Maryland, residents have accused chicken farm owners of polluting drinking water. In 2005, Oklahoma’s attorney general sued 13 poultry companies, claiming they had damaged one of the state’s most important watersheds.”

Back in May, I wrote about the Smithfield pig factory in La Gloria Mexico, which was alleged to have given birth to the H1N1 Swine Flu virus. A reporter from Rolling Stone Magazine did an investigation into Smithfield’s US operations back in 2006.

“From 1991 to 1995, Smithfield’s North Carolina ‘lagoons’ spilled two million gallons of pig waste into the Cape Fear River, 1.5 million gallons into its Persimmon Branch, one million gallons into the Trent River and 200,000 gallons into Turkey Creek. In Virginia, Smithfield was fined $12.6 million in 1997 for 6,900 violations of the Clean Water Act — the third-largest civil penalty ever levied under the act by the EPA.”

Simply put, using animal agriculture to feed a vast human population brings with it the unavoidable problem of dealing with vast quantities of sewage. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“As industrial-sized farms stagger under the vast burden of manure they are generating, environmental disasters are inevitable. The scale of this unprecedented outpouring of animal waste is staggering: 130 times the waste generated by humans in this country each year. “

In other words, as a result of our desire for animal products, we have the waste management problem of a population 130 times the size of what our population actually is. Here in the US, we might as well be managing the waste of 39 billion people.

In addition to hundreds of millions of hens and turkeys, approximately 60 million pigs and 10 million sheep, we have 100 million cows in this country. Each of these cows generates as much waste as 18 people, according to Bill Hafs, an official of Brown County, who asserts:

“There just isn’t enough land to absorb that much manure.”

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Robert S.
Robert S8 years ago

Well, we could take ALL of the sewage and manure, lawn and hedge clippings, and autumn leaves, and mix it all up to make a 'dirty' compost, and use that to cover up all of the 'deadland' areas the EPA won't clean up, like used landfills, the Love Canal area,and places where they dumped all of our coal ash and shale oil tailings, and use that area to grow fast-growing Bamboo, to use it to make 'green' artificial hardwood for commerical sales. Or the same areas could be used exclusively to grow BioFuel crops that would ONLY be used for making Ethanol or related BioDiesel fuel, since no food crops could be grown in this 'dirty' compost due to the toxic items disposed in our sewage. And the growth of the Bamboo would consume some of the CO2 causing global warming. There's a GluBarn Timber outfit in China that grows Bamboo to make artificial hardwood, and they could advise us on this idea. The point is, garbage is only a wasted resource. If we got lots of 'grey' land areas that are NEVER going to be cleaned up by the EPA, we CAN use these areas to grow Bamboo or BioFuel crops in this manner. But such areas would have to designated for such 'dirty' compost recycling PERMANENTLY, since if it was ever used to grow foodstuffs, they could be poisoned by the toxics in sewage. I thought you Care2 Crew would like to scan this idea, which I have already send to the EPA and all over the Internet already. If you like this idea, please forward it to the REAL experts. Thank you.

marilyn AWAY s.
MmAway M8 years ago

OMG...I have two friends here...frankly Angel I am upset that you have never backed up Cowboss, if you want to take me off your friend list that is totaly fine with me.

Don't totally appreciate a ton of these comments -- plus Cowboss just requesting that you change the photo and you chose not to do so is upsetting to me.

This is a very hard subject, and frankly, I would not eat BEEF, but some of these comments totally upset me and attacks on Cowboss about what his views are are WRONG to me, this is a person who is a small farm owner, not one of those large junk yards that kill and distroy.

Guys get a grip.

We are all being poisoned by big farmers, but gotta tell you that you are not going to get the American Public to go VEGAN, you can be like PETA do all you want NOT GONNA HAPPEN.

Frankly I am not happy about the attacks on Cowboss, I personally think he does such a super job on this site, just got to his page and you will see all of the special news articles.

I am totally upset!!!!

Lisa B.
Lisa B8 years ago

If any one is still following this post, I have just posted a link to a news article that you might find interesting.


It studies what is required for a fair and healthy diet.

Fire Weed
Mikem Nestor8 years ago

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...
the future will depend on innovative methods that do not depend upon animal manure or any other domestic animal byproducts...

Hey there,
If anyone is interested in watching a seminar on veganic agriculture with the UK's Iain Tohurst, but isn't able to attend at the time it is scheduled this coming Thursday, Oct.12th, it is possible to watch it at a later date.

For that option, you can register at http://www.certifiedorganic.bc.ca/infonews/events.php#seminar and then send an email to these people to say that you aren't able to attend: assistant@certifiedorganic.bc.ca A couple of days after the seminar they'd send you a link for a place where you can watch a recording.

John Carbonaro
John Carbonaro8 years ago

Lev, it takes *more* plants (and space) to 'grow' meat than if we just fed human beings veg/grains.
If we phase out meat production, we won't be reproducing 'food' animals and their kind will cease to need to exist (a good thing).
Vegan ethics precludes the concept of 'pets' or ownership under the self serving guise of companionship (dogs or cows).

Lev S.
Lev S8 years ago

Dear vegetarians, as it seems to me, growing plants impose even greater damage upon enviroment. Am I wrong?
Then, how can you say you really take care about animal welfare? If people (and their pets) don't eat meat that only brings to elimination of domestic animals giving meat. I wonder if a unique farmer would keep all his cattle just as companions, like many urban humans keep their pets.

John Carbonaro
John Carbonaro8 years ago

Lisa B,

The ideology that you share with much of society is that animals can be exploited for food. This ideology results in human behaviors towards animals that have massive environmental impact.
You are clinging to the desire to consume flesh.When you speak of animal welfare ('being well-taken care of') it could be argued that you mean your own mental/emotional welfare as you practice your lifestyle. At the *moment* that you could become aware of what you are actually doing to others (at the end of the line of your defenses), you 'kill' your empathic opportunity in a quick, 'painless' manner.

If ideology is society's way of pumping out beliefs in a 'factory' kind of way, the ideology of flesh eating is not 'local' to your mind. Factory farming is humankind's own confinement and 'death' (of the individual) projected onto animals.The (inner) environment of our minds that propagates animal exploitation is playing out in the degradation of the (outer) environment.
We must free our minds from this, not create bigger mind cages (mind-welfare). Fear holds us back, just as animals, confined for their whole lives inside farm buildings, would experience fear if suddenly let outside.
Outside is where we need to get to, to see animals (as we wish to see ourselves)as seperate beings. To create and live in an environment that can sustain this relationship of mutual regard can be forged. This is about environmentalism : inner. outer. other.

Judith H.

Go vegetarian, and we could save a lot of contamination as well as miserable growing environment for the factory farmed creatures. Used to be the animal waste was tilled into the soil after it sat in the sun to kill bacteria, for nutrients for the soil. They give animals so much antibiotics and grain rich feed that it is not good for the soil as they used to use it. We have too many people on the planet and most demand a carnivore diet. Not to worry as I saw a great documentary on Link TV about the patents that Monsanto has on seeds and that they also make them so the farmers cannot use the crop for seed planting the next year as the seed will be sterile. Great cause this will spread as all their GM seed has into all the plants on this beautiful green planet that our awesome creator has provided for us, and nothing will grow anymore. We can sit back and wait for it in a two or three generations or we can start writing our legislators now and tell them to stop patents on seeds/food and stop all GM food. Stop buying it and they will get the message. Other wise don't worry about the water and cows excretion, etc. It is almost too late for that.

Lisa B.
Lisa B8 years ago

Dan and John C, I stated my position on animal welfare to show that even though we may differ on our opinions there is still things we do agree on, and that we can work together on regarding the environment. After all, this is supposed to be an environmental discussion.

I have no intention in debating my morals or animal welfare with you. You have made it clear that yours is the only acceptable morality to you. I see no point in having a discussion with someone with such an entrenched view. It is just a waste of my time.

John, by all means start a discussion on the animal issue. I won't be posting again until the discussion here returns to environmental issues.

Heather Green
Heather Green8 years ago

Don't be so rude! I know you think you're funny, animals have privacy too, that's the real crime. Stop staring at bathroom time concerns and it will concern you less. That sad it's not as if the humans who cause that cleaned up after themselves. Why not leave animals in state of nature like God intended and Noah's ark etc. the covenant. PS: have you ever seen the no flush zone at most work places and public areas in the US, totally gross, I quit working for Target because my last boss believed humans could pick up after themselves and be hygenic too. Not a well thought out article. Nice attempt to pawn off on animals the human flaw behind the ordure from stress, malnutrition and abuse. I hope you never have a similar health problem , you've already used up your bullshit allowance with me! Sign me friend of the animal species, live naturally so that other creatures can enjoy life too. HG