There has been a major shift in animal agricultural production in the United States over the past 20 years, maybe even longer. The trend has moved away from small family-owned farms to large concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) that squeeze many animals into production barns or confinement pens. Advances in technology enable modern farmers to give animals the bare necessities without taking up much space. With CAFOs, animals are housed in large barns, with all food brought to them and wastes carted away to raw sewage pits. Cows are rotated through a milking parlor several times a day in assembly-line fashion, without ever seeing the light of day.
Why Do Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations Exist?
Some farm owners are happy because CAFOs reduce overhead costs and profit more. However, countless studies show that CAFOs are bad for communities. The CDC says that a properly-managed CAFO “can provide a low-cost source of meat, milk, and eggs.” I suppose that is true, their food products are often less expensive than growing animals the old fashioned way. They can also employ locals in a community and boost funds for schools and infrastructure when taxes are taken into consideration. Of course, these benefits are modest, and maybe even non-existent, in comparison to the damage CAFOs do.
CAFOs Generate Harmful Waste And Contaminate The Environment.
The CDC also estimates that one CAFO in the neighborhood drops property values by as much as 88%. As you can imagine, more cows means more manure. Animal waste contains a number of potential environmental contaminants, including nitrogen, phosphorus, E. coli, growth hormones, antibiotics, additive chemicals, animal blood and copper sulfate.
Depending on the farm’s size, a typical CAFO can generate between 2,800 and 1.6 million tons of manure a year, according to the Government Accountability Office. Consider this: one large farm with 800,000 pigs produces 1.5 times more waste than the city of Philadelphia! Each livestock animal produces 3 to 20 times more waste than the average human.
Water Pollution: More animals equal more waste and greater problems… especially if this waste makes its way into our groundwater supply! The EPA’s 2000 National Water Quality Inventory found that 29 states with CAFOs contributed to water quality issues. Studies of private wells detected veterinary antibiotics and nitrates in local water supplies. The CDC says that fecal bacteria pollution in surface water from manure land application has been responsible for many shellfish restrictions, beach closures and drinking water pollution alerts over the years.
Air Pollution: Furthermore, air pollution surrounding CAFOs include: ammonia, methane gas, and hydrogen sulfide. In a 2006 study, North Carolina researchers found that the closer children live to a CAFO, the greater their risk of asthma symptoms. Other health risks associated with these animal waste air contaminants include: skin irritation, eye inflammation, chronic bronchitis, olfactory neuron loss, severe coughs, and chronic lung disease. Methane gas is not directly harmful to people’s health, but it does contribute to global warming.
Super Bugs: According to the Huffington Post, most Walmart meat suppliers fatten their animals in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations with tens of thousands of animals confined in close proximity on barren, enclosed dirt lots. To keep disease outbreaks limited, the animals are indiscriminately fed low doses of antibiotics. This, in turn, creates very dangerous and untreatable strains of E. coli and salmonella, leaving humans few treatment options. Scary, isn’t it? For this reason, the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and the UK’s Chief Medical Officer all condemn the practice of big industrial meat production.
CAFOs Are Not Only Disgusting, But Inhumane To Animals Too.
Drexel University’s school newspaper summarizes the problem of animal cruelty like this: “Farm animals in concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, endure their entire lives dwelling in filth, breathing in bio aerosols and particulates, suffering fractured bones from cramped spaces (the worst of which occurs in battery-caged chickens), and eating unnatural diets filled with antibiotics and hormones.”
The conditions in these crowded feedlots are enough to make your stomach churn. Imagine a life with…
- No locomotive ability, which weakens your bones and muscles.
- No treatment for broken appendages resulting from cramped quarters.
- No ability to nest, forage or explore, as your species has been designed to do for centuries.
- No daylight, fresh air or soft place to rest.
- Social stress from being surrounded by constant chatter.
- Extreme breeding with regard only for size, rather than health.
- Forced feeding tubes used to fatten you up.
- A drastically shortened lifespan.
- Continuous sicknesses, punctuated by overdoses of antibiotics.
Mohandas Gandhi once said, “We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” Regardless of your personal ethos — whether you are vegetarian, vegan or a carnivore – shouldn’t all livestock receive a humane existence before dying? The truth seems evident: CAFOs are cruel, disgusting and dangerous. It just takes a little effort, and research, and you will likely find scores of responsible animal farmers in your area who will be happy to sell you humanely raised, healthy animals who have never been fed loads of GMO crops and boatloads of antibiotics.