Yesterday The New York Times published a story by Henry Fountain, reporting from Texas, about how mega-dairies there generate hundreds of millions of pounds of waste—150 pounds of manure and urine per cow per day—that “can upset neighbors and pollute the atmosphere.” The noxious gasses produced by the massive manure pits may do more than rankle the neighbors and keep them inside, though. It may also make them sick.
© Compassion Over Killing
It’s no secret to readers of this blog and, increasingly, the public that intensive confinement of certain animals on factory farms results in prolonged deprivation, psychological frustration, and a host of physical problems. Perhaps less appreciated, however, are the impacts suffered by communities plagued by these animal factories.
The current issue of the peer-reviewed journal Family & Community Health features an article on the public health toll factory farming takes on local communities. Co-authored by Michael Greger, M.D., director of public health and animal agriculture at The HSUS, this research review concludes that people who live near factory farms (concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs) are at increased risk of developing respiratory illnesses such as asthma, immune suppression, neurological symptoms, psychological impairment, gastrointestinal problems, and elevated infant mortality.
The air and water contaminants that cause these adverse health effects stem from the continuous confinement of hundreds or thousands of animals indoors in warehouse-like sheds—and the problems inherent in having to manage the vast amounts of manure farm animals produce.
The people who are forced to live near factory farms know these effects too well, as myriad community activists, environmental advocates, family farmers, and lawsuits can attest. Just last month, residents of Jo Daviess County, Illinois lost a two-year battle to stop a dairy factory farm from entering the community. The fight garnered early attention from now-Governor Pat Quinn, who presented the members of grassroots group HOMES (Helping Others Maintain Environmental Standards) with an Environmental Hero Award for their efforts to halt the construction of the proposed 6,850-cow operation.
The way we treat animals matters not just to them, but also to us. It’s high time we conduct an accounting of the true costs of factory farming—the animal welfare, environmental, public health, economic, and sociological effects humans experience as a result of the way agribusiness treats animals like mere meat-, egg-, and milk-producing machines.