An Environmental Article from All-Creatures.org
Angel Flinn, Care2.com
"There just isn’t enough land to absorb that much
"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
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 problem is not only with cows, and it's not limited to Wisconsin and
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
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.
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