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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Factory Farms - Destroying the Heartland

Americans are increasingly aware of the health consequences
of eating animal flesh, dairy products, and eggs, but most of us don’t ever think about the risks associated with working on or living near a factory farm. Unfortunately, people in rural communities often experience, firsthand, the devastating effects of factory-farm pollution.

Factory farms pollute the air and the water for many miles in every direction, often spreading contamination and illness to the people who live and work nearby. A synopsis of a Senate Agricultural Committee report on farm pollution issued this warning about animal waste: “It’s untreated and unsanitary, bubbling with chemicals and diseased organisms. … It goes onto the soil and into the water that many people will, ultimately, bathe in and wash their clothes with and drink. It is poisoning rivers and killing fish and making people sick. … Catastrophic cases of pollution, sickness, and death are occurring in areas where livestock operations are concentrated.”

When factory farms move into communities, the pollution that they bring causes increased rates of neurological disorders, respiratory diseases, miscarriages, bacterial infections, diarrhea, and stomach ailments; sometimes, the contamination leaves people permanently disabled or even dead. An investigative report that recently appeared in The New York Times lists just a small sample of the suffering that follows the arrival of a factory farm: “Paul Isbell of Houston, Miss., began experiencing seizures after a hog farm moved in down the road. … Kevin Pearson of Meservey, Iowa, carried a towel in his car because he vomited five or six times a week on his way to work. Julie Jansen’s six children suffered flulike symptoms and diarrhea when farms moved into their neighborhood in Renville, Minn. One of Ms. Jansen’s daughters was found by Dr. Kilburn to have neurological damage.”

Karen Hudson of the Illinois-based grassroots group Families Against Rural Messes, summed up the problem of animal factories’ need to dispose of millions of tons of feces: “In order to get rid of it, they have to dump it. And who’s paying for it? It’s the communities—in water quality problems, air quality problems, and public-health problems.” In 2006, public-interest and environmental groups expressed shock and anger when the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a new loophole that would make it even easier for giant animal factories to pollute the water and air without any oversight. Ed Hopkins, director of the Sierra Club’s Environmental Quality Program, said that the new loophole “essentially means that these facilities are going to be able to continue to use our streams and rivers as sewers.”

The government and the animal flesh and dairy industries are well aware of the health problems caused by factory farms—one recent government report by the California State Senate admits, “Studies have also shown that [animal waste] lagoons emit toxic airborne chemicals that can cause inflammatory, immune, irritation, and neurochemical problems in humans.” Yet, despite overwhelming scientific evidence that proves factory farms cause significant damage to Americans’ health, the federal government and state officials continue to do nothing while the animal flesh, egg, and dairy industries pollute our air and water.

0 People who coughed on a furball: