The animal agriculture industry has some very deep pockets, and in them sits a fair number of elected officials and leaders of government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). For years and years, this has enabled factory farms to be extremely negligent and destructive when it comes to the environment and public health. But finally, this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit stood up for the people, and that decision couldn’t have come soon enough.
Try as they might with ag-gag laws and other controversial ploys, the word is out about the devastating cruelty and inhumanity that is inflicted upon the millions upon millions of animals who are tortured and exploited on factory farms each year. But the industry has been more successful at obscuring its impact on human health and climate change, and the consequences of this have been massive.
The problem largely lies in a byproduct of commercial livestock and poultry production – that being the 500 million tons of feces that is produced by factory farmed animals each year. There are at least 4.9 million cows held captive on these farms at any given time, and each one can excrete more than 100 pounds of manure a day. Add to that the waste of more than 62.9 million pigs and nine billion (yes, billion with a “b”) chickens, and you can see how out of control this byproduct has become.
So massive is this volume of crap, in fact, that the world’s fertilizer needs could be met countless times over, and so the industry must find other ways of disposing of it all. Typically, this involves piling it into huge sheds, spreading it across surrounding fields, spraying it into the air and/or dumping it into huge open-air lagoons. Runoff from these piles and fields, and ruptures or leaks from these plastic-lined, man-made cesspools called lagoons, are common.
As a result, local waterways and groundwater wells frequently become polluted with phosphorus and nitrogen, as well as toxic microorganisms like Pfiesteria piscicida. These pollutants spark algae growth and kill aquatic species in spades. They can also kill human infants and fetuses, as high nitrate levels in drinking water have been linked to spontaneous abortions and increased risk of methemoglobinemia, or “blue-baby syndrome.”
On top of all that is the public’s increased exposure to antibiotics fed to factory farm animals in order to stem the many diseases that spread when they are kept cramped in such tight quarters. This is causing a whole slew of problems for human health and disease resistance.
Moreover, in addition to polluting our water, these operations are also responsible for tons of dangerous gas emissions that foul our air with as many as 400 different harmful substances. In addition to particulate matter, these include:
- Ammonia, which can cause dizziness, eye irritation, chronic lung ailments, respiratory illness and nausea;
- Methane and carbon dioxide, which are major drivers of climate change, ingredients for acid rain, and can even cause brain damage; and
- Hydrogen sulfide, which can be deadly in addition to regularly leading to seizures and comas.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) also cites mental health deterioration among people living near factory farms and that children raised in these communities are more likely to develop asthma or bronchitis.
For years, the EPA has exempted factory farms from the pollution reporting laws that other industries must follow – laws designed to inform and protect the public. But, thankfully, that is changing now that the D.C. Circuit Court has ruled that we have a right to know about the massive amounts of toxic emissions that come from industrial animal facilities.
While this is a huge step in the right direction, it doesn’t actually put a stop to the colossal amounts of pollution stemming from this industry. It seems the only way we can stop that is by ending our support for the animal agriculture industry as a whole, which means leaving these animal products off our forks and plates.
You can start eating for the planet by doing nothing more than choosing a delicious plant-based meal over one laden with animal products. If you look at it from a personal perspective, you can cut your own carbon footprint in half just by leaving meat off your plate for one year. (Plus save a lot of water, redirect grain for people to eat, and help protect endangered species…)
You can #EatForThePlanet starting today. Just follow the three simple steps below.
1. Replace: Try to swap animal-based products in your daily diet with vegan alternatives (milk, butter, mayo, cheese, grilled chicken, beef crumbles, sausages, cold cuts, etc.)
2. Embrace: Add plant-based whole foods (local and organic when possible) to your diet like greens, fresh fruits, and vegetables, whole grains, plant proteins like lentils, nuts/seeds, beans, tofu, etc.
3. Moderate: Limit consumption of your favorite meats like beef, lamb, pork, etc.
“The #EatForThePlanet Way is not about restricting your diet, but about changing the way you think about your food choices,” says Zacharias. “When you Eat for the Planet, you make the conscious decision to reduce your negative impact on the world around you.”
We all have the power to create a better future for our children, and the countless animals we share the planet with, by making one easy swap. If you’re ready to start doing this in your own life, check out One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet campaign.
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