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There have been many undercover investigations into factory farming over the years, many of which expose the inhumane conditions in which animals are forced to live on these farms. Through these investigations, we’ve discovered that life for the billions of animals living in factory farms is an absolute hell. In these facilities, animals spend their short lives crammed on top of one another in filthy living quarters, they are given no access to sunlight or the outdoors and suffer from painful body deformities, stress and disease.

The experience of the animals living and dying in factory farms is cruel torture, but the animals aren’t the only ones subjected to cruelty. People are also impacted by industrial animal agriculture. 

Working on a Factory Farm

A job at a factory farm has one of the largest turnover rates in America, exceeding 95 to 100 percent annually, despite employing more than 500,000 workers. Statistically, these workers come from low-income families with approximately 72 percent born outside the United States and 68 percent born in Mexico, according to the National Center for Farmworker Health, Inc.

The statistics, pulled from the 2007-2009 National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) results, also show that 38 percent of farm workers do not speak any English. In the same study, 48 percent of farmworkers do not have legal authorization to work in the United States and only 33 percent are U.S. citizens. For employees without legal authorization, the job is something they can easily obtain in order to provide for themselves and their families. Easy, however, does not come without consequences.

Slaughterhouse workers are all at-will employees, meaning they can be fired at any time. As a result, very few workplace hazards are reported to supervisors for fear they will lose their jobs or be replaced by somebody else willing to do the grueling and dangerous work. Factory farms depend on these types of employees because they are thankful for the work and, as a result, unlikely to unionize, will endure horrible working conditions, long hours (sometimes 10-hour days or more) and be satisfied with very little pay. 

The longer the employees work at factory farms, the more likely they are to be injured. An employee who works at a factory farm for five years has a 50 percent chance of being injured at the workplace. This could range from contracting diseases from handling the animal carcasses to severe injuries from using the line equipment.

During an average workday, employees inhale anything from ammonia to hydrogen sulfide, plus a number of other airborne bacteria. The air quality is so bad in these farms that 70 percent of farm workers experience some sort of respiratory issue. There are also long-term injuries to the employees’ hands, arms, shoulders and backs due to the physical and repetitive nature of the work. The worst of it all is the number of people killed by this kind of work.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 20.2 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2012. The CDC also states, “Every day, about 167 agricultural workers suffer a lost-work-time injury. Five percent of these injuries result in permanent impairment.”

You would think that an occupation with such a high injury and illness rate would offer adequate healthcare to their employees. Unfortunately, many of these workers go without healthcare or cannot find proper transportation or time off to get them to a doctor. Unfortunately, most workers are afraid of reporting these conditions because they want to keep their jobs and steady income. That income, at roughly $23,000 a year, barely keeps these employees at or above the poverty line.

Labor laws are also not taken too seriously in the factory farming industry. While no employees under 18 years old are “officially” hired, investigations have shown workers as young as 15-years-old employed by these farms.

Factory Farming and the Community

Factory farming doesn’t just hurt the people who work in the industry; however, it has larger implications for the people who live near these facilities as well as our global environment.

More than 37 percent of methane emissions come directly from factory farms. And here’s how nasty methane is: it has a global warming potential 20 times higher than carbon. And get this. The majority of our methane comes from cows and the waste they produce.

On average, animals in the agriculture industry produce 130 times more excrement than the entire human population combined. Eventually, all the waste that comes from factory farms has to go somewhere. And that somewhere can be straight to us.

This waste is stored in massive open-air cesspools and because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t regulate the air and water pollution created by factory farms, they are allowed to spray this waste on surrounding lands that are usually near people’s homes. The toxins and harmful gases released from this waste causes people to suffer from respiratory infections, headaches and can even cause blue-baby syndrome if it enters waterways.

A recent study found that antibiotic-resistant bacteria from livestock waste can be spread through the air. There are many airborne diseases that come from factory farming, such as swine and avian flu.

However, despite the pleadings of the local community to get factory farms to stop polluting their air and water, nothing has been done to regulate their actions. Factory farms are usually located in low-income areas where residents can’t afford to move meaning they have no choice but to suffer the negative health impacts.

What Can We Do?

Factory farming is only set to increase in scale and scope as the human population increases. It is estimated that by 2050, nine billion people will inhabit the planet and trends show that this means that factory farming will expand across the world to meet demands for meat, dairy and eggs. Given what we know about how factory farming harms humans, we can only expect to see a rise in diseases and ailments related to this industry in turn.

By lowering our personal consumption of animal products – or completely eliminating them from our diet – we can help reduce demands and drive the need for factory farms down. After all, does it make sense to support an industry that is cruel to animals and makes us sick?

Image: Japanexperterna.se/Flickr

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0 comments on “The Human Victims of Factory Farming”

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3 Years Ago

Factory farming is an unethical practice with needs to reform. The quality of life is valued in the American culture, but the issue that arises is means by other alternatives. As a society, we need factory farming. There are no other viable alternatives that have been presented to supplement factory farming.

Factory farmed animals make up 98% of the meats consumed in the U.S. This method also mass produces food to feed 2.9 billion people all over the world. If we switched to natural, organically grown animals, the amount we spend on food would double. That means, if you topically spend $4,000 per person a year and live in a family of 4 the cost would dramatically increase, according to the realtruth.org.. To specify, it would go from $16,000 for one family to $32,000. With such a large increase it will impact the cost of food, how much is being sold, and people actually getting the food. That\'s a lot more of your paycheck being spent on food, this will have a huge impact on the economy.

The question is, how does it exactly affect the economy? Well, "factory farms provide employment to over 700,000 people" if we switched to local farms it will have economic impact. When you look at everything it would effect, there is always a positive or negative impact somewhere. It can never be perfect, for example, if we switch to local farms. In this example, local farms will flourish as they are making more money. On the other hand, people will have a high marginal propensity to save and they will be spending their money on food preventing them from investing and growing local businesses. This lowers the money supply and has all types of negative impacts.

An agriculture economist John Ikred believes if we switch to natural farming, everything would remain stable. He states "per capita production of beef and pork in the U.S. has remained basically flat during the transition from family farms to CAFOs". While his argument brings up a good point, one has to wonder how did he measure that? Brent Veninga an economics teacher says the economy is always changing and he can\'t see how per capita production would have remained flat.

In all, there is a long list of negative repercussions on animals and the environment with factory farms. When you look at the situation of factory farming, as of now, there is no other viable alternative we can implement. I hope very soon we can pressure factory farms into spending a small percentage of their revenue to ensure animals are treated humanly. Instead of simply saying why factory farming is wrong, one should work to improve it, make conditions better for the animals. Organic food products is one of the newest trends and this may also help decrease factory farms, but as a society, they are necessary to support the carrying capacity.

3 Years Ago

We started a moovement against factory farming here in Minnesota. We post interesting information about factory farming and resources to find animals products that were sustainably-farmed. Check us out! www.facebook.com/MNMoovement

Ramkumar Perumal
3 Years Ago

To the author Lindsay Patton I want to say this:

PLEASE be careful when you talk about the global warming potential of methane, especially if your purpose is to draw attention to the danger of methane emissions. Even the article you have linked talks about a GWP of 72 over a 20-year period (and 100 in a 5-year period). But even *this* is old now. As per the latest IPCC report, methane\'s 20-year GWP is 86! That is, pound-for-pound, methane traps 86 times more heat than CO2 over a 20-year time period. It is always important to specify the time period when we mention a greenhouse gas\'s global warming potential.

The article you linked for methane\'s GWP mentions the 2009 Worldwatch Magazine article by Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang, and that is good. But, as I said, that value of 72 for methane\'s 20-year GWP has now been superceded by a more recent estimate of 86.

Drew Shindell et al with the NASA\'s Goddard Goddard Institute for Space Studies estimated that by including the secondary warming effects of methane, it\'s GWP over a 20-year period is actually 105! That is, by including these other effects that methane has, it traps 105 times heat as CO2 over a 20-year period. But the IPCC has chosen to use the lower value of 86 including some of the secondary effects.

So, at the very least, we should be using the value in IPCC\'s latest report, and we should use the 20-year value for methane\'s GWP: 86. We should stop using the 100-year value -- that has no meaning at all, because we don\'t know what the world will be like in a 100 years, given the kind of threat we are facing.

(Although I address this comment to the author, it is more for everyone\'s information actually. Besides I didn\'t find an email address for contacting the author. :) )


Ramkumar Perumal
3 Years Ago

There is obviously an exploitation of humans going on in the meat industry. How many people sitting down to eat meat in their homes or some fancy restaurant would be able to handle working *just one* shift in a slaughterhouse that brought them their meat? Even just for the experience of it? People do all kinds of things just for the experience of it, and don\'t mind getting dirty or wet in the process, because they want to "try it once". Many even spend money to do so. Would these same people try out one shift in a slaughterhouse just for the experience of it? Then what about those who are forced to working in these places for years?

Recently I have been thinking that I would like to find out directly from some workers in slaughterhouses if they would choose another job, such as working in a vegetable or fruit farm, if given a chance, and a similar pay. It would be nice if someone or some organization could do a major survey. It would be very interesting, and very revealing, IMO.

3 Years Ago

Oh! Boohoo for the employees who don\'t speak English, are here illegally...That is NO excuse for the treatment of these animals!!! Instead of making it sound as if the workers are "abused" too, why not teach them something about humanity. You don\'t have to be smart, rich or otherwise to know that what they are doing is instrinsically wrong!! I still feel worse for the animals (who are absolutely at their mercy) than I do for anybody who would be a party to this horrific situation.

3 Years Ago

This article only touches on how large this problem is! If you want to know how our food sources are creating more damage to our environment than fossil fuels, check out this amazing new video:
Also, check out how our environmental groups are NOT part of the solution(s)!


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