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Aside from the fact that industrial livestock operations confine thousands of cows, pigs, and chickens into tightly packed facilities where they are forced to suffer the most inhumane treatment imaginable, factory farming has also given rise to countless modern day diseases.

When you take thousands of animals and stick them in a tiny space depriving them of all their natural instincts, you create a breeding ground for disease, and when it starts to spread, it spreads like wildfire.

Disease originating in industrialized factory farms can be transmitted via many routes not just from the food itself, but also in the water, air, and even the bodies of farmers, farm workers, and their families.

Dr. Michael Greger states, Previously unknown diseases are surfacing at a pace unheard of in the recorded annuals of medicine: more than 30 newly identified human pathogens in 30 years, most of them newly discovered zoonotic viruses.”

Why is this happening? There are many reasons, but one factor that stands out well above the rest is the rise of industrial farm animal production. Animals aren’t supposed to live like this, and as much as we may claim that we are winning the war on infectious diseases, so long as we continue to exploit animals in these barbaric ways, we will be fighting a losing battle.

1. E. Coli

E. Coli is an intestinal pathogen that infects food in the form of fecal matter, and as plants don’t have intestines, all E.Coli food poisoning comes from animals. But, it’s not just meat eaters that have to worry about this deadly disease. Due to the billions of tons of manure produced every year in the U.S. from factory farms, which can contaminate water used to irrigate crops, it can end up contaminating our spinach. Millions of people get infected by E. Coli every year, and one specific strain known to cause UTIs invades the bloodstream resulting in an estimated 36,000 deaths annually in the U.S. alone. Researchers that tested over 1,000 food samples from multiple retailers found fecal contamination in 69 percent of beef and pork, and 92 percent of poultry, with a shocking 50 percent of the poultry samples infected with the UTI causing E. Coli.


The MRSA bacterium, which is responsible for difficult or impossible to treat infections in humans, seemingly came out of nowhere when it was first recorded in hospitals. Now veterinary microbiology studies have proven that industrialized North American pig farms and farmers are to blame, as they commonly carry the pathogen along with a strain that infects humans. With around 9 million Canadian raised pigs being imported into the U.S. every year and U.S. livestock not being systematically tested for the disease, it’s not hard to see how it has developed into such a major health hazard with deaths now exceeding those from HIV/AIDS.

3. Mad Cow Disease

It’s not just the sickening conditions that livestock are subjected to either that pose a threat to public health. The feed used also carries alarming health concerns. Despite being herbivorous animals, beef cattle continue to be fed animal byproducts which increases the risk of Mad Cow Disease among humans that consume their flesh.

4. Salmonella

Just as the feeding of dead animals to live ones triggered Mad Cow Disease, the same practice has caused a global spread of salmonella. Salmonella kills more Americans than any other food borne illness, with over 100,000 Americans falling ill annually by salmonella infected eggs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 1,000,000 cases of salmonella poisoning in America alone can be directly tied to feed containing animal products.

5. Obesity

Endless studies have proven that a diet rich in animal proteins can lead to a host of health problems, most notably obesity. Yes, obesity is now officially a disease! Unsurprisingly, the nation with the largest industrial food industry also happens to have the highest rates of obesity. Believe it or not, one in three people worldwide are obese causing a huge increase in heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes.

How we choose to treat animals can have global health implications far beyond what we may have ever initially imagined. If you’re looking to go meatless, even just once a week, check out the following resources to help you along:

Image Source: Jo-Anne McArthur/