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The beautiful tapestry of the American farming narrative often paints a picture of green pastures and hardworking families. However, a more complex story is bubbling beneath the surface, challenging our age-old perceptions.
Source: Our Changing Climate/YouTube
Each year, billions of animals are farmed in the US for our consumption. The result? An astonishing 2.5 billion pounds of waste is produced daily, which, alarmingly, is around twice the waste generated by humans. Unlike human waste, this isn’t treated similarly. It’s either stashed in huge pits, stockpiled on farms, or simply dispersed as fertilizer on fields. Tarah Heinzen from the environmental nonprofit Food and Water Watch puts it candidly: these factory farms function like “sewerless cities.”
Although the Clean Water Act of 1972 mandated the EPA to manage water Pollution from factory farms, the reality is far from satisfactory. Food and Water Watch highlights that less than a third of these massive farms are lightly regulated. Furthermore, a plea in 2017 to enhance regulation was dismissed by the EPA.
Behind this backdrop is what reformers dub “agricultural exceptionalism“. This essentially means the farming sector operates with a different rulebook than other industries, paving the way for a myriad of issues: from pollution and animal cruelty to labor exploitation.
These exemptions are not limited to environmental regulations. Surprisingly, farms also dodge many federal and state labor laws. Adding to this, the Animal Welfare Act, designed to ensure the well-being of animals, misses out on the billions of animals reared for food in often horrifying conditions.
So, what drives this disconnect between law and practice? The “romanticized myths” surrounding farming play a crucial role. They obscure the harsh truths about agriculture’s origins, like slavery and unjust land seizure from Native Americans.
As we navigate through these challenging truths, it’s essential to remember that while our food’s journey from farm to table may be steeped in tradition and pride, there’s a pressing need for change. Addressing these glaring issues might just pave the way for a brighter, sustainable, and ethical future for American agriculture.
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- How Animal Agriculture Exploits People Too
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