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Let us be protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.– Pope Francis
Environmental Impact of Factory Farming
- Methane Emissions
- Toxic Chemicals
- Water Wastage and Pollution
- Monoculture Farming
- Excessive Use of Fossil Fuels.
What is Factory Farming?
Factory farming is an approach utilized in animal husbandry to maximize production while simultaneously minimizing costs. It is also referred to as intensive animal farming or industrial livestock production. It is an example of Intensive Agriculture practices.
Factory farming is achieved by growing livestock such as poultry, cattle, and fish on a large scale with high stocking density, utilizing modern machinery, global trade, and biotechnology. The main products created by factory farming include meat, milk, and eggs.
Brief Importance of Factory Farming
Factory farming has become an important part of agriculture and our lives. Carrying out such intensive practices has allowed farmers to meet the high consumer demand for these food products. It allows for large scale production without spending heavy capital to meet demands.
Even though factory farming is highly integrated into our daily lives; there are still some fundamental issues regarding its sustainability and morality.
Environmental Impact of Factory Farming
Factory farming has reaped many issues including economic problems, public health concerns, injustice and inhumane activities towards billions of animals and a tremendous amount of carbon debt.
Fortunately, greater attention is now being put into the following causes of these issues and finding environment-friendly solutions to them.
Livestock such as goats, cattle, and sheep release enormous amounts of methane gas while food digestion. According to statistics; over 37% of the methane gas emissions arise from factory farming and Methane is twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide in causing global warming.
The fossil fuels used in transportation, synthetic use of pesticides and fertilizers emit 90 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Other harmful compounds released include Hydrogen sulfide and ammonia which has detrimental consequences to human health.
Although factory farming cannot stop the animals from digesting food, a good solution would be to avoid other methane and other greenhouse gases producing processes.
For example; buying and selling local to avoid transport emissions and reduce costs and using organic fertilizers and pesticides. A better way would be to employ Integrated Pest Management to avoid pesticides altogether.
Toxic Antibiotic Chemicals
Living in confined, over-crowded places with limited hygiene; these animals are at high risk of contracting diseases. Due to that, various prophylactic antibiotics are fed to those animals to keep them from getting sick.
Some of these antibiotic chemicals build up inside the animal and could cause toxicity in them or in the humans who buy meat products from these factories.
Additionally when these antibiotic chemicals are released undigested into urine or manure, they may contaminate waterways and find yet another way into humans and cause toxicity.
Ensure good hygiene practices so the risk of disease is reduced. Use organic probiotics in feed to promote good immunity among livestock.
Grow animals in an organic manner. The demand for organically grown meat, milk and eggs is increasing! As consumers, we should also promote organic livestock farming by ethical eating of organic meat, milk and eggs.
Water Wastage and Pollution
Industrial agriculture (such as factory farming) sucks up 70% of available freshwater supplies of the planet. Toxic water runoff from agricultural lands can destroy marine ecosystems and be harmful to humans and animals drinking from nearby water bodies.
The animal agriculture industry has had a huge impact on water supply because of uses like watering crops that farm animals consume, providing drinking water for billions of animals being employed in factory farming around the world each year and cleaning of filth left by these animals on farmland.
It takes 1500 gallons of water in order to make one pound of beef for consumers; this water is equivalent to be used in 100 human showers.
Livestock farms have massive cesspools storing animal waste which can leak into adjacent waterways, causing significant water pollution. Microbes, drug resistant bacteria and nitrates can run rampant on these waterways.
This can cause formation of toxic algae blooms leading to cultural eutrophication which consists of “hypoxic dead zones” and a massive loss of marine life. Toxic levels of nitrogen in drinking water may cause miscarriages, abortions, and blue baby syndrome.
Water conservation practices are essential at all times! Reducing water use while maintaining functionality is the main goal here; this can be achieved by using drip irrigation systems for watering farms, high water-pressure systems to clean filth quickly using minimal water and growing chickens with water-nipples to get water from. These practices are also better in hygiene, let alone water conservation.
If you live near a factory farm, getting a good water filtration system is absolutely necessary for you to have clean drinking water.
Deforestation is carried out to clear land for factory farming, exclusively for growing livestock. This practice is not just confined to the USA; Brazil also carries out land clearance in order to grow chicken feed and is responsible for 3 million acres of rainforests being destroyed.
These numbers account only for land cleared for animal feed and factory farming.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has claimed that 70% of the Amazon rainforests have been turned into grazing lands for livestock.
Land should only be cleared of forests when there is NO OPTION LEFT!
Factory farming employs monoculture farming to grow the specific crop required for feeds; this can be a serious threat to future food security across the globe. To support livestock, a small number of commodity crops have taken up most of the agricultural lands.
Most of the lands in agriculture are planted with corn, wheat, rice, and soybeans at unprecedented levels that only feed a small percentage of people. Food wastage is a WHOLE other matter!
Planting millions of acres of similar crops to produce a high yield has become a modern phenomenon. However, it may end up becoming costly if environmental conditions are altered; especially in the form of crop epidemics, famine, or natural disasters.
A feasible solution here would be to employ crop-rotation on the field to ensure a sustainable, eco-friendly supply of animal feed.
Excessive use of fossil fuels
Farmers start feeding their livestock with “petro-pellets”. These are basically fossil fuels concentrated into small pills used as chicken feed mainly. Even though this was just a satirical demonstration in a TV documentary, it does depict how much factory farms rely on fossil fuels to raise and grow animals and crops.
Much of the synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are derived using petroleum; majority of crops grown using these chemicals end up becoming feed for animals.
Factory farming uses about 5.5 gallons of fossil fuels per acre!
This fuel is used for transportation, synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and to provide energy to run concentrated animal feeding operations.
All of this goes to say factory farm is a big contributor to carbon emissions of our planet which further worsens global warming.
Use of renewable energy sources to power poultry/livestock farms is a great way to avoid fossil fuel use altogether.
You should also read up 75+ Solutions to Global Warming!
“Humanity’s true moral test, its fundamental test…consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals.”
Message from Environmentbuddy; Be Kind to Animals!