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The Dangers of Factory Farming Ashley Varela


Introduction • 

Factory farming is a revolutionary way of producing food through technological advances. It includes agriculture and livestock and is a dominating production of food in the United States. Factory farming began by accident in 1926 when a small town farmer got an over delivery of chicks. Instead of returning the chicks, they raised them indoors and multiplied their flock by 555 times. In 1970, the first large-scale animal factory emerged for egg production (“Factory-Farming,” 2010). Industrial agricultural is the practice of planting and harvesting one or two crops over the distance of many miles. Because of the unnatural reduction of biodiversity to these crop areas, many pesticides and inorganic fertilizers are used to increase crop production. Heavy machinery is also used to increase speed and efficiency and save time and money (Gliessman, 1998).


•  . Industrial animal production is the practice of confining a species of animal, such as cows, pigs and chickens, together in an unnaturally small space. These animals are made to gain weight quickly and are given growth hormones and antibiotics to accelerate this process (Miller & Spoolman, 2016, p. 222). The animals are fed grains, corn and soybeans, which decrease the amount of overgrazing, and they excrete large amounts of waste. “Today large industrial factory farming accounts for 99.9% of chickens, 97% of chickens for eggs, 99% for turkeys, 95% for pigs and 78% for cattle. In each animal product, typically no more than 3 to 5 companies control the entire output” (“Factory-Farming,” 2010). These large-scale companies are in control of much of the meat we eat and the demand for meat is increasing. Because this large-scale operation makes meat more affordable, the demand for meat in developing countries has risen dramatically. Factory farming has increased food production but has harmed our environment and should be outlawed.


The advantages §  There are advantages to factory farming. Factory farming has made the cost of food decrease dramatically, especially with meat production. According to D’Silva (2000), developing countries are exceptionally fond of factory farming because of the reduced cost and increased demand in meat and dairy products. This decrease in the cost of food has made it more readily available to feed the exponentially growing population of the world and increased our world’s carrying capacity. Factory farming is very cost efficient. The use of machinery for crop production has led to a decrease in paying people for labor and an increase in speed and efficiency (Greengarageblog, 2015). The practice of confining large amounts of animals to small areas is incredibly cost efficient because of the decreased need for tending to large areas of land. Livestock farmers have also switched their animal’s food to lower cost products, like grains, corn and soy. For example, instead of feeding cows their normal diet of grass, which they need a lot of land and water for, they feed them corn and grain which increases their weight at faster rate. Because of these cost efficient practices, it is a very profitable business. According to Greengarageblog (2015), this new farming technique has made improvements in food processing, preservation, delivery and packaging and allowed it to become faster than ever. Because of these quicker and more efficient processes, it allows us to have access to more varieties of food and have a longer shelf life. Advances in the technology have also allowed us to raise crops and animals that would not have previously survived in certain places.


Disadvantages- Human Health §  Although there are many positive outcomes from factory farming, the negative impact outweighs these effects. The practices of factory farming harms human health from the people who work in these factories, live near these factories and consume products by these factories. According to Lombardo (2015), the only way for livestock to survive these harsh conditions is through vaccines and hormones, which are also used to fatten them up. The hormones and vaccines are part of the meat we eat and nutritionists warn against eating this kind of meat because the long-term effects are unknown. These intense and confined conditions are fertile breeding grounds for transmission of animal disease and bacteria to grow freely. Because of this, there have been an immense amount of outbreaks of animal diseases that transmit to humans who eat them (D’Silva, 2000). The antibiotics given to the livestock are used to combat these diseases but they have an effect on human health, as well. The antibiotics have been banned by the European Union because of the harmful effects but not in the United States. Antibiotics are routinely put in the feed of these animals to help them survive but many antibiotic-resistant strains of diseases, like Salmonella and E.Coli, have been emerging. According to Pluhar (2009), in the United States, 76 million people are affected by contaminated food a year and 5,000 end in death. The researcher goes on to state that even if you avoid factory-farmed products, these strains of diseases can invade and contaminate water, produce and hospitals. Another way that disease, like Mad Cow Disease, is spreading to humans is the horrible process which is allowed by the FDA to feed poultry, pigs and cows animal feces and the unused cattle tissue that we do not eat as long as it is not older than 30 months (Pluhar, 2009). The increased consumption of animal produce has also negatively affected human health. Research shows that a high amount of red meat and animal fat in a persons diet can increase the risk of cancer and heart disease (D’Silva, 2000). Human health is also compromised from the over use of pesticides on the crops getting into our air, water and food.


Disadvantages- The environment §  Not only is human health affected but also industrial agriculture and industrial livestock immensely impacts the environment. According to Cunningham, William and Saigo (2007) p. 104-106, there has been rapid deforestation of the tropical rainforests and deciduous forests to convert the land to farms and also a majority of grasslands and prairies have been converted to farms. Because industrial agriculture involves growing the same couple of crops year after year, this depletes the soil and makes the land unusable for agriculture, forcing the farmer to find new land to cultivate or use a high amount of fertilizer and pesticides. This high increase in nitrogen from the fertilizer and other pesticides runs off into streams and into oceans and harms fish, coral reefs and other wildlife that are important for our ecosystem’s biodiversity. Pesticides also harm the environment by killing off beneficial insects, like butterflies and bees that pollinate our plants. The farmer’s depletion of the soil has serious impacts on the topsoil of the land, as well. Topsoil is the most fertile part of the land because it stores the water and nutrients for the plants and it constantly renews itself and plays a vital role for our natural capital. It is one of the most important ecosystem services (Miller & Spoolman, 2016, p. 223). Industrial agriculture has eroded topsoil faster than it can renew itself and it has led to harmful environmental effects. It has led to the loss of soil fertility, increased water pollution because of the topsoil ending up in waterways and it releases the carbon that was stored in the soil into the atmosphere (Miller & Spoolman, 2016, p. 225). The extensive use of heavy machinery to plant, water, harvest and transport the crops also releases mass amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, furthering our impact on climate change as well as clearing or burning forests to make land for agriculture. A study in 2010 by the United Nations Environment Program, industrial agriculture uses immense quantities of the planet's resources. Worldwide it uses 70% of the freshwater removed from surface waters and aquifers and about 38% of the earth's ice-free land, releases about 25% of the planet's greenhouse gas emissions, and makes 60% of all the water pollution (Miller & Spoolman, 2016, p. 223).


Environment Cont. §  Additionally, industrial livestock negatively effects the environment in many ways. The livestock industry contributes 20% of the total greenhouse emissions, which is more than all of the world’s transportation, and a typical American meat eater contributes one and a half tons more than a vegetarian (Pluhar, 2009). One way livestock contributes to a high amount of greenhouse gas emission is through their excessive amount of manure. When farming the sustainable way, animal manure can be used to enrich the soil. But because of the mass amounts of animals producing a mass amount of feces, the surrounding land gets overloaded and pollutes the plants, soil and water. To make matters worse the feces contains more than a majority of nitrogen and phosphate, which pollute groundwater and make it undrinkable and harm the surrounding environment causing toxic and acidifying effects on the ecosystem. It also contains methane, which is another component of climate change (D’Silva, 2000). The process of producing meat also uses large amounts of energy and the production of meat per weight generates 10-20 times more greenhouse gas emissions than producing vegetables and grains (Miller & Spoolman, 2016, p. 230). Industrial livestock production is a key source in climate change and each step produces high amounts of greenhouse gases, from the factories the animals live in, the animal’s intake and outtake and the transportation of the meat. Factory farming also uses lots of resources, like water, which is our most important one. Most of the water used to make meat and dairy is used to grow the crops to feed them. According to D’Silva (2000), in 1992 half of the water used was for growing feed for livestock in the US and the animals drink a considerable amount too, estimating it takes 100,000 liters of water to produce 1 kg of beef. This high amount of crops and water used is further encouraging the problems earlier discussed of industrial agriculture but instead of creating food for direct human use, it is given to the animals we eat and losing 90% of its usable energy along the way.


Conclusion § Factory farming has shown how humans can use technology to adapt to our needs and desires. Although it is a great tool that has been used to feed the masses, it’s detrimental effects to our environment and us show that we cannot outsmart nature and sooner or later our innovations will harm our future generations ability to survive. Factory farming may seem great now because we have a surplus food but we will soon catch up to our future effects on the environment. Some ways to help steer away from these harmful environmental effects is to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet. This will ensure you do not give money to factory farms that harm the animals and our environment. Of course many people do not want to give up meat so another way would be to eat less meat or only chicken because chicken produces a lesser amount of greenhouse emissions than cow. People could also buy meat and agriculture from family farms that have sustainable and humane practices and buy agriculture from organic sources to reduce the use of pesticides. The 3-5 large companies that are factory farms will not stop the harm they are doing unless the demand decreases. If people stop supporting these companies by not buying their products they will be forced to change or go under and they will stop putting our environment in danger.


Sources § Cunningham, William P., Mary Ann Cunningham, and Barbara W. Saigo. "Chapter 5: Biomes: Global Patterns of Life." Environmental Science: A Global Concern. 9th ed. New York: McGrawHill, 2007. Print. § D'Silva, J. (2000, January). Factory Farming and Developing Countries. Compassion in World Farming Trust, 1-17. § Gliessman, S.R. (1998). Agroecology: Ecological processes in sustainable agriculture. Chelsea, MI: Ann Arbor Press. § Lombardo, C. R. (2015, May 17). 7 Vital Pros and Cons of Factory Farming | NLCATP.org. Retrieved November 05, 2016, from http:// nlcatp.org/7-vital-pros-and-cons-of-factoryfarming/ § Miller, G. Tyler, and Scott E. Spoolman. "Chapter 10: Food Production and the Environment." Environmental Science. 15th ed. Boston: Cengage Learning, 2016. Print. § Pluhar, E. B. (2009). Meat and Morality: Alternatives to Factory Farming. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 23(5), 455-468. doi:10.1007/s10806-009-9226-x

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