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Published on February 18th, 2009 | by Amy Bell

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Factory Farms – The Impact on Humans and the Environment

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Most people are aware of at least a few of the problems associated with factory farming.

Anyone who has ever had the unfortunate experience of even being near one will tell you the smell alone is enough to make you instantly nauseated.

Aside from that, what are some of the other hazards of raising animals this way?

Here is a interesting list I’ve compiled of various pieces of information about this vile practice, and the impact it has on us and the environment:

  • Antibiotic Resistance – One very serious threat posed by factory farms is their tendency to accelerate the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria.  Because of the extremely crowded and unsanitary conditions, the animals are prone to illness and therefore routinely given low doses of antibiotics in their food.  Seventy percent of all antibiotics used in the United States are fed to animals for non-therapeutic purposes!
  • Water Pollution – Pollutants from factory farms reach ground and surface water through runoff, manure lagoon leaks and spills, and excessive application of manure to farmland.  This can have a devastating impact on fish and other aquatic life, as well as our drinking water.
  • Air Quality – Researchers have identified 331 gasses and volatile organic compounds in samples of air emitted form factory farms.  Not only does this diminish the quality of life of those living in the surrounding areas, these odors can also adversely affect human health.  Exposure to factory farm odors has been linked to many health complaints including nasal irritation, diarrhea, cough, chest tightness, shortness of breath, palpitations, and alteration in mood.
  • Disease Transmission – Factory farms can threaten public health by incubating infectious diseases that can spread from animals to humans. A worker who comes in contact with a diseased animal or its manure can contract the disease directly and pass it on to others.  Bird flu is a good example of this.
  • Depletion of Natural Resources – Instead of being eaten by people, the majority of grain harvested in the United States is fed to farm animals.  Because of this, forests and wetlands have been decimated and turned into cropland.  Most of these grains are not being grown organically, which means more use of GMO’s, pesticides, and herbicides.
  • The Local Economy – Factory farms threaten the well being of rural communities.  They tend to bypass the local economy, buying their inputs and marketing their products outside of the community.  Instead of creating healthy and sustainable employment, this type of farming often creates dangerous and low paying jobs.

Many of the states with large numbers of factory farms have weak policies when it comes to pollution control and other issues.

Show that you don’t support this industry by refusing to buy factory farmed products, and buy organic instead (meat, dairy, and eggs).  Try starting a petition or sign an existing one, and write to your government officials.

Lets do what it takes to make our voices heard.

Image credit: Farm Sanctuary on flickr creative commons.

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About the Author

Amy is a vegan, working mother of one with a degree in Nutrition Education. She has had a longtime interest in natural health, animal rights, human rights, and environmental issues. She shares her Midwestern home with her husband and son, as well as with what many would consider to be a lot of pets.



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