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The Problem with Factory Farms

May 13, 2010 | 59,766 views
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cattle, factory farmsThe book Animal Factory, by David Kirby, takes a close look at factory farms and the problems they cause. In an interview with Time Magazine, Kirby talked these farms and the appalling lack of government oversight.

Among the problems Kirby notes:

“... you're often no longer feeding animals what they're genetically designed to eat. CAFO cows eat a diet of milled grains, corn and soybeans, when they are supposed to eat grass.

The food isn't natural because they very often put growth hormones and antibiotics in it. That becomes a problem when you put that manure on the ground.”

Animal Factory also looks at the fate of the Neuse River in North Carolina, where waste runoff from pig farms caused massive fish die-offs.

What Are GMOs?

From April 19th through April 25th we launch GMO Awareness Week. We set aside an entire week dedicated to providing you with information on GMOs and labeling initiatives.

GMOs are a product of genetic engineering, meaning their genetic makeup has been altered to induce a variety of “unique” traits to crops, such as making them drought-resistant or giving them “more nutrients.” GMO proponents claim that genetic engineering is “safe and beneficial,” and that it advances the agricultural industry. They also say that GMOs help ensure the global food supply and sustainability. But is there any truth to these claims? I believe not. For years, I've stated the belief that GMOs pose one of the greatest threats to life on the planet. Genetic engineering is NOT the safe and beneficial technology that it is touted to be.

Help Support GMO Labeling

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)—Monsanto’s Evil Twin—is pulling out all the stops to keep you in the dark about what’s in your food. For nearly two decades, Monsanto and corporate agribusiness have exercised near-dictatorial control over American agriculture. For example, Monsanto has made many claims that glyphosate in Roundup is harmless to animals and humans. However, recently the World Health Organization (WHO) had their research team test glyphosate and have labeled it a probable carcinogen.

Public opinion around the biotech industry's contamination of our food supply and destruction of our environment has reached the tipping point. We're fighting back. That's why I was the first to push for GMO labeling. I donated a significant sum to the first ballot initiative in California in 2012, which inspired others to donate to the campaign as well. We technically "lost the vote, but we are winning the war, as these labeling initiatives have raised a considerable amount of public awareness.

The insanity has gone far enough, which is why I encourage you to boycott every single product owned by members of the GMA, including natural and organic brands. More than 80 percent of our support comes from individual consumers like you, who understand that real change comes from the grassroots.

Thankfully, we have organizations like the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) to fight back against these junk food manufacturers, pesticide producers, and corporate giants.

Internet Resources Where You Can Learn More

Together, Let's Help OCA Get The Funding They Deserve

Let’s Help OCA get the funding it deserves. I have found very few organizations who are as effective and efficient as OCA. It’s a public interest organization dedicated to promoting health justice and sustainability. A central focus of the OCA is building a healthy, equitable, and sustainable system of food production and consumption. That's why I'm proud to announce I will be matching donations up to $250,000 this week.

Please make a donation to help OCA fight for GMO labeling.


Donate Today!

 

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Factory farms, or as the industry calls them “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations” (CAFO), are the commercial equivalent of the small family farm. What Wal-Mart is to shopping, factory farms are to agriculture.

From a strictly money-making standpoint, factory farms make sense. A large number of animals, typically 1,000 or more, are raised in one small area, fed cheap (typically grain-based) food, and supplemented with hormones and antibiotics to maximize their growth potential.

Things like access to pasture or natural foods, sunlight and fresh air are not a part of this world. These would be superfluous to an industry that is solely interested in producing the maximum amount of meat for the least amount of money.

Unfortunately, their business model has been working. As Time magazine reported, 2 percent of U.S. livestock facilities produce 40 percent of farm animals!

But as David Kirby’s new book Animal Factory reveals, this irresponsible “big business” attitude toward farming and food is having disastrous consequences, for both your health and that of the environment.

What Happens When Thousands of Animals are Raised in One Small Space?

While the implications for the animals are obvious, the impact on the environment is very well concealed from public view. When you raise thousands of animals, you’re left with a lot of waste.

In a small farm setting, that waste is used to naturally fertilize the land, and in that way it becomes quite healthy. In a factory farm setting, however, there is no way you can use millions of gallons of animal waste in a “healthy” way. So, large “lagoons” are created to hold the waste, or excessive amounts of the waste are sprayed onto crops in the area.

It is not at all unusual for this waste to leach into groundwater or run off into surface waters. At Farm Sanctuary, a farm animal protection organization, they explain what this means for the future of the environment:

“The quantity of waste produced by farm animals in the U.S. is more than 130 times greater than that produced by humans. Agricultural runoff has killed millions of fish, and is the main reason why 60% of America's rivers and streams are "impaired."

In states with concentrated animal agriculture, the waterways have become rife with pfiesteria bacteria. In addition to killing fish, pfiesteria causes open sores, nausea, memory loss, fatigue and disorientation in humans.”

If you want to get an inside look at what really goes on in factory farms, you can view the Farm Sanctuary photo gallery … but I warn you, it is not for the faint of heart.

Do You Really Want to Eat Factory Farmed Animals?

If you were to grow food for you own family, my guess is that you, like most people, would do so with extreme care -- the best seeds, the healthiest animals, the least amount of chemical additives. Yet, when most people buy their food they have no idea where it actually comes from, and conversely the people who grow this food have no idea who ends up eating it.

So to the “farmer,” you are a stranger. When people are able to grow food for the faceless masses, I think it somehow justifies these terrible practices that have become commonplace: pumping animals full of hormones and drugs, dousing vegetables with chemical pesticides and fertilizers, introducing genetically modified seeds into the environment.

If you had to see the animal you were about to eat before it makes its way to the supermarket or your dinner table, would you choose one that had lived out its days in a filthy, crowded cage? One that had been mutilated and tormented, then pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, while being fed pesticide-laden grains it was not designed to eat?

Or would you choose one that had lived a nurtured and well cared fort life, free to roam on pasture, see the sunlight and breathe in fresh air? One that was fed its natural diet and nothing more?

The choice is obvious, which is exactly why agri-business has done such a masterful job of concealing what really goes on from the vast majority of Americans.

All you see is a cellophane-wrapped package, maybe a picture of a barn with happy cows and chickens standing near. In many cases, if you could really see how that animal was raised, you would likely shield your children’s eyes, then turn away in disgust.

It’s Time to Open Your Eyes

Factory farms allow us to be removed from taking personal responsibility for raising our own food. There is no one to be held accountable for raising garbage food or treating animals inhumanely because the system has taken on a life of its own.

As for regulations, these are often done on the state and county level, and in agriculture-friendly states, industrial farms are given a lot of leeway. In fact, government subsidies are often paid out to these very farms. At Sustainable Table, they write:

“Because factory farms are considered “agricultural” instead of “industrial,” they are not subject to the regulation that their scale of production (and level of pollution) warrants.

Because they employ powerful lobbyists that can sway the government agencies responsible for monitoring agricultural practices, industrial farms are left free to pollute, to hire undocumented workers (and pay them next to nothing), and to locate their businesses without regard to the impact that has on surrounding communities.”

By far, the vast majority of food at your local supermarket comes from these polluting, inhumane farm conglomerations. So if you want to stop supporting them, you first need to find a new place to shop.

If you’re still on the fence, I suggest you watch the movie Food, Inc. The full 90-minute movie highlights two of the most prominent investigative journalists in the industry, Michal Pollan (Omnivore’s Dilemma) and Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), providing a very graphic and powerful reinforcement of the material presented in this article.

I highly encourage you to view this film as it will empower you and your family to make changes. Collectively we can have a very profound impact.

Tips for Finding Safe, Humanely Raised Food Sources

It is relatively easy to find a humane and reliable source for your food -- sources that are growing food with the health of the environment and the animals as the driving forces.

At LocalHarvest.org, for instance, you can enter your zip code and find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, all with the click of a button. For an excellent list of sustainable agricultural groups in your area, please also see Promoting Sustainable Agriculture -- this page is filled with resources for high-quality produce and meats in your area.

The more we all make it a point to only buy food from a source we know and trust, the faster factory farming will become a shameful practice of the past.


[+] Sources and References

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Food Democracy Now
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Fluoride Action Network
National Vaccine Information Center
Institute for Responsible Technology
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Center for Nutrtion Advocacy
Cornucopia Institute
Vitamin D Council
GrassrootsHealth - Vitamin D*action
Alliance for Natural Health USA
American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation
The Rabies Challenge Fund
Cropped Catis Mexico