The Meat and Dairy Industries' Harmful Effect on the Environment

Alex’s Presentation
Tuesday December 04th 2007, 3:28 pm
Filed under: Presentation

1. United States and the rest of the world

  • As is the case in more and more issues, the United States is not a leader for positive change, but often an example of what not to do, which is an overlying theme in the issues surrounding the meat and dairy industries’ negative effects on the environment
  • A study conducted on European Union meat and dairy industries found that while the competitiveness is not affected by environmental practices of companies, “a firm’s environmental performance will become a key determinant of its economic performance.” Furthermore, above average company performances can be achieved with average environmental compliance.
  • This study indicates the fact that countries with the most sound environmental practices are simply following the national and international laws and agreements. It is a matter of realizing the environmental damage caused by national industries and legislature taking initiative to regulate business practices.
  • New Zealand and Australia have meat and dairy industries that are united and proactive in improving their methods.

“The dairy industry has made a commitment with the Dairy Industry Strategy for Sustainable Environmental Management to reduce our impact on the environment. We are meeting our targets. The dairy industry has been working with fertiliser companies and their representatives to ensure that all dairy farmers who have done fertiliser soil tests have also done nutrient budgets. This has, in many cases, meant a reduction in fertiliser applied, as more detailed information has allowed a better, more targeted approach to fertiliser use.

Most dairy farmers have now fenced off waterways and are much more conscious of the need to manage farm effluent correctly. Regional councils have taken some time to come to grips with their role in monitoring and achieving good compliance with regard to effluent management.” (Brenmuhl)

  • New Zealand dairy farmers are now being held responsible for the massive amount of public water used to sustain farms. The lowered amount and quality of freshwater is a price currently being paid by the public, which will no longer allow the industry to profit unabashedly while they suffer.
  • The Netherlands has set up a Mineral Accounting System and Manure Transfer Agreement System to comply with European Union Nitrate Directive. Though only the prior has proved to be largely successful, they have seen large-scale reduction in loss of nutrients of the soil.
  • The United States is not the only country with major shameful business practices:  “Sorghum, used for animal feed, is now Mexico’s second-largest crop by area. At the same time, the area of land producing the staples – corn, rice, wheat and beans – for poor folk there has fallen relentlessly. Mexico is now a net corn importer, from rich countries such as Canada and the United States, wiping out millions of subsistence farmers, who have to migrate to the cities or to El Norte. Mexico feeds 30 percent of its grain to livestock – pork and chicken for urban eaters – while 22 percent of the population suffers from malnutrition. . . Multiply this baneful pattern across the world. Meanwhile, the classic pastoralists, who have historically provided most of the meat in Africa with grazing systems closely adapted to varying environments, are being marginalized.” (Cockburn)

  • Answering the alternative fuel need with biofuels further complicates the situation as more grains are being grown not the fill stomachs, but gas tanks.

2. Mad Cow disease

  • Livestock are fed “protein supplements” to make them more profitable
  • Mad cow disease is BSE, bovine spongiform encephalopathy. According the U.S. government, BSE originated in the U.K. and has not spread here. However, protective measure set up by the FDA and USDA have failed to eliminate the practice of feeding cattle and other farm animals ground-up dead animals.
  • After widely-publicized outbreaks in Europe, the practice of feeding animals other animals was eliminated.
  • Research shows BSE may have actually originated in the United States
  • Cattle with BSE are often misdiagnosed as downer cows. Numbers of downed cows in the U.S. per year are several hundred thousand.
  • People with the human form of BSE, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) and its variants are misdiagnosed as suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders. Many of these deaths are attributed to unknown causes when they are likely caused by the consumption of diseased cows whose deaths fail to be attributed to BSE and so are ground up and fed to livestock.
  • The United States is using a worse test and testing less than the rest of the world

“Over the last ten years 12,000 cattle have been tested for the disease in the United States, but that’s out of the 350 million slaughtered over that time. The U.S. is presently testing only 1 out of every 18,000 cows slaughtered, whereas countries like Switzerland test 1 out of every 60 cows. Countries like Ireland test more than twice as many cows in one night as the U.S. tests in an entire year. France has one fifth of the number of cows but they’re inspecting 36,000 cows a week.” (Greger)

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