The Meat and Dairy Industries' Harmful Effect on the Environment

Short Factory Farming Video
Monday December 03rd 2007, 7:49 pm
Filed under: Michelle research

This is a short video about factory farming made by the Humane Society.

Picture from

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Works Cited
Sunday December 02nd 2007, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Sources

Bianchi, Mary and Harter, Thomas. “Nonpoint Sources of Pollution in Irrigated Agriculture.” University of California. Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. 2002.

Brahic, Catherine. “Frog Deformities Linked to Farm Pollution.” New Scientists Enironment News Service. 25 September 2007. 20 October 2007.

“Dramatic Changes in Global Meat Production Could Increase Risk of Human Diseases.” UN News Service. 17 September 2007.  22 September 2007.

“Environmental Destruction.” Vegan Outrach. 8 October 2007. http://www.vegan  

“Facts about Pollution from Livestock Farms.” Natural Resources Defense Council. 15 July 2007. 10 October 2007.

Klein, E.B. “Nine Billion and Counting.” Animals vol. 131. No 3. pp 28-29, 41. May/June 1998. Biology Digest.

“Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options.” Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. 2006.  

McCardell, Kate. “Field Day Beefed Up with Info.” Jackson County Floridian. 10 June 2007. 22 September 2007. <http:/…>.

Pollen, Michael. The Omnivore’s Delimma. London, England: Penguin Books Ltd, 2006. 

Rodriguez, Elizabeth, Sultan, Ryan, and Hillker, Amy. “Negative Effects of Agriculture on Our Environment. The Traprock, Vol 3, May 2003. pp 28-32.

Stepaniak, Joanne. The Vegan Source Book. Lincolnwood, Illinois: NTC/Contemporary Group, Inc., 1998.

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‘If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.’
Sunday December 02nd 2007, 4:24 pm
Filed under: Melissa research

           As we read about in the Omnivore’s Dilemma, the United States is all about production of corn. In fact, the US alone produces 40% of the world’s corn and 80% of the grain; livestock consumes six and a half times as much grain as the population consumes directly. This takes into account the corn people consume by consuming animals or animal products who were raised on corn. The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology’s research found that our grain supply could feed five times more people if they consumed it directly. Ph. D. David Pimentel points out that 72% of the US’s cereal grain is fed to livestock while only eleven percent goes directly to feeding humans. Technological advances attempt to compensate for the environmental damage caused from depleting resources (such as water) and the growing problem of waste. With few government regulations, and with those that are in place being difficult to enforce, the industry of raising animals gets away with bending and breaking the rules. “Livestock rearing is the most ecologically damaging segment of the entire U.S. agribusiness industry”.

                Beyond the amount of grain used by the meat and dairy industries, they are also responsible for the erosion of natural life. With the combination of the chemicals from the feed crops and overgrazing, the surrounding vegetation has little chance to survive. It’s been estimated that the rate of soil erosion today is greater than was during the Dust Bowl Era. Ninety-percent of croplands lose soil thirteen times faster than the sustainable rate. The ground suffers abuse from sewer wastes and becomes especially vulnerable to flooding. The soil can no longer filter carbon dioxide to limit emissions of greenhouse gases. In Lynn Jacob’s Waste of the West: Public Lands Ranching, he claims that cattle of the greatest destruction of land, water, and vegetation. Consequently, they are the primary cause of flooding and desertification. Grazing eliminates more plant life than any other cause and native animals disappear without a food source. The more ‘dangerous’ animals are killed off in the name of protecting the live stock. As seen in The Buffalo Wars, it is not necessarily the threat of savage attacks, as I think we can all agree buffalo are not aggressive or frightening animals, but their apparent threat to the health of the livestock is enough to secure their death. The government continues to bow down to agribusiness and allow for grazing to continue in protected areas or public land while chasing the wildlife back further and further, all in the name of hamburgers. Now that the U.S. finds trouble keeping the land healthy enough to support its animals, the overflow has reached Central America, and the rainforest is coming down as a result. The destruction of the rainforest means the obliteration of biodiversity more than anything else, and Pimentel cites animal agriculture for 80% of the world’s deforestation.

                Regardless of whether or not water is actually becoming more ‘scarce’, the fact remains the everyday millions of people go without a clean, available water supply. Norman Myers found that 80% of the U.S.’s water is used as irrigation for feed crop and Pimentel goes farther to say that 90% of the fresh water is used by agriculture. The Environmental Protection Agency charges agriculture as the number one water polluter due to the runoff caused by fertilizers and herbicides.  The EPA also estimates the a third of all agricultural water pollution comes directly from animal production operations. This ranks animal agriculture as one of the top ten sources of water pollution. Sixty percent of rivers are ‘impaired’ by runoff pollution, making them unsafe or unusable. A cattle feedlot of 12,000 produces the same amount of waste as a city of 20,000. Combined, cattle, pigs, and poultry produce an annual 1.4 billion tons of waste. That’s 130 times that of the U.S. population. Manure causes soil damage, toxicity, and alga growth in water that kills aquatic ecosystems. This phenomenon is known as eutrophication, and in its most extreme forms result in a ‘dead zone’ such at that in the Gulf of Mexico. There are 7,000 square miles of ocean that no longer support life.

                In 1967 the FDA banned the use of animal manure in livestock feed because of environmental and animal/human health concerns. The ruling was partially reversed in the late 1970s, and by 1992 sludge has been reclassified as ‘fertilizer’. Over 60,000 toxins and chemical compounds dwell in sewage sludge, which obviously has harmful effects when applied to agriculture.  The manure also presents the problem of air contamination. Hogs and other industrial housed life-stock cannot survive in their ammonia-filled enclosures without antibiotics.  Nitrogen released from the manure pollutes the water and air with ammonia and lagoons, pond-like structures found on many farms, of manure often poison animals and humans alike. The carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and methyl bromide gases released as a consequence of animal agriculture directly contribute the global warming.

                On the subject of energy, Pimentel’s research shows that it takes eight times as much energy to produce animal protein as compared to its equivalent plant protein. This energy mainly comes from the burning of fossil fuels, polluting the air and further depleting our resources. Even after the animal is raised, the processing, packaging, running of machinery, refrigeration, traveling, and shopping must be taken into account. Ten percent of the energy used is agriculture works to compensate for lost nutrients and soil productivity from a consequence of erosion. As agribusiness attempts to make up for what it destroys in nature by technological advances, small farms fall to the wayside and disappear. Biodiversity dies along with them at the hand of overgrazing and pesticides. The toxic runoff kills fish in nearby streams.  According to George Wuertherner, grazing threatens to eliminate more plant life in the United States than any other single factor. The detrimental effects are not limited to one area, and adjacent connected habitats, even if protected, are at risk. The natural predator/prey relationships of the wildlife, which serve as a natural checks and balances, also feel the harmful effects of pesticides. There can be population of pest outbreaks, insects changed by chemicals that alter their beneficial behaviors, destruction of natural enemies for insects, insect pesticide resistance, and birth defects.

                As agribusiness continues to grow, gathering more and more power through both vertical and horizontal integration, they meet little resistance. Because such few companies have such large monopolies, there’s not enough competition or challenges to force change. Due to small farm consolidations, over the past fifty years the number of farms has reduced by two-thirds while the amount of farm land has remained the same. With the control over America’s food, agribusiness has the power to influence Congress as well. Many states go as far as to creating laws forbidding the spreading of rumors about super-market meat. The regulations that are passed in attempts to control the farms and protect the consumers are vague as best and difficult to enforce even is someone wanted to, which isn’t often the case. Animal agriculture realizes it’s being scrutinized and is doing everything within it power, without many limits, to cover it up and continue on with business as usual.


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Michelle’s Oral Presentation
Saturday December 01st 2007, 2:24 pm
Filed under: Michelle research,Presentation

For my part of the project, I mainly used the internet for research. However, some of the information I used in this project was from my AP Environmental Science class I took last year.

For the most part, the internet research led me to mainly newspaper or magazine articles. I found out that the beef and dairy industry negatively affects many aspects of the environment.           

 First of all, it can affect global climate change. The livestock sector is responsible for between 9-20% of carbon dioxide gas emissions. Agriculture adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere though burning biomass by deforestation; cutting down forests to make room for grazing pastures and crop growing. The fossil fuel usage to produce fertilizer to grow feed to produce meat and to transport the meat adds to the carbon dioxide emissions. Livestock are also producing up to one-third of the methane gas emissions, which can warm the world twenty times faster than carbon dioxide. Scientist also found that livestock are responsible for 64% of ammonia emissions, which can also lead to acid rain and acidification of ecosystems.           

This leads to the problem of water pollution, acidification, and eutrophication. To expand on the ammonia’s effect on water, basically after it turns into acid rain, it rains into ponds, lakes, streams, etc. This large amount of ammonia can lower the pH level of the water to make it more acidic, which can cause deformities in, or kills off fish, amphibians, and other wildlife in the water. [Bring up frog article and pictures on blog] One article in particular I found interesting was about how frog deformities are lined to farm pollution. This is caused from a mixture of the pH lowering and from eutrophication. Eutrophication is when water is enriched with nutrients such as phosphates and nitrates, which can boost plant growth in the later. It mainly contributes to the growth of algae and sea grasses. The problem with this is that the plants take up more of the water’s dissolved oxygen percentage, leaving less for the fish and amphibians, which can make them outrageously deformed, or by suffocating them from lack of oxygen. And what contributes the extra nitrates and phosphates into the water system? The fertilizer and manure runoff from livestock farms. Pesticides that are used on the plants to make the cattle feed are also filled with the nutrients than can runoff the land and cause eutrophication. Eutrophication is also the cause of the “dead” zones in coastal areas, such as the Gulf of Mexico. The major sources of water pollution are from animal wastes, antibiotics and hormones used on the livestock, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides for feed crops, and sediments from eroded pastures.

            There are many interconnected environmental degradation cycles that occur from livestock production. [Bring up the diagrams and my little article about this on the blog]. It is easiest showing this in a flow chart, however it will not show up on the blog, so I will probably just show it in class.

            The livestock industry is also causing increasing water shortages around the country and the world. In America, it takes approximately 990 liters of water to produce one liter of milk. This is completely outrageous! It takes millions of gallons of water to quench cows’ thirst, to water the crops for the cows, and for the production of milk and other animal products. So in many rural areas, there is not enough water for the townspeople to use, because they are using so much for their livestock. They have to use water only at certain times of the day, and reduce personal water usage.           

Another major environmental and health concern is the amount of diseases livestock can spread to other animals, either waterborne, foodborne, or bacterial. There are at least 40 different types of diseases that can be transferred to humans through animal manure. Various livestock have been known to cause E. coli, Salmonella, C. jejuni (a.k.a. Campylobacter), Cryptosporidium parvum, Giardia duodenalis (a.k.a. Giardiasis), and pfiesteria piscidia. Many of these diseases and bacteria can sicken and kill other creatures, including fish, amphibians, and small mammals.             

That was the extent of my research: climate change, water pollution and shortages, diseases, eutrophication, salinization, and erosion.

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Thursday November 29th 2007, 11:38 am
Filed under: A. Foust vegan journal

My mom, a doctor and health-conscious person all her life, fed us in accordance to the food pyramid and FDA guidelines. She did not buy Kool-Aid, candy, soda, Twinkies, or Oreos. I had virtually no exposure to high fructose corn syrup except on Halloween. I can taste the difference between organic food and those that have been treated with chemicals and hormones. I became vegetarian for a couple weeks a few years ago. It was too hard to eat dinner with my family so I conceded to eat poultry and seafood. After avoiding only red meat for a while, which was easy because my mom does not eat it, I discovered the fantastic savory delight that is the meat of cows and pigs and I gave up my short-lived attempt at considerate consuming.

The guilt has never truly vanished, as I found I cannot go but for so long without happening upon a semi on I-95 trailing a stream of dirty feathers from the unimaginably cramped chickens or the large, sad eyes of a sow from behind a fence on some rural excursion. On the other hand, I can count the food I do not like on one hand. Furthermore, I have been fortunate enough to have been exposed to virtually every food there is. I love food, and I love to eat.

Today I ate lunch from the pasta bar in Seacobeck with marinara and a banana. The pasta was not good–the excessively processed noodles have no flavor. For dinner I made my own salad at the Nest and nuked lentil soup later in my dorm. I snacked on granola. What I miss the most are sweets. It is so hard to pass up cake, cookies, and ice cream. Being vegan has been a diet, which is one of numerous advantages.

One’s experience in the dining facilities depend on taste, which seems obvious, but I hear mixed reviews from fellow students. I miss vegetables, which, aside from the salad bars, rarely make the menus. The sandwich station has processed bread and meats with an unbearable unnatural taste which satisfies most students who were raised with such commodities. Those raised on pizza and hamburgers can also find these standbys daily. What I give a thumbs-up in Seaco: salad bar, fresh raw fruit, deserts, and the waffle iron (the latter two are untouchable now). Everything else I generally regard frowning as a nauseous gurgle rumbles my stomach.

Thankfully the semester is almost over, meaning there is only one left until I have my own kitchen, my own refrigerator, and most importantly, my own shopping list. I do not think it is morally wrong for humans to eat animals or their products, but I think the entire way we go about doing it is. My mom buys free-range chicken, and I am debating this choice. If anything, I will be a vegetarian and buy organic milk along with other produce. I have yet to try soy milk, but I plan to later this week at Seacobeck. I wonder how difficult it will be to find my favorites (my weaknesses) ice cream and cheese in organic varieties. Of course, organic does not necessarily mean the animals are any happier, as they may be just as cramped, filthy, and generally neglected. Never will I purchase or consume faux meat or anything else imitation. Tofu is disgusting. What is the point?

hey everybody!
Monday November 26th 2007, 6:00 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Could you guys please put the author of the comments at the end of the comment i.e. sign them so we know who did what. Thank-you!


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Salinization, Erosion, and Eutrophication
Sunday November 25th 2007, 5:13 pm
Filed under: Michelle research

By: Michelle 

This is a simple explanation of salinization, erosion, and eutrophication, which can all be caused by the agriculture industry in some form or way.

Salinization happens when there is a high concentration of salts in the soil. If there is too much salt in the soil, it can be toxic to plants, which can wither and die, or the plants can not grow at all. At mass-producing farms, all of the wastes from the animals contain a high level of phosphates and nitrates, which are natural salts. If the wastes are just disposed into a giant pile in the corner of a field (which they often are), the salts seep into the soil, and kills the grasses in the area.

 Usually with salinization comes erosion. Salinization can kill key plants and grasses which are used to hold the soil together. If the soil isn’t held together, then it can easily erode into streams and ponds. If the soil has a high concentration of nitrates and phosphates, then it can kill fish and cause eutrophication: the increase of chemical nutrients that can spur plant growth. Usually eutrophication causes algae blooms, or water grasses to grow. When there is a large amount of algae or plants in the water, it takes oxygen out of the water, and releases carbon dioxide into the water. When there is less oxygen in the water, fish can die (if they were not already dead by the high concentration of salts).

So extremely simplified: Salinization can lead to erosion which can lead to eutrophication.

Here are some diagrams that demonstrates many of the origins of erosion and eutrophication:

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Changing the Layout
Tuesday November 20th 2007, 11:42 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Can we possibly change the layout for our blog? I think we will need to be able to organize the information into some sort of order, which is difficult to do right now. I also wouldn’t mind having side-bars and organizational tools…so let me know if we can fiddle around with the layout of this thing.

Tuesday November 20th 2007, 11:32 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

By: Michelle 

Here are a couple of websites with basic information on Environmental Destruction from Agriculture

This website is an essay on environmental harmful effects on the animals:

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General Information About Our Topic
Tuesday November 20th 2007, 11:22 am
Filed under: Michelle research

By: Michelle 

Basically, our issue that we researched is about the negative effects of agriculture on the environment. So here is some basic information about the environmental degredation from agribusiness.

  • Agriculture increases CO2 levels in the atmosphere from the burning of plants and destruction of plant life to convert forests into fields
  • “Agriculture causes harmful levels of pathogens and chemicals in our water and increases levls of greenhouse gases in the air as a result of agriculture”
  • Waterbourne diseases can be found in water systems near animal farms, including Salmonella typhimurium, Cryptospordium parvum, and Giardia duodenalis
  • Harmful bacteria can also be found in food and water near the animal farms including C. jejuni, Campylobacter, Salmonella, and E. Coli
  • Animals from farms can cause overgrazing of the grass, which leads to erosion and salinization
  • Erosion and salinization of the land can lead to the eutrophication of water by adding too much nitrates and phosphates to the water
  • Animal wastes cause a salinity problem due to the large amount of salt in the feces. Each cow defecates about 100 pounds of feces per day (84 pounds of wet, 16 of dry), which contain a lot of nitrates, which can harm the soil or can drain into water systems
  • Cows produce 20% of the methane gas that goes into the atmosphere
  • Animal farms indirectly cause acid rain, because they produce over 100 types of pollutiong gases, and 2/3rds of the amount of ammonia that goes into the atmosphere
  • Agriculture uses up to 80% of the water usage in the United States, which can cause water shortages in many parts of the country

**Most of the information contained in this is from other sources, which can be found in the Works Cited on this blog, which will be made soon***

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