New Height Of Insanity; Factory Farming
The rural Michigan community where I have been living has been inundated by the pungent smell of
animal manure. When conditions are just right, the smell is so powerful we have difficulty getting a good breath. Even closing
the windows and running the air conditioning system doesn't help much.
The cause of the smell is a 2,000 head beef operation located five miles away. There are three or
four large structures filled most of the time with cattle being raised for slaughter. As far as I can tell, the animals never
leave the buildings. They remain chained in their places for months until large enough to be butchered.
Any 4-H kid who has personally raised a cow, pig or lamb as a club project knows the joy of having
an animal to care for. They also know the sadness of eventually giving up the animal to be killed and eaten. I always felt
the 4-H program, complete with the glamour of the summer fair when all of the club members bring their animals into the arena
for show and then to an auction for sale, is a conditioning, or brain-washing that turns kids into cold hearted meat
producers for money.
Oh yes, the 4-H kids usually walk away from their experience with a nice chunk of change from the
auction. The local businessmen see to this.
At least the animals raised by 4-H members, and those that grew up on the old traditional farm were
well cared for until their day of demise at the slaughter house. What is happening on the 2,000 head animal factory is cruel
and unusual torture. Not only that, the stench from the manure produced by the cluster
of cows is incredibly unbearable. People just driving past the place on Michigan Highway 53 on their way to resort facilities
on Lake Huron find themselves choking and gagging from the stench.
When my wife and I were recently house shopping we nearly bought a fine Victorian country home with
a few acres located on a relatively quiet paved country road and located a few miles from the shore of Lake Huron. The price
seemed a little high but we liked the house and we thought it would be a fine place to retire to.
But then, on a hunch, I called the township supervisor to talk about the neighborhood. If you are
shopping for country homes, I strongly advice you to do what I did. People who live in the area know things you won't find
out from real estate agents. It turns out that two giant factory farms were to in the works within a mile or two of this house.
One farm, a proposed dairy operation, would host an estimated 5,000 cows. The other was going to pack another 2,000 animals.
Township residents, of course, were up-in-arms about the proposed stink farms and they were protesting.
Hot meetings were going on at the township hall. But the farmers, backed by new right-to-farm legislation and much supportive
hype from the lips of so-called farm specialists at a state university, were winning the fight.
How glad I am that we did not buy that house!
Since that little adventure, I discovered that there is a new surge of factory farms under construction
all over the country. A recent episode on 60-minutes talked about the pig farms that have all but destroyed life in one of
the Eastern states. Citizen groups are going to court all over the land to fight the stench of big pig, cow and chicken farms
that are cropping up like weeds.
Legislators are scrambling to adopt new regulations on these monster farms but they are fighting
an up-hill battle. Farm Bureau and other agricultural support organizations successfully lobbied for, and gotten, the right-to-farm
legislation originally designed to protect farms from urban sprawl. While the legislation sounded good at the time, nobody
foresaw the monster that was looming on the horizon. Now it is almost impossible to stop these stinking, air, ground and water
polluting perversions of what we once called agriculture.
In Minnesota, legislators are attempting to circumvent the right-to-farm act by applying a 30-year-old
state environmental policy act. The act gives citizens the right to petition for an environmental review when a proposed large
development threatens to harm their environment. A factory farm certainly fits that description.
Because of their great size, the manure produced in a factory farm hosting over 1,000 cows or 2,500
pigs is as much as a large city generates. Therefore such farms require large lagoon type waste disposal systems and massive
sludge pits that must be cleaned out regularly. They pierce the air with foul odors. The waste, which is traditionally spread
over farmland as fertilizer, now covers thousands of acres in all directions.
Farming operations like this draw heavily from well water, threatening the local acquifers and consequently
neighboring household water supplies. Heavy rains cause excessive runoff of the toxins into local streams and lakes, polluting
everything. The Lake Huron shoreline near my home, long a summer playground, has been plagued by E. coli contamination this
year. Beaches are closed, especially after a rain. The steams are too polluted to permit fishing.
Not surprisingly, farmers are facing new and deadly forms of disease among the livestock. Some of
this disease, like E. coli, salmonella, and listeria, are known as deadly toxins often passed on to humans. Others, like Foot
and Mouth Disease among livestock and Post-Weaning, and Multisystemic Wasting Syndrome now attacking hogs in the UK, are having
a devastating impact on the meat industry.
Then there is the looming threat of Mad Cow Disease. It has ravaged the animal kingdom throughout
the world and was recently confirmed in cows in Alberta, Canada. The American beef growers claim their herds are free of it,
although a similar variation, called Wasting Disease, is attacking wild herds of deer and elk.
If anyone has ever held their nose and gotten close enough to look inside one of these factory livestock
farms they would be shocked. The animals are herded into small areas where they spend their lives, either growing up to be
slaughtered, or standing in one place to be milked twice a day. They are fed, watered and pumped full of chemicals to make
them grow fast or make them produce more milk. They also are pumped full of antibiotics in an effort to keep them healthy.
It is inhumane, unhealthy and a deadly mix designed to generate a food product that nobody should
eat. The toxic effect such farms have on the environment is criminal.
Just one more reason I am glad I became a vegetarian. And a vegetarian I intend to stay.