Factory farming has become the norm in livestock production, but it carries with it a heavy weight of problems that can affect individuals, communities, the environment, and the animals themselves. These problems, often experienced by those who reside near a factory farm, are backed by hundreds of peer reviewed studies carried out over the last 50 years.
A factory farm, or CAFO – concentrated animal feeding operation – is not the bucolic pastured farm that many American picture when they think of how their food is raised. Rather, it is an industrial operation that concentrates animals in large buildings where they have little room to move and where they stand on slatted floors above underground pits that collect their waste products.
This manure – raw animal sewage – putrefies in confinement pits or lagoons for 6-12 months at a time then is spread, untreated, on cropland as fertilizer. The sewage breaks down without the benefit of light or air and creates a noxious “soup” of over 300 toxins and gases, including harmful levels of hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, and methane. Large fans blow the fetid air out of the buildings otherwise the animals would sicken and die. That air travels into neighboring communities, spreading a terrible odor that not only can affect the quality of life of nearby residents but can also harm their health.
The environment also can suffer as the raw sewage, full of bacteria, antibiotic residues, heavy metals and more, can run off into waterways, driving up nitrate and phosphorus levels, making Iowa waterways among the most polluted in the nation.
Learn more about the harmful impacts of factory farms and how you can stop infringing CAFOs that threaten your rights to clean air, clean water, and safe food.