Tuesday, March 15, 2005

WELCOME TO FACTORY FARM HELL

April 22 is Earth Day, a time to reflect on our environmental sins. Earth Day traditionally conjures up ideas of saving rain forests, global warming, and saving endangered species. But what about factory farming and livestock pollution? Factory farms - which incarcerate tens of thousands of animals in a single facility - create 130 times more waste than humans, and now surpass factories as the premiere polluters of America's waterways.

The magnitude of the livestock industry is staggering. Each year the U.S. produces 7 BILLION chickens, 85 million pigs, 112 million cattle, nine million sheep and 300 million turkeys. The U.S. generates 1.4 BILLION TONS of animal manure every year.Cattle manure tops the list at 1.2 BILLION TONS. Where, you may ask, does this monstrous landslide of manure go? Ideally, it should be converted into fertilizer, but most of it is left untreated to poison streams, rivers, lakes and other waterways.

No vision of hell is complete without a corporate hog farm. Tens of thousands of gnawing, squealing pigs are crammed inside fetid, windowless warehouses where huge fans ceaselessly churn twenty-four hours a day. As "National Hog Farmer" magazine says, "overcrowding pays." Over 80 percent of pigs raised in the U.S. are intensively confined to the point where they can't even turn around without stepping over other animals. Satan himself could not have devised a more diabolically cruel place except for the slaughterhouses where these helpless creatures will be shackled, hoisted and killed. This wicked nightmare is all in a day's work for some people.

John Robbins wrote in "Diet for a New America," "Before they reach their end,the pigs get a shower, a real one. Water sprays from every angle to wash the farm off them. Then they begin to feel crowded. The pen narrows like a funnel; the drivers urge the pigs forward, until one at a time they climb unto a moving ramp . . . Now they scream, never having been on such a ramp, smelling the smells they smell. I do not want to overdramatize because you have read all this before. But it was a frightening experience, seeing their fear, seeing so many of them go by. It had to remind me of things no one wants to be reminded of any more, all mobs, all death marches, all mass murders and extinctions . . ."

Huge industrial operations, headed by poultry tycoons such as Don Tyson and Frank Perdue, and hog czar Wendal Murphy, are causing an environmental blitzkreig. Their collosal factory farms are poisoning our groundwater and waterways with nitrogen and phosphorous. In North Carolina, 420,000 million tons of hog manure flooded a creek in July, 1999. California alone, has 1,600 dairies generating more waste than the entire human population of Texas. In the Lone Star State, 2 million cattle are kept in feedlots surrounding Amarillo, and the slaughterhouse kills a bovine every thirteen seconds.

A consortium of meat moguls led by Smithfield Foods of West Viginia is planning to construct a behemoth factory hog farm in northwest Utah,designed to produce 2.4 million hogs each year, with a waste output exceeding that of Los Angeles! Wastes generated, including nitrogen and phosphorous, are acutely toxic to fish and at lower levels; phosphorous and nitrogen cause excessive algae growth. Algae overgrowth depletes oxygen, polluting rivers so badly they barely support fish or any aquatic life.

In the town where I live there is a "turkey plant" which, according to the local newspaper, uses 850,000 gallons of water a day - 5,304,000 gallons a year. This windowless, depressing factory of death produces 3,017 tons of nitrogen a year and 1,000 tons of phosphorous. The plant kills 17,000 turkeys a day - 5,304,000 per year.

In America, 300 million turkeys are butchered in one year. The American Society of Agricultural Engineers estimates that, nationally, turkeys generate 33 BILLION pounds of waste annually. Included in this deluge of dung is 488 million tons of nitrogen and 186 million tons of phosphorous.

A report by the U.S. Department of Commerce states that 1/3 of all raw materials and half this country's water are guzzled by the livestock and factory farm industries. According to Department of Agriculture statistics, one acre of land can grow 20,000 pounds of potatoes. That same acre of land, if used to grow cattle feed, can produceless than 165 pounds of beef. John Robbins wrote in his book "Diet for a New America"that to produce a single pound of meat takes an average of 2,500 gallons of water - as much as a typical family uses for all its combined household purposes in a month."

Monumental animal suffering and environmental pollution are created for the almighty hamburger, hot dog, chicken wing, and of course, dollar. I believe that factory farms and the livestock industry cannot survive indefinitely by bleeding the ecosystems that support them. Our overburdened, polluted planet will eventually be depleated of quality grazing land and/or the price of meat will become prohibitive to all but the wealthy.

The evolution of factory farming is the natural consequence of our society's materialistic and objectifying attitude toward nature. We are riding high on the hog of arrogant consumption - with little regard for future generations. Americans are caught in a maddening, high-speed treadmill of overconsumption and self- destruction. In a society enamored with efficiency, productivity and profits, abysmal animal cruelty and environmental concerns are swept aside by a tidal wave of avarice, gluttony and apathy.

Factory farming is a rich man's luxury. It springs more from greed than necessity.Contrary to the claims of animal scientists and agribusiness technocrats, factory farming cannot and will not feed the starving masses. Corporate animal factories consume vast amounts of resources and grains, and these grains could be fed directly to hungry people. Our hungry planet of over 6 billion people cannot be sustained by an inefficient, wasteful meat-based agriculture.

That insolent icon of American success - or should I say decadence - the hamburger, is fast becoming a symbol of global destruction and environmental degradation. Ancient, noble and majestic rainforests are being plundered, gutted and charred to create yet more grazing land. Vast areas of the Amazon rain forest resemble Iraqi towns after a U.S. invasion. About FIFTY PERCENT of the earth's land surface is being used to graze livestock. Millions of bovines are causing world-wide deforestation and desertification merely to satisfy overfed Americans and Europeans with cheeseburgers and steaks.

In the United states alone, ranchers can legally access 260 million acres of public lands, most of which have been ruined by over 120 years of grazing. Ranching has the distasteful distinction of ruining more wildlife habitat and native vegetation than any other land use. It seems that wherever animals are abused - whether it be for sport or profit - nature is abused.

Here's a quote from the book "Waste of the West," written by Lynn Jacobs: "The ranching establishment's assault on the environment, therefore, includes campaigns against a huge number and variety of animals. Most of the score or so native large mammal species in the West have been decimated by ranching, both intentionally through slaughtering efforts and indirectly through the harmful effects of livestock grazing and ranching developments. Indeed, most larger and a great many smaller animal species are in some way assailed as enemies. The mass carnage carried outfor the sake of privately owned livestock continues today throughout the grazed 70% of the West, including public lands . . ."

Ranchers live in a world of self-imposed violence against animals. American ranchers continually shoot, trap, poison or persecute the following wild animals: coyotes, prairie dogs, mountain lions, bobcats, golden eagles, bighorn sheep, bison, wild horses, burros, jackrabbits and even ravens. Most are killed simply for sport. And don't forget roping, dragging, branding and castrating helpless calves. It appears that animal cruelty is a preferred lifestyle for some people.

We've all heard the tired stories about coyotes killing livestock and prairie dogs invading ranches and how they must be "controlled." Every animal killer has used similar, worn-out rationales, resulting in untold misery for countless animals.

Ranchers and hunters underestimate the intelligence of people who are not animalkillers. We know that ranchers and hunters kill animals for fun, and they have disdain for animals they consider "vermin" which include prairie dogs, and they also hate "varmints" which include coyotes. I have also read that hunters and ranchers can and will shoot stray dogs and cats, which contradicts any fanciful notion of hunters respecting animals.

Many people, including myself, would sell the family ranch instead of killing innocent animals who have as much right to live as I do. Or, better yet, we'd choose not to live on a ranch in the first place. Perhaps we'd build a fence, but we definitelywould NOT shoot animals!

Animal cruelty exists for two main reasons: It is profitable or it is considered fun. Huge sums of money are being made from exploiting livestock, research animals, and wild animals. It is no great surprise to learn that humans can be viciously sadistic toward not only animals but people as well. Where this aggression originates in the homo sapien psyche is anyone's guess, but it is a fact of life. It is also a fact of life that humans can show kindness toward animals, and that is a much loftier goal. Anyone, even a child, or a fool can abuse a weaker, more powerless being.

Sigmund Freud believed that humans get their violent tendencies from the unconscious mind. In this view there is a dark realm inside everyone, what Carl Jung called the shadow. In this realm lie atavistic impulses of rage and fear.

Human beings can live very well on a vegetarian or vegan diet. It is public demand - not necessity - for meat, dairy and eggs that allows these atrocities against animals to continue. The smallest dietary self-sacrifice is too much for most Americans. For that, we can thank the American lifestyle of overconsumption and the ceaseless garbage fare advertised on television. The self-imposed standard American diet is a slow killer and crippler. Millions of people suffer needlessly from serious, degenerative diseases brought on by indulging in meat, dairy, fried eggs and other nonessential foods.

Eating liberally of meat and dairy products has consequences. The exorbitant cost of health care in America is largely related to the high-fat, artery-clogging, cancer-causing diet enjoyed by the masses. Many studies have shown that vegetarians have much less(50% less) cancer than nonvegetarians. They also have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. In his book "Eat to Live," Joel Fuhrman explains: "Remember, long-term vegans almost never get heart attacks." To quote a respected authority, William Castelli, M.D., director of the famed Framingham Heart Study: "We tend to scoff at vegetarians, but they're doing much better than we are. Vegans have cholesterol levels so low, they almost never get heart attacks."

Despotic agribusiness and their government cohorts have rationalized and denied for too long the animal welfare, consumer health, and environmental damage done in the name of profit. It is truly amazing how remorseless corporations have become. There is an indefatigable madness and technocratic insolence - a nose-thumbing at nature and animals - that factory farming displays. It is born out of avarice and gluttony far more than necessity: It is a remorseless blight on the land and I want nothing to do with it.

I could write endlessly about the cruelty and depravity of homo sapiens, and I have tried hard not to belabor the issue, as tempting as it may be. Each individual plays his or her role in the world, and every one of our thoughts, actions, and reactions affect our environment. Virtually all animal exploitation is unnecessary. Not a single factory farm, slaughterhouse, hunting season, rodeo, puppy mill, or fur coat do we need.

Dr. Steven Best said it best: "The problem is the human species itself, which but for rare exceptions is destructive, and imperialistic. Universally, humans have vested interests in exploiting animals and think they have a God-given right to do so. To change these attitudes is to change the very nerve center of human consciousness. That is our task – no more and no less."

A philosopher once remarked that human history is a tale of barbarism. Isaac Asimov wrote "To insult someone we call him 'bestial.' For deliberate cruelty, 'human' might be the greater insult." In his book "Autobiography of a Spiritually Incorrect Mystic," Osho stated "The whlole past history of humanity has been sick, unhealthy, insane. In three thousand years, five thousand wars have been fought. This is just utterly mad, it is unbelievable." Equally mad, equally unbelievable is humanity's treatment of the animal world. - By Scott Palczak