We then tested the water for impurities. It wasn’t clean enough for city-approved release until they were removed. The contaminates went into the landfill or were sold as recycled by-products.
Dad often spoke about having to meet cleanliness standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). He’d also discuss how certain toxins were measured in parts per billion or trillion.
And he was very concerned about keeping treatment-plant odors to a minimum. This was such a serious issue that if a single neighbor complained, he’d cancel the plant managers’ monthly bonuses!
So it’s only natural that I’ve gone through life believing the days of industries dumping toxins into our streams and rivers were over. Reading investigative journalist David Kirby’s Animal Factory has completely disabused me of that notion.
Animal Factory reveals that, instead of water pollution being a thing of the past, our rivers are more toxic than they’ve ever been. Our natural waterways are being contaminated with waste — and our neighborhoods plagued with odors — on a scale that shocks me.
Exactly what industries are responsible? Big Agriculture’s Big Three: Pig, dairy and poultry factory farms (known in the business as concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.)
In Animal Factory, Kirby profiles the lives of three ordinary people whose daily lives were so upended by factory-farm pollution that they decided to fight back:
Helen Reddout of Yakima Valley, Washington
Karen Hudson of Elmwood, Illinois
Rick Dove of New Bern, North Carolina.
When Rick Dove had the chance to testify on Capitol Hill, he shared this alarming reality with our national lawmakers.
“North Carolina records show thousands of violations of environmental laws by Smithfield’s facilities. State officials readily admit that at critical times they do not have the resources to enforce the law. As a result, enforcement is virtually nonexistent.”
The New York Times also expressed disgust at the factory-farming system in their editorial The Worst Way of Farming. Kirby quotes them toward the end of his 450-page book:
“The so-called efficiency of industrial animal production is an illusion, made possible by cheap grain, cheap water, and prisonlike confinement systems… In short, animal husbandry has been turned into animal abuse. Manure — traditionally a source of fertilizer — has been turned into toxic waste that fouls the air and adjacent water bodies.”
Think about it: Industrialized nations treat human waste to kill disease-spreading pathogens. They don’t allow subdivisions or apartment buildings to run drainage lines from their toilets to large open lagoons that sit precariously close to streams, rivers, and lakes.
That, however, is exactly what we allow to happen to factory- farmed animal waste. And it’s not because animal waste is any safer than our own; just the opposite is true.
Hog manure, for example, has ten to one hundred times more concentrated pathogens than human waste! These pathogens (bacterium, virus, or other microorganism that can cause disease) get into our waterways, linger in the air and impact sea life and human health in unfathomable ways.
In doing so, they turn the lives of those unlucky enough to live near factory farms into living hells. That’s not surprising; the entire industrial farming business is built on hellish animal abuses and hellish working conditions. Why spare the neighbors or those living downstream?
David Kirby isn’t a vegetarian. Even so, he has painted a very clear and damning picture of the modern meat industry’s hugely negative impacts.
After three years of researching and reporting his story, he sums things up with this chilling observation:
“Everywhere I went, the story was the same. CAFOs had fouled the air, spoiled the water, threatened property values, changed the face of local agriculture, and made life miserable for thousands of people.”
It’s about time we ordinary folk follow Helen’s, Karen’s, and Rick’s examples and make our voices heard. This pollution must stop now!