Most people have seen images of cruel "factory farming." "We confine animals in small cages and crates; mutilate them by cutting off their tails or beaks without painkillers; slaughter them when they're too sick or injured to walk; and cause them immense chronic pain and disease through unhealthy breeding practices that swell their size and unnaturally accelerate their reproduction," writes Wayne Pacelle of HSUS.
But factory farms are also the nation's biggest polluters, contaminating soil, air and water. For example, Tyson Foods alone released 104.4 million pounds of toxic pollutants into waterways between 2010 and 2014 according to a report by Environment America.
In 2003, Tyson the second worst polluter of U.S. waterways second to a polluting steel manufacturing company, pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act with effluvia from its Sedalia, MO facility and agreed to pay $7.5 million. But before its probation ended, Tyson was charged by the state of Oklahoma with polluting the Illinois River watershed. Poultry polluters eject as much phosphorous into the watershed as a city of ten million people, said State Attorney General Drew Edmondson in bringing charges.
Factory farming and the mismanagement of fertilizers also have long been known to cause huge "dead zones" in the Gulf of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere. A 1998 EPA study found 35,000 miles of streams in 22 states and ground water in 17 states that had been polluted by factory farms. Even though six of the top 15 polluting industries in the U.S. are food producers--even paper and gasoline producers pollute less--these factory farm polluters are exempt from federal water-pollution regulation.
Factory Farms Harm Workers
It is ironic that many people who are against immigration or foreign workers would be paying ten dollars or more for their fast food hamburgers without cheap workers from other countries. The huge kosher slaughterhouse Agriprocessors in Postville, IA when raided in 2008, employed 290 Guatemalans, 93 Mexicans, two Israelis and four Ukrainians. (It also had a meth lab in the plant to keep workers motivated.) Within weeks of the raid, Agriprocessors was canvassing homeless shelters and running radio ads in Mexico to replenish its workforce. At many meat plants legal workers from places like Somali and the Palau Islands dominate, not U.S. workers.
Factory farms invariably treat these workers, who cannot protest their working conditions, as abysmally as they do animals and the environment. Still, lawmakers defend factory farms because they allegedly create "jobs." But what kind of jobs?