The Dangers of Animal Agriculture

Catherine Yow, Journalist

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The meat and dairy industry is notorious for being incredibly immoral, yet consumers continue to support it. From a young age, we are taught that the industry benefits the people through providing more food at a lower price, and therefore is good. Nonetheless, this myth was created to benefit capitalism, a system existing only because of “the father of capitalism, Adam Smith. Companies care more about the money than the people, therefore creating unsafe or immoral products. For example, we are given a cup of milk at every meal, and served dino chicken nuggets and a cookie for dinner. However, this industry negatively affects the environment and human health more than one ever thought possible, through unbalanced hormones, chemicals, and its environmental impact. Animal agriculture not only affects the animals, but the people, the water, the dirt, and everything around us.

Pictures of happy farm animals are depicted through the media in forms of commercials, hallmark movies, and pictures of smiling cows on cheese. It’s easy to believe this is true, as it is the only thing you see. Unfortunately, these supposedly “free-range” farms only give animals the ability to move within their 1 square foot of space for their entire lives. For a farm to have a place where animals can have a safe and good life, is economically impossible in the current climate. This is because as technology advanced, so did large agricultural corporations. These corporations did not care about the quintessential southern family farm aesthetic, as they simply wanted money. Since 1950, over 2 million of those small farms the media wants consumers to believe in so badly, have been abolished by said agricultural corporations. They stuffed more animals into smaller spaces, and fed them only the food that would keep them alive, not providing them with the food nor the nutrients they needed to be healthy. Instead of providing  a sanitary or healthy environment, farmers routinely fed the animals antibiotics. The animals lived in a metal room not knowing that they will never get to run through a field, see sunlight, or even touch grass in their life. This practice is known today as factory farming, and it is how most every single animal byproduct is produced in America. 

  Many people today are often amazed by the amount of food and nutrients created a year for human consumption. The constant prominence of genetically modified (GMO) foods is not only intimidating, but confusing. The dictionary definition of GMO is “ genetically modified organism: an organism or microorganism whose genetic material has been altered by means of genetic engineering.” Simply explained, GMO foods are plants and animals that have had their genetic makeup artificially altered by scientists to make them grow faster and taste better. In the poultry industry, farmers use GMO seeds to feed their chickens. This creates chickens who grow twice as large, in half the time than they should, therefore creating a larger profit for the agricultural company. Though GMOs have indeed created more food, and at its core is extremely beneficial, their power is abused, which is not not only harmful to the animals, but humans as well. However, GMO’s are the least of our worries. Large agricultural farmers feed animals an overwhelming amount of antibiotics and other harmful pills. These create disease-causing germs throughout the animal, which humans than ingest. As the cycle continues, the overly large amount of chemicals humans are second hand ingesting could lead to a possible virus or epidemic that would harm the majority of the population. 

Now, here is where it gets even more gross, cow flatulence and animal feces. Animal feces in the wild has no harm, because there is the amount that the earth is supposed to have. Humans need for modern animal agriculture has caused the amount of waste to grow exponentially, therefore polluting the air with methane and nitrous oxide and water with nutrients. The enormous amount of waste can not be removed naturally, as it was never intended to be there. This causes people to become sick, as they ingest the waste via the air they breath and the water they drink. This, for example, was the cause of the 2008 Swine flu, as people who lived in too close of a proximity to the farms fell ill with a horrible sickness, known as the Swine flu. The bacteria from the waste harms and kills the fish in contaminated water. Going back to the antibiotics that farmers feed the animals, the waste puts those antibiotics into the air, causing an antibiotic resistance to everybody who breathes it in. This means that if one of the contaminated were to get sick, they could not heal, as they are filled with antibiotic resistant germs. 

The issue does not stop with animal waste, but animal gas as well. Cows release 160-320 liters of gas a day, this gas contains methane, a hydrocarbon, with one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. Methane is found throughout the earth’s atmosphere is small amounts, and is incredibly flammable. Methane contributes to the greenhouse effect that is taking over the planet. The greenhouse effect is when the sun hits the earth’s surface, and then as it goes back to space the majority of it is blocked by the atmosphere and is re-radiated to earth. This is a good thing, it is what keeps life alive on earth, however, in recent years the atmosphere has gotten thicker, and therefore has been trapping too much heat is earth, therefore causing what is known as “global warming”.  As more cows are bred for the meat and dairy industry, more methane is produced, which is absorbed by the atmosphere, therefore making it thicker, and causing the global temperature to increase. Cattle ranching has also caused 340 million tons of carbon to be added to the atmosphere every year, tearing down rain forest after rain forest, causing over 80% of deforestation in the Amazon alone and completely destroying the earth as we know it.

Some people do believe that the meat and dairy industry is incredibly beneficial. It provides more food at a lower cost and helps feed more people. If that comes at the cost of more GMO’s, antibiotics, and animal suffering, it is worth it. However, these issues do not help solve world hunger, as plant agriculture takes 115 acres less land than animal agriculture. This means that animals take up much more space than plants, and if we were to replace animal agriculture with plant agriculture, than we could grow more plants per land than animals per land, therefore creating more food, and feeding more people.

 Animal agriculture does absolutely no good for anybody besides big capitalist corporations. It poisons and infects all American citizens, including you and me. From animal abuse, to antibiotics, to deforestation, the industries we as consumers choose to support will contribute to the downfall of society, and lead the earth to breakdown and cause a further mass extinction. That is, unless we demand sustainable farming, or better yet, stop supporting animal agriculture as a whole. 

 

Bibliography

Lemonick, Sam. “Scientists Underestimated How Bad Cow Farts Are.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 2 Oct. 2017, www.forbes.com/sites/samlemonick/2017/09/29/scientists-underestimated-how-bad-cow-farts-are/.

“The Meatrix.” YouTube, YouTube, 2006, www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEkc70ztOrc.

“Unsustainable Cattle Ranching.” WWF, wwf.panda.org/knowledge_hub/where_we_work/amazon/amazon_threats/unsustainable_cattle_ranching/.