Here in the United States people are sacrificing the environment, their relationship with their neighbors, and their “dietary lifestyle standards” for an animal protein consuming society. Responsibility falls on all of us, as we all contribute to the existence of CAFO operations. According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture, CAFOs, or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, are those farms with 1,000 or more animal units confined more than 45 days a year. Whether the term used is industrial farm or factory farm, these farms may have more than 1,000 beef cattle or milk cows, 2,500 or more swine more than 55 pounds, 10,000 swine less than 55 pounds, 55,000 turkeys, 125,000 chickens or 82,000 laying hens.
Farms with large numbers of animals produce large amounts of manure and other waste products.
Large volumes of resources are needed – such as food and fresh water for the animals. Fuel is needed for day-to-day operations. Manpower is needed to operate the farm, for meat packing and for dairy operations. These large farm operations are able to purchase feed at low prices because they buy huge quantities. Small farm operations cannot compete with CAFOs.
In Wisconsin, where farming is the backbone of the economy, it has been difficult to balance the need for meat and dairy products and the pollution caused by their production. Million dollar agribusiness corporations have helped lobby for laws that regard CAFOs as farms rather than as industries. The environment as well as neighbor relationships have been compromised. No state or federal regulations have been effective at restricting air and water pollution as well as solid waste pollution from these farms. Regulations for soil health have not been created.
We need to inform consumers about the price we are paying to have meat and dairy products on our plates. Are these products more important than clean water? Let’s create a society that values all of its resources. We need to treat the land, the animals, and agriculture as a network that, while abundant, is also fragile.
Renee McAllister, Door County Environmental Council
Sturgeon Bay, Wis.