The Effects Of Factory Farming On Our Environment

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Ever since the 1960s, in an attempt by scientists to maximize efficiency and production of animal products, factory farms emerged and continued on to be the main source of animal products in the world. Factory farming is defined as a large-scale, industrialized, profit-oriented agricultural operation that produces meat, dairy, and egg. Throughout history, there have been many debates over outlawing factory farms concerning the negative effects it has on the environment. Some argue that there are many great benefits that come with animal farming since it is the number one driver of agricultural innovation. However, the reality is that the negative effects of animal agriculture are choking the Earth and the longer we try to ignore this fact, the more “... we limit our ability to nourish ourselves, protect waterways and habitats, and pursue other uses of our precious natural resources. ” (Cameron & Cameron). Animal agriculture contributes to the degradation of the environment in a variety of different ways such as, the top contributors are greenhouse gas emissions, pollution of the environment, and soil erosion. However, there are alternate ways for us to take in nutrients such as eating plant-based protein and clean meat.

Global warming was first presented as a national issue to the general public around 30 years ago, yet clear progress still has not been seen (“30 years”). The number one cause of global warming is the increased amounts of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. Greenhouse gases negatively impact the environment because these gases absorb the heat radiated by the Earth, trapping the heat on the Earth’s surface, resulting in climate change.

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Scientists have discovered that greenhouse gas levels have increased dramatically since the 1960s. One major factor contributing to the high greenhouse gas levels is the reluctance of corporations to reduce our food production, more specifically, our reliance on animal products. The greenhouse gas emitted from the flatulence of animals as well as the greenhouse gases emitted from the manure is one great factor in how animal farming has such a profound impact on the environment. Flatulence of cows and other livestock accounts for 150 billion gallons of methane per day, which is equivalent to 39 % of all greenhouse gas emissions caused by livestock. Additionally, manure storage and processing contribute to 10% of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production). The large amounts of methane production can be associated with the large amounts of farm animals on the planet. According to Kip Andersen, the Executive Director of A.U.M. Films and Media, “... there are 7 billion people on earth, and we raise 70 billion farm animals.” The large amounts of methane released into the atmosphere are a major problem because methane is proven to be a far more active greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (Shaftel and Callery). Additionally, Kirk R. Smith, a professor of global environmental health at the University of California Berkeley stated that society should do something about the large methane productions because we will get a response right away.

In addition to the large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, animal farming is also the main contributor to pollution. Animal agriculture contributes to water pollution in many different ways, all of which can be traced back to the large amounts of animal waste. Despite the establishment of the Clean Water Act or the Federal Water Pollution Act in 1972, research shows that industrialized animal farms are the leading source of groundwater contamination in the United States, with more than 40 states reporting high levels of nitrates and pesticides from agricultural farms (Hauter). Livestock produces 130 times more waste than the entire human population (Cowspiracy). Additionally, they aren't treated like human wastes in sewage plants. These wastes usually end up on land or in water (Wuerthner). According to a report from the Department of Agriculture and U.S. EPA in 1998, CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operation) in America has polluted roughly 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and groundwater in as much as 17 states (Little). Many cases of soil erosion in the United States could also be connected back to animals farms. According to an article written by George Wuerthner, a writer, ecologist, photographer, and author of more than thirty published books, “Agricultural production is the largest source for soil erosion in the United States with current rates exceeding soil production rates by 17 times, with 90% of US croplands losing soils above sustainable rates”.

The degradation in soil health in recent years is not an issue that can be overlooked. It has numerous impacts on our environment such as soil degradation, soil salinity, nutrient degradation, and loss of soil structure. These are real and severe issues with numerous repercussions. Soil erosion can be contributed to three main reasons: deforestation, overgrazing, and the use of agrochemicals. Animal farming is responsible for the loss of 136 million acres of rainforests all over the globe. An acre of rainforest is cleared every second, and the leading cause is to graze animals and grow their feed crops. Although the overgrazing of land does not damage the land as much as other factors such as deforestation and pollution initially, topsoil could dry out as a result of the loss of surface vegetation. This results in the decrease of diversity and quantity of microorganisms that help keep the soil fertile and may contribute to the loss of nutrients in the soil. Soil could also be blown away or washed away by rainwater. The use of agricultural chemicals is also detrimental to soil composition because it disrupts the balance of microorganisms in the soil and stimulates the growth of harmful bacteria. The many impacts of soil erosion include desertification, increased flooding, and loss of arable land.

Although the meat production companies disagree, there are many alternative sources of protein for humans other than animal products. There are many vegan sources of protein that are rich in nutrients and have significantly fewer negative impacts on the environment, such as lentils, quinoa, chia seeds, and soybeans. For every day that you are vegan, you save 1100 gallons of water, 30 sq. feet of forest land, and 10 pounds of CO2. According to Dr. Will Tuttle, an environmental and ethical author, numerous problems such as the pollution of rivers, deforestation, and air pollution could all be traced back to animal farming and we could solve all of these problems by not breeding these animals for consumption. With the help of technological innovations, scientists have developed an alternate way of decreasing our demand for animal products. This method is to switch to eating clean meat, also known as lab-grown, in vitro, or cultured meat. This meat is grown in cell cultures instead of animal bodies, which increases the efficiency of meat production. Additionally, there will be no animal waste produced. According to Dr.Richard Oppenlander, an environmental researcher, and author, although there are other ways of combating climate change such as building renewable energy infrastructure, it is estimated to take at least 20 years to build and at least 18 trillion dollars. On the contrary, by stopping the consumption of animals, the results could be seen immediately and there will be no cost needed. Clearly, we should take the matter into our hands and change our way of living for the benefit of the environment.

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The Effects Of Factory Farming On Our Environment. (2021, September 26). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 24, 2024, from
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