Animal Welfare

Number of the Day: Million (as in gallons of CRAP!)

Congratulations, Wisconsin! This year, your dairy farms in the state have “generated the largest volume of manure spills since 2007.”

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That means that in Wisconsin, there was more waste spilled in 2013 than the years 2012, 2011, and 2010 — combined. Officials say that more people are reporting these sort of “mishaps,” and that’s why the number is so high.  According to an expert cited in the article, the 1,049,700 millions of gallons spilled is less than 1% of the yearly waste produced by dairy cattle in Wisconsin. We exploit animals for food, and most of us do not stop and consider that these animals are living and breathing beings who create a hell of a lot of waste. The waste has to go somewhere. Did you ever stop and wonder, where?

That’s why these spills are newsworthy. Because the waste from these animals has to be dealt with, and unfortunately, “manure contains an array of contaminants, including E. coli, phosphorus and nitrogen, that can harm public waterways and drinking water.”

Wow.

Wow.

Mishaps? Waste spillage is not something you acknowledge with an “Oopsy, that’s a mishap!” This is intensely serious. Here are some more facts on the environmental and public health impact, courtesy of an open-access article published in Environmental Health Perspectives (February 2007 ), “Impacts of Waste From Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations on Water Quality“:

  • Animal cultivation in the United States produces 133 million tons of manure per year.
  • Animal wastes  carry parasites, viruses, and bacteria – and not to mention, antibiotics, which are added to animal feed to promote growth.
  • Following CAFO waste spills, there has been major kills of freshwater fish of all species in the affected areas.
  • Waste spills cause blooms of toxic and noxious algae.
  • The human health impacts of exposure to  contaminants include diarrhea or other gastrointestinal tract distress; skin, eye, or ear infections; and really a whole mess of concerns including hyperthyroidis, spontaneous abortions, and insulin-dependent diabetes.

In a previous post, I discussed the pain and suffering of a dairy cow when she is exploited to provide us humans with her milk. This is the other side of the dairy operation: the environmental impact and public health threats that a glass of milk (or slice of cheese) causes. And if you’re interested in a visual representation of a waste lagoon from a CAFO (albeit a beef farm), please refer to this post, consisting of shocking aerial shots.

Image of dairy cattle courtesy of Flickr, under a creative commons license.

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