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CAFO the Book - Video Trailer

CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation): The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories provides an unprecedented view of concentrated animal feeding operations—aka CAFOs—where increasing amounts of the world’s meat, milk, eggs, and seafood are produced. The CAFO Reader, 400 pages, by Daniel Imhoff, was published in 2010.


The food movement is young and growing. Like any growing movement, it needs more ideas—small, medium, and large. These are (1) more concrete reforms, (2) sharper ways of framing its keys issues, and (3) a picture of how its values fit into the big problems and themes that cross-cut national and global politics.

Animal health and welfare

Confinement and overcrowding of animals results in a lack of exercise and natural locomotory behavior, which weakens their bones and muscles. An intensive poultry farm provides the optimum conditions for viral mutation and transmission – thousands of birds crowded together in a closed, warm, and dusty environment is highly conducive to the transmission of a contagious disease. Selecting generations of birds for their faster growth rates and higher meat yields has left birds’ immune systems less able to cope with infections and there is a high degree of genetic uniformity in the population, making the spread of disease more likely. Further intensification of the industry has been suggested by some as the solution to avian flu, on the rationale that keeping birds indoors will prevent contamination. However, this relies on perfect, fail-safe biosecurity – and such measures are near impossible to implement. Movement between farms by people, materials, and vehicles poses a threat and breaches in biosecurity are possible. Intensive farming may be creating highly virulent avian flu strains. With the frequent flow of goods within and between countries, the potential for disease spread is high.[58] Confinement and overcrowding of animals' environment presents the risk of contamination of the meat from viruses and bacteria. Feedlot animals reside in crowded conditions and often spend their time standing in their own waste.[59] A dairy farm with 2,500 cows may produce as much waste as a city of 411,000 people, and unlike a city in which human waste ends up at a sewage treatment plant, livestock waste is not treated. As a result, feedlot animals have the potential of exposure to various viruses and bacteria via the manure and urine in their environment. Furthermore, the animals often have residual manure on their bodies when they go to slaughter.[60]

Confinement at high stocking density requires antibiotics and pesticides to mitigate the spread of disease and pestilence exacerbated by these crowded living conditions.[8] In addition, antibiotics are used to stimulate livestock growth by killing intestinal bacteria.[9] According to a February 2011 FDA report, nearly 29 million pounds of antimicrobials were sold in 2009 for both therapeutic and non-therapeutic use for all farm animal species.[61] The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that 70% of that amount is for non-therapeutic use.[62]

Animal welfare impacts of factory farming can include:

  • Close confinement systems (cages, crates) or lifetime confinement in indoor sheds
  • Discomfort and injuries caused by inappropriate flooring and housing
  • Restriction or prevention of normal exercise and most of natural foraging or exploratory behaviour
  • Restriction or prevention of natural maternal nesting behaviour
  • Lack of daylight or fresh air and poor air quality in animal sheds
  • Social stress and injuries caused by overcrowding
  • Health problems caused by extreme selective breeding and management for fast growth and high productivity
  • Reduced lifetime (longevity) of breeding animals (dairy cows, breeding sows)
  • Fast-spreading infections encouraged by crowding and stress in intensive conditions[63]
  • Debeaking (beak trimming or shortening) in the poultry and egg industry to avoid pecking in overcrowded quarters[64]
  • Forced and over feeding (by inserting tubes into the throats of ducks) in the production of foie gras[65]

Environmental impact

Concentrating large numbers of animals in factory farms is a major contribution to global environmental degradation, through the need to grow feed (often by intensive methods using excessive fertiliser and pesticides), pollution of water, soil and air by agrochemicals and manure waste, and use of limited resources (water, energy).[63]

Livestock production is also particularly water-intensive in indoor, intensive systems. Eight percent of global human water use goes towards animal production, including water used to irrigate feed crops.[63]

Industrial production of pigs and poultry is an important source of GHG emissions and is predicted to become more so. On intensive pig farms, the animals are generally kept on concrete with slats or grates for the manure to drain through. The manure is usually stored in slurry form (slurry is a liquid mixture of urine and feces). During storage on farm, slurry emits methane and when manure is spread on fields it emits nitrous oxide and causes nitrogen pollution of land and water. Poultry manure from factory farms emits high levels of nitrous oxide and ammonia.[63]

Organic pig meat production has a lower global warming potential per kg than does intensive pig meat production. The energy input for free-range poultry meat and eggs is higher than for factory-farmed poultry meat and eggs, but GHG emissions are lower.[63]

Poultry farming also has a high impact on the environment due to extreme excrement production by the chickens, which they are then forced to live in for the remainder of their lives.[citation needed]

Environmental impacts of factory farming can include:

  • Deforestation for animal feed production
  • Unsustainable pressure on land for production of high-protein/high-energy animal feed
  • Pesticide, herbicide and fertilizer manufacture and use for feed production
  • Unsustainable use of water for feed-crops, including groundwater extraction
  • Pollution of soil, water and air by nitrogen and phosphorus from fertiliser used for feed-crops and from manure
  • Land degradation (reduced fertility, soil compaction, increased salinity, desertification)
  • Loss of biodiversity due to eutrophication, acidification, pesticides and herbicides
  • Worldwide reduction of genetic diversity of livestock and loss of traditional breeds
  • Species extinctions due to livestock-related habitat destruction (especially feed-cropping)[63]

 




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