Livestock Industry Needs Sweeping Changes Says Two Reports

May 29, 2008

Two new studies have called for massive reforms to the country’s livestock industry.

 

The Pew Commission report on Industrial Farm Animal Production, the results of extensive 2-1/2 year study, stated industrial farm animal production poses unacceptable risks to the public health, environment and to the welfare of animals themselves.

 

The Commission of 15 experts from varying backgrounds and allegiances, made a number of tough recommendations in the face of constant pressure from the powerful agricultural industry. The report, calling for a massive overhaul of the livestock industry, drew nationwide coverage.

 

The close proximity of confined animals threatens public health by increasing the rate of disease transmission from animals to humans, the report said. Air emissions from factory farms cause significant health problems for communities near facilities, leading to respiratory and neurobehavioral problems from a variety of harmful microorganisms including human pathogens.

 

The Commission said that the tremendous volume of animal waste from industrial operations exceeds the capacity of the land to absorb nutrients and neutralize pathogens leading to groundwater, soil and air pollution. Unacceptable levels of antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, heavy metal, excessive nutrients, and pathogens are being released into the environment.

 

The report also examined the quality of life of confined animals, stating that the safety of the nation’s food supply is linked to the health of its livestock.

 

For example, the stress caused by confined animal production systems (CAFOs) can cause animals to shed more pathogens.

 

Many CAFO communities have fared poorly economically, the Pew Commission says, with corporations drawing investments and wealth away from rural areas. A lack of competitive markets for most hog and poultry producers has created monopolies and made it difficult for alternative producers to compete on a level playing field.

 

The Commission provided six key recommendations:

(1) Ban the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics;

(2) Implement a national tracking system tracing food-borne illness to diseased animals

(3) Treat factory farms as an industrial operation and institute a new system to deal with waste;

(4) Phase out intensive and inhumane production practices over the next 10 years;

(5) Amend and more vigorously enforce antitrust laws increasing industry-wide competition

(6) Increase federal funding for livestock research to avoid skewed, industry-backed studies.

 

Universities should also disclose funding sources for their studies.

 

The 124-page report “Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America” was funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Read more at http://www.pewtrusts.org/news_room_ detail.aspx?id=38438

 

The Union of Concerned Scientists also released a related study last month that said misguided federal farm policies have encouraged the growth of CAFOS by shifting billions of dollars in environmental, health, and economic costs to taxpayers and communities.

 

“CAFOs Uncovered: The Untold Costs of Confined Animal Feeding Operations” lists federal policies that have allowed CAFOs to dominate US meat and dairy production. It also details how federal policies have given CAFOs hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to address their pollution problems.

 

“CAFOs aren’t the natural result of agricultural progress, nor are they the result of rational planning or market forces,” said Doug Gurian-Sherman, USC Senior scientist and report author. “It will take new policies to replace them with more sustainable, environmentally friendly production methods.”

 

The report recommends that the federal government provide incentives for model production methods that benefit the environmental, public health, and rural communities. It also urges Congress to enforce antitrust laws to create a more competitive environment for alternative producers.

 

To read more visit http://ucsusa.org/food_and_environment/sustainable_food/cafos-uncovered.html Watch for JFAN’s summer newsletter, hitting the news stands next week.

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