Agriculture and Livestock

By Tess McGee

Overview

Many people argue that feedlots, genetically modified organisms, and deforestation for the sake of agriculture are necessary steps in avoiding world hunger as the world becomes increasingly populated. This, however, is proven false as 80% of the forests cleared in Central and South America are cleared so agribusiness companies can plant more crops, but companies in agribusiness are not focussed on feeding the hungry. Furthermore, animals in feedlots are being fed more than half of the United States’ grains and corns and if the grains and corn were fed to people rather than animals, way fewer people would go hungry as the price would decrease due to the abundance of crops. GMO production would also therefore be decreased as the demand for grains and corns would be less as it isn’t being fed to animals as much as people; this means that the demand for GMOs to make crops grow bigger or faster won’t be as large, allowing us to cut down on these modified products. Learn about how these factors are affecting your health, your fellow animals on earth, and your environment here.

Feedlots

  • Animals in feedlot are fed mainly corn and soybeans

    • These two products have huge amounts of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which cause runoff into streams (water pollution, see the dead zone)

  • Unhealthy

    • Some slaughterhouses can slaughter up to 2,000 cows a day, and at this rate, it is impossible to ensure that each slaughter has followed the laws and rules set by the USDA (US Department of Agriculture)

    • Corn is not a natural part of a cow’s diet and it can cause serious health issues inside the cow. If the cow is not then cleaned properly, it can cause serious and deadly diseases to humans such as e. Coli (if a cow were to be grassfed for the last five days of its life, 80% of the risk for e. Coli would be gone, but this doesn’t happen)

  • Inhumane to animals

    • Birds

      • Nearly all chicken houses hold about 20,000 chickens and none are ever exposed to fresh air or daylight

      • Live in own waste; ammonia levels are extremely high and unhealthy

      • Chickens raised for meat have genetically modified breasts but normal skeletons and organs; many have heart failure and cannot walk or support their own weight

      • The beaks of egg-laying chickens are cut off because they become restless in the tight quarters and try to fight

      • Between 1965 and 2000, the weight of the average turkey raised for food in the U.S. increased by 57%.

    • Cows

      • Beef cows are allowed outside, but are still fed a grain diet that is very harmful to them so they gain weight

      • They are branded, castrated, and have their horns cut off without any pain killers and are left outside in all weather

      • The last few months of their life, they are put in feedlots and live in mud, ice, and their own waste amid hundreds of other cows

      • Feedlots are used in dairy farming and the packed conditions allows for widespread infections such as mastitis, a painful bacterial infection on the udder

      • Most dairy farms cut off up to ⅔ of the cow’s tail because they believe the udder stays cleaner, but this has been disproved and they still do it

        • This actually causes infection as they are more exposed to manure and cannot swat away flies

      • They burn off calves’ budding horns when they are only 2-3 years without painkillers

      • Today’s dairy cows each produce about 100 pounds of milk per day—10 times more than cows living just a few decades ago. This is due to bovine growth hormones, unnatural diets and being bred selectively for massive milk production

Genetically Modified Organisms

  • Cross pollination/traveling seeds cause organic farms to become contaminated with genetically modified seeds

    • It is therefore impossible to ever be completely rid of GMOs if they were ever determined to be too dangerous because they have contaminated the gene pools of nearly all farms across America and the world

  • Between 1996 and 2008, 383 million pounds of herbicide was sprayed on crops to protect them against weeds, but this has only caused the weeds to evolve and become resistant to the herbicide. This causes more herbicides to be sprayed every year

    • These herbicides have been proven to be toxic to animals, some crops, and people

  • The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require companies to perform “safety studies” on new GMOs and does not require GMO products to be labelled

    • The lack of a safety study can cause unforeseen environmental and health issues

    • The lack of labeling GMO products can cause allergic reactions to products that would not have happened otherwise

  • GMOs are decreasing biodiversity

    • The Monarch butterfly population has decreased by 50% since a particular herbicide, Roundup, was implemented

    • GMOs have proven toxic to most birds, insects, and amphibians

    • A GMO in corn is suspected to be linked to the decrease in the honeybee population

Sustainability

Health

  • Some slaughterhouses can slaughter up to 2,000 cows a day, and at this rate, it is impossible to ensure that each slaughter has followed the laws and rules set by the USDA (US Department of Agriculture)
  • Corn is not a natural part of a cow’s diet and it can cause serious health issues inside the cow. If the cow is not then cleaned properly, it can cause serious and deadly diseases to humans such as e. Coli (if a cow were to be grass-fed for the last five days of its life, 80% of the risk for e. Coli would be gone, but few companies do this)
  • Chronic illnesses increased rapidly (7%-13%) in the nine years following their introduction in 1996
  • Herbicides have been proven to be linked with sterility, hormone disruption, birth defects, and cancer
  • Organ damage, gastrointestinal and immune system disorders, accelerated aging, and infertility have all been proven to be linked in some way with GMOs

Supporting Statistics

  • In the 1960s, the United States government received more letters concerning feedlots and animals than the Vietnam War; since the 1960s, the conditions of these feedlots have become even worse

  • 90% of chickens grown for meat have trouble walking

  • A study showed that 65% of 34,000 animals tested had pneumonia-like symptoms due to the increased ammonia levels from living in their feces

  • animals are regulated under the USDA’s Animal Welfare Act only when used in biomedical research, testing, teaching and exhibition – not when they are farmed for food and fiber production

  • Cattle need very large amounts of water and grain that could be fed to people instead; this adds an unnecessary step in the food chain (for every one pound of beef we receive, 38.5 pounds of grain went into feeding the cow, 1,760 gallons of water to produce each pound of ground beef, U.S. produces about 1795.2 billion pounds of corn annually, 70% of which is fed to livestock)