Featured image by: Socially Responsible Agriculture
According to the CDC, every year approximately 48 million people gets sick from a foodborne illness the most common of which are E. coli, salmonella, clostridium perfringens and campylobacter. Antibiotic resistant infections kill 90,000 Americans every year. Zoonotic diseases, which are communicable from animals to humans, cause thousands of people to get sick every year.
What do all of these things have in common?
They are all the result of the overcrowded unsanitary conditions on American factory farms, the
The definition of a factory farm is a large, industrial operation that raises large numbers of animals for food. Over 99% of farm animals in the U.S. are raised in factory farms, which focus on profit and efficiency at the expense of animal welfare. Many animal welfare organizations such as PETA, the ASPCA and farm sanctuary are committed to fighting for the rights of these animals. Although the mistreatment of animals is a large part of the problem with factory farms, they also present another problem:
The Effect on Human Health
Factory farms effect human health in a number of ways both directly and indirectly
Food Borne Illnesses
The biggest way that factory farms effect human health is through food borne illnesses. The CDC described over 250 different types of food borne illnesses on their website and they estimate that every year roughly 48 million people gets sick from a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die.
There are many causes of food borne illnesses and most of them are directly caused by factory farming. For example unsanitary conditions during slaughter cause contamination in meat and poultry.
Another cause is overcrowding in the factory farms which makes it easier for these illnesses to spread. The biggest cause is poor waste management and sanitation can lead to contamination of the water and food supply. According to the CDC the most common foods to become infected are actually fruits in vegetables because they are often washed or irrigated in contaminated water. They cause the most illnesses because just washing them doesn’t actually eliminate contamination so consumers can do little to protect themselves.
Food borne illnesses aren’t the only illnesses that are caused by the factory farm system.
There are also zoonotic diseases. Diseases communicable from animals to humans like H1N1 the Avian Flu, which have the potential to become pandemics, are often caused by the overcrowding of animals on factory farms.
Hormones and Antibiotics
In addition to spreading illness and disease, the hormones and antibiotics used on animals in factory farms also have an adverse effect on human health.
Livestock are exposed to six different artificial growth hormones, which, according to the farm sanctuary, are proven to increase the risk in cancer in beef consumers.
PETA says that antibiotics are used to make the animals grow faster and to keep them alive in unsanitary conditions, which leads to antibiotic resistant infections. The overuse of antibiotics in farm animals allows the infectious organisms they’re meant to be treating to adapt, making the drugs less effective. The CDC records at least 23,000 deaths in the United States caused by antibiotic resistant infections every year.
Photo by NVinacco
Factory farms are focused on maximizing profit with no regard to animal welfare or consumer health even when many people develope illnesses.
What can you do?
Now I’m not saying that everyone should just stop eating animal products and become vegans but there are things that you can do to take action against the factory farm system. One of the most significant things you can do is support local farms. They are far less likely to have contaminated products. Their small scale makes meat packing much more sanitary, the livestock aren’t packed as closely together as in factory farms, which prevents the spread of disease and small farms can dispose of animal waste without polluting the water. Another way that you can help is by suporting farm animal sanctuaries. Animal sanctuaries care and rehabilitate animal effected by factory farms and they create edjucational resources and learning environments. To learn more about what you can do to visit this website.
One of the most common reasons for people to oppose factory farms is because of animal cruelty. Animal cruelty is supposed to be regulated by federal and state laws but often slaughter houses find ways to get around these rules. If you want to learn more click here to learn about why this animal cruelty is happening or here to see first hand how factory farm animals are pro.