What do we get back from all the grain, fossil fuels, and water that go into making animal products? Tons and tons of feces. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the run-off from factory farms pollutes our waterways more than all other industrial sources combined.
Animals raised for food produce 130 times as much excrement as the entire U.S. population, roughly 89,000 pounds per second, all without the benefit of waste treatment systems. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, animals on factory farms in America produce 20 tons of fecal matter each year for every U.S. household. A pig farm with 5,000 animals produces as much fecal waste as a city of 50,000 people. According to Oregon State University agriculture professor Peter Cheeke, factory farming constitutes "a frontal assault on the environment, with massive groundwater and air pollution problems."
A contamination study conducted by John Chastain, a Minnesota agricultural extension engineer, reports, "The data indicates that the pollution strength of raw manure is 160 times greater than raw municipal sewage." In other words, farmed animal waste is much more dangerous than human waste. There are no federal guidelines that regulate how factory farms treat, store, and dispose of the trillions of pounds of concentrated, untreated animal excrement that they produce each year. This waste may be left to rot in huge lagoons or sprayed over crop fields; both of these disposal methods result in run-off that contaminates the soil and water and kills fish and other wildlife. The concentration of parasites, bacteria, and chemical contaminates in animal excrement can wreak havoc on the ecosystems affected by farm run-off, and there are countless reports that humans who live near these farms have become very sick from the pollution.
A Scripps Howard synopsis of a Senate Agricultural Committee report on farm pollution issued this warning about animal waste: "[I]t's untreated and unsanitary, bubbling with chemicals and diseased. … It goes onto the soil and into the water that many people will, ultimately, bathe in and wash their clothes with and drink. It is poisoning rivers and killing fish and making people sick. … Catastrophic cases of pollution, sickness, and death are occurring in areas where livestock operations are concentrated. … Every place where the animal factories have located, neighbors have complained of falling sick."