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Much of the millions of pounds of excrement and other bodily waste produced by farmed animals every day in the U.S. is stored in sprawling brown lagoons. These lagoons occasionally spill over into surrounding waterways and cause massive numbers of fish and other animals to die. When 25 million gallons of putrid hog urine and feces spilled into a North Carolina river in 1995, between 10 and 14 million fish died as an immediate result. This spill was twice as large in volume as the Exxon-Valdez oil disaster, but even smaller amounts of factory-farm runoff can wreak havoc on the environment—the pesticides, antibiotics, and powerful growth hormones that are concentrated in animal flesh are also found in their feces, and these chemicals can have catastrophic effects on the ecosystems surrounding factory farms. In West Virginia and Maryland, for example, scientists have recently discovered that male fish are growing ovaries, and they suspect that this freakish deformity is the result of factory-farm run-off from drug-laden chicken feces.

The EPA reports that chicken, hog, and cattle excrement have polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminated groundwater in 17 states. Besides the environmental problems caused by farmed animal waste, the dangerous fecal bacteria from farm sewage, including E. coli, can also cause serious illness in humans.

The pollution from animal factories is also destroying parts of the world’s oceans. In the middle of the United States, streams and rivers carry excrement from animal factories to the Mississippi River, which then deposits the waste in the Gulf of Mexico. The nitrogen from animal feces—and from fertilizer, which is primarily used to grow crops for farmed animals—causes algae populations to skyrocket, leaving little oxygen for other life forms. A 2006 report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that the Gulf of Mexico’s “dead zone”—an area in which virtually all the sea animals and plants have died—is now half the size of Maryland. In 2006, a separate study by Princeton University found that a shift away from meat production—as well as Americans’ adoption of vegetarian diets—would dramatically reduce the amount of nitrogen in the Gulf to levels that would make the dead zone “small or non-existent.”

Fish farms also contribute to water pollution—farmers cram thousands of fish into tiny enclosures, and the accumulation of feces and other waste means that aquafarms are little more than open sewers. The massive amounts of feces, fish carcasses, and antibiotic-laced fish food that settle below fish farm cages have actually caused the ocean floor to rot in some areas, and the sludge of fish feces and other debris can be toxic for already-strained ocean ecosystems.

Amazingly, the federal government continues to allow animal factories to negatively impact the health of Americans who live near animal factories. In 2006, public-interest and environmental advocates expressed shock and anger when the EPA proposed a new loophole that would make it even easier for giant animal factories to pollute the water and air without any oversight. Ed Hopkins, director of the Sierra Club’s Environmental Quality Program, said that the new loophole “essentially means that these facilities are going to be able to continue to use our streams and rivers as sewers.”

source: PETA 

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