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Organic Consumers Association

Factory Farm Legacy: Animal Torture, Water and Air Pollution and Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs

  • Organic Index 9.20.13
    Organic Consumers Association, September 18, 2013

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Factory Farming page and our Food Safety page.

The days of the small farmer raising his cattle, hogs and hens on green pastures are long gone. Today America’s farming landscape resembles a windowless, animal gulag system filled with metal sheds, wire cages, gestation crates and confinement systems.

Factory farms aren’t about feeding the hungry or harvesting healthy food. They’re about maximizing profits for a handful of the world’s largest agribusiness corporations, and the biotech and pesticide companies that fuel their factories and feed their animals.

Today, nearly 65 billion animals worldwide, including cows, chickens and pigs, are crammed into CAFOs and slaughtered annually. These animals are literally imprisoned and tortured in unhealthy, unsanitary and unconscionably cruel conditions.

Factory farms produce unhealthy animals. And unhealthy people. About 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the U.S. are used on factory farms, either to prevent disease or stimulate growth. Meanwhile, about 70,000 Americans die each year from “superbugs” that have developed a resistance to antibiotics.

Animal Torture Chambers

Over 300 million:
The number of laying hens in the United States; of these, some 95 percent are kept in wire battery cages.

67: The average number of square inches of space allowed in each hen’s wire battery cage - less than the size of a standard sheet of paper.

72: The number of square inches of space a hen needs to be able to stand up straight.

303: The number of square inches a hen needs to be able to spread and flap her wings.

2 ft: The width of a factory farm sow cage - too small for them even to turn around or lie down comfortably.

2 ft.: The width of a factory farm cage for calves who are raised for veal.

None: The time provided to chickens and hogs raised in factory farms to spend outdoors, breathe fresh air or experience natural light.

None: The time provided to dairy and beef cattle to graze in a pasture where they could express their natural behavior (and ideal diet).

80: The percentage of antibiotics used in the United States that are given to farm animals, as a preventative measure or to stimulate growth. Growth stimulants are prohibited in Europe, but not here.

23 million: The number of pounds of antibiotics added to animal feed every year, to make the animals grow faster.

875 million: The number of U.S. animals, or 8.6%, who died lingering deaths from disease, injury, starvation, suffocation, maceration, or other atrocities of animal farming and transport.

Endangering Human Health

220 billion:
The number of gallons of animal waste dumped by factory farms onto farmland and into our waterways every year.

73,000: The number of E. coli and salmonella outbreaks in 2007.

70,000: The number of Americans that die every year because of force-feeding animals antibiotics that helps breed antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.”

5,000: The number of deaths per year from food borne illnesses in the U.S.

4.5 million: The approximate number of Americans exposed to dangerously high nitrate levels in their drinking water. Agricultural Waste is the number-one form of well-water contaminants in the U.S.

14: The percentage of factory farm chickens that tested positive for salmonella.

68: The percentage of chickens with salmonella that showed resistance to one or more antibiotics.

40: The percentage of cows in industrial dairies that are injected with genetically engineered recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) to increase their milk yields.

70: The percentage of chicken producers that used the toxin roxarsone in their feed additives between 1995 and 2000.

3: The number of cases of mad cow disease identified in cattle in the U.S. — in December 2003, June 2005, and March 2006.

Over 90: The percentage the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scaled back testing for mad cow disease starting in the fall 2006, claiming that testing was expensive and detection of infected cows was rare.

Nearly 43: The percentage of large-scale dairies (over 500 head) that used rBGH on their cows in 2007, compared to 30 percent of mid-sized dairies, and nine percent of small dairies.

Sources:
Antibiotics are widely used by U.S. meat industry, Consumer Reports
Report: Bacteria in chicken too high, Consumer Reports
10 Reasons to Fear Your Food Supply, Takepart.com
Factory-Farmed Chickens: Their Difficult Lives and Deaths, Britannica Advocacy for Animals
CAFO’s Uncovered, Union of Concerned Scientists


Zack Kaldveer, Assistant Media Director for the Organic Consumers Association, compiled these statistics.

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