How Factory Farms Are Making Us Sick
Grace Factory Farm Project
Plant foods improve human health, while animal 'foods' degrade it. The most comprehensive study to date regarding the relationship between diet and human health found that the consumption of animal-derived 'food' products was linked with "diseases of affluence" such as heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, and cancer. T. Colin Campbell's landmark research in The China Project found a pure vegetarian (i.e. vegan) diet to be healthiest. Dr. Campbell estimates that "80 to 90% of all cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and other degenerative illness can be prevented, at least until very old age - simply by adopting a plant-based diet."
The meat, poultry, dairy and egg industries employ technological short cuts- as drugs, hormones, and other chemicals - to maximize production. Under these conditions, virulent pathogens that are resistant to antibiotics are emerging. These new 'supergerms,' whose evolution is traceable directly to the overuse of antibiotics in factory farming, have the potential to cause yet unknown human suffering and deaths.
Peculiar new diseases have been amplified by aberrant agribusiness practices. For example, "Mad Cow Disease" (bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE), a fatal dementia affecting cattle, spread throughout Britain when dead cows were fed to living cows. When people ate cows with "Mad Cow Disease," they got Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), a fatal dementia that afflicts humans.
Another farm animal disease beginning to jeopardize human health is avian influenza. In Hong Kong, where scores of people have died from the so-called "bird- flu," over one million chickens have been destroyed in the panic to stop the spread of the disease.
Millions of Americans are infected, and thousands die every year from contaminated animal 'food' products. Despite repeated warnings from consumer advocates, the USDA's meat inspection system remains grossly inadequate, and consumers are now being told to "expect" animal products to be tainted.
Meanwhile, the agribusiness industry, rather than advising consumers to curtail their intake of animal products, has devised extreme measures (overcooking, antibiotics, etc.) to help consumers circumvent the hazards of animal products and maintain their gross over-consumption of meat and dairy.
Consumers spend only 10 percent of their disposable income on food. Of those 10 cents on the dollar, only one penny makes it back to the farmer's bottom line. The other 90 percent goes to processors, packagers and advertising.
Further industrialization of production agriculture will squeeze the farmer's last penny and make no difference in the cost of food.
Unfortunately this so-called "cheap food" should come with a warning label. Residues of the carcinogenic drug Sulfamethazine, for example, are commonly found in hog carcasses at U.S. packing plants. Says one Food and Drug Administration (FDA) official. "Residues from the use of Sulfamethazine in swine have been a serious problem for both government and industry."
One common antibiotic, Mecadox, has a withdrawal period of 70 days because of potential residues. This presents a segregation challenge for factories who use Mecadox as a daily feed additive meant only for piglets.
The large-scale indiscriminate use of antibiotics in animals invariably leads to antibiotic resistance in bacteria that cause disease in humans, says the U.S. Center for Disease Control. This is because hogs and people use similar-type antibiotics. Also, the use of antibiotics for weeks at a time for non-therapeutic reasons like growth promotion can exacerbate the situation, writes Dr. Stuart Levy of the Tufts Medical School. (The Antibiotic Paradox: How Miracle Drugs are Destroying the Miracle, 1992.)
People living downwind from hog factories suffer a variety of psychological and physiological problems, such as depression, frequent vomiting and respiratory complications. More than half of the people living within two miles of mega-hog sites reported an increase in allergies, sinus infection, nasal blockage and a lack of energy, according to a Family Farms for the Future (Putnam Co., Mo.) survey.
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