20 True Costs of Factory Pig Farming
2. Large pig farms emit hydrogen sulphide; a gas that most commonly causes flu-like symptoms in humans, but at high concentrations can lead to brain damage and rapid death. In 1998, the US National Institute of Health reported that nineteen workers died due to hydrogen sulphide emissions originating from livestock manure pits.
3. Ammonia causes permanent lung damage in one quarter of the workers and respiratory problems in the pigs. In 2004, a pig factory farm in Missouri, USA, emitted 3 times that generated by all industrial sources in the state.
5. The runoff from pig factories creates nutrient overload, causing huge fish kills in rivers and coastal waters. Pollution of the Neuse River in North Carolina, USA, caused the deaths of 100 million fish in 2009 alone.
8. To build new factory farms, the world’s largest pig producers scan the globe for good investment climates, i.e. countries with cheap land and labour and lax enforcement of environmental standards. If small scale local farmers don’t intensify production and externalize their true costs onto the broader community, they face bankruptcy.
9. In order to survive, small-scale farmers often enter into coercive contracts with large-scale, vertically integrated factory contractors. These farmers pay much of the start-up and maintenance costs through bank loans, locking themselves into dependence on pork prices dictated by the livestock factories and volatile interest rates. Permanent debt and bankruptcy are common.
13. According to the Union of Concerned Scientist, 24.6 million pounds, or 70% of antibiotics produced in the United States, are applied to the feed of healthy animals. This is to prevent the onset of the inevitable diseases that affect animals raised in intensive units, and to promote growth. The result is antibiotic- resistant bacteria such as E coli, salmonella, campylobacter and the pig strain of MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).
14. Development funds for impoverished communities are often diverted to Big Agribusiness. For example, in 1999 the European Bank for Reconstruction and development (EBRD) awarded Smithfield a $25 million loan for expansion into Poland, and facilitated another $75 million worth from private banks. One of the EBRD’s stated purposes is to promote “environmentally sound and sustainable development.”
19. Growing pigs are crammed into small pens with slatted floors, and on most factory farms in Europe, are illegally deprived of access to straw or other ‘manipulable’ material. They have no bedding, natural light, or fresh air.