Putting shit in perspective
Do you care about the environment? Well if you do, it’s difficult to simultaneously defend eating meat and dairy. Animal waste products seep into lakes, rivers and other environments killing countless wildlife—as well as cause significant problems for us.
“Animal agriculture makes a 40% greater contribution to global warming than all transportation in the world, combined. It is the number one cause of climate change.”
Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer
In his book—Eating Animals—Jonathan Safran Foer presents shocking statistics of how much waste modern factory farming actually produces. Hopefully, by presenting those statistics here, I’m not infringing on any copyright laws. If I do, let me apologize in advance. I will still proceed however, given how astonishing the numbers actually are.
In any event, please pick up the aforementioned book to learn more; you’ll be amazed.
The statistics you are about to read are relevant to the US. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, you’ll have to consult elsewhere. Note that going forward, both feces and urine will be referred to as simply shit, thus keeping it short.
Numbers don’t lie
- A typical pig factory farm produces 7.2 million pounds worth of shit every year.
- That’s almost 3.3 million kilograms.
- A typical broiler (chicken) farm produces 6.6 million pounds worth of shit every year.
- That’s almost 3 million kilograms.
- A typical cattle feed lot will produce 344 million pounds worth of shit every year.
- That’s (rounded down) 156 million kilograms.
Again, these numbers account for single farms, not all farms combined, and there’s are a heck of a lot of farms in the US.
Putting it in perspective
To best understand how much animal poop and piss is actually contaminating our world, let’s put it into a perspective that’s easy to relate to.
According to the Government Accountability Office, individual farms can produce more shit than the human population of some major US cities.
Farmed animals in the US produce 130 times more shit than the entire population combined. That means 87 thousand pounds of shit every single second, or 40 thousand kilograms every second. Crazy, right?
There is no real sewage system in place
Unlike the sewage system humans have created for themselves, there is no such thing in factory farming. Nobody is really treating the shit properly, and there are very few guidelines in place to regulate it.
By using one of the largest producers of meat in the US as an example, namely Smithfield Foods, Jonathan continues explaining what actually happens to all the shit in question.
I did some checking, and part of their mission statement reads as follows.
"Smithfield Foods is determined to be an ethical food industry leader that excels every day at bringing delicious and nutritious meat products to millions of people around the world in a manner that sets industry benchmarks for sustainability."
Based on results, that’s a blatant lie. The only truth to that statement is that Smithfield does manage to provide food for millions of people. The food however, is not produced ethically, nor it is in any way shape or form sustainable.
Annually, Smithfield kills more pigs than the combined human populations of
- New York,
- Los Angeles,
- San Antonio,
- San Diego,
- San Hose,
- San Fransisco,
- Forth Worth,
That's a lot of consequence just for some bacon; not only are the animals suffering, but we're also screwing up our planet and ourselves.
Keep your eye on this blog for a future article looking deeply and the organised, sadistic torture of pigs all throughout the US and the world. Workers have been filmed (more times than you or I could could) kicking, beating and stabbing pigs in every way imaginable. Workers have been filmed putting cigarettes out in pigs' eyes, smashing their faces with hammers, shoving thick, electric rods into their vaginas and anuses, smashing baby pigs against concrete and much, much more.
Conservative estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency have determined that a pig produces 3-4 times as much shit as a human. In turn, this means that Smithfield is responsible for producing at least as much shit as the entire human population of California and Texas combined.
Since there is no real sewage system in place to handle all this shit, Jonathan makes an excellent analogy to put thing into perspective. He says the following.
“Imagine if instead of the massive waste treatment structure that we take for granted in modern cities today; every man, woman and child in every city and town in all of California and all of Texas crapped and pissed into a huge open pit for just one day.”
“Now imagine that they don’t do this for just a day, but all year round in perpetuity (forever).”
Jonathan Safran Foer
In other words, imagine if we everybody just took a piss and shit wherever they felt like it. Our streets would be overflowing with waste.
Connecting the dots: What does it all mean?
Some of the things shit leads, but are not limited to, include ammonia, methane, hydrogen sulphate, carbon monoxide, phosphorus, nitrate and heavy metals. Shit also includes over 100 microbials that make humans sick (salmonella is one example). If you can’t relate to this, consider the following.
“Children raised on the grounds of of a typical hog factory farm, have asthma rates exceeding 50%.”
“Children raised near factory farms are twice as likely to develop asthma.”
Jonathan Safran Foer
Shit, and then some
Jonathan also points out that shit, as it were, doesn’t just include urine and feces. In fact, you’ll also encounter lots of
- stillborn piglets,
- piglets that have died,
- antibiotic syringes,
- broken bottles of insecticides,
- other body parts.
He continues explaining that while the farming industry leads us to believe that the earth can absorb the toxins resulting from all the shit without problem, we know for a fact that this simply isn't true. In other words; it's a load of shit.
To name a few problems, shit has a tendency to seep into lakes, rivers and waterways—killing existing wildlife—and polluting it for whomever makes use of it. Ammonia and other gases evaporate into the air, making that toxic as well.
What happens to all the shit?
Besides what’s already mentioned, the shit is commonly stored in football field sized lagoons (tanks). The industry wants you to believe that whatever shit they store, will be used to fertilize fields, thus completing some sort of “circle of life”. While it is true that shit itself is a good fertilizer, the sheer amount produced by the industry makes it impossible for the earth to absorb even a tiny fraction of it, thus resulting in many of the problems previously discussed.
I won’t go into much more detail here, but if you want to learn more about how dangerous this actually is, please buy the book Eating Animals; I can’t recommend it enough.
Government regulation is a big ‘ol joke
Look, here’s the thing: Though few and far between, there are some government regulations in place to prevent companies like Smithfield from screwing up the environment like they do, but the consequences by breaking these regulations are laughable at best.
If they are even enforced at all—which is a rarity—the enforcement is simply “the cost of doing business”. What does that mean? Jonathan explains.
In 1995, Smithfield screwed up royally by spilling over 20 million gallons, about 76 million litres, worth of shit into the New River in North Carolina. If you need to relate to something, the notorious Exxon Valdez oil spill was only half that size.
As a result, Smithfield was issued a 12.6 million dollar pollution fine. At first glance, you might say: “Damn, 12.6 million dollars! That’s a lot!”, but relatively speaking, it’s not. It’s not a lot at all.
In fact, for a company like Smithfield, 12.6 million dollars is next to nothing. Why? Because Smithfield makes around 12.8 million dollars every 10 hours. A fine like that can be compared to you getting a tiny, tiny paper cut; you’ll barely notice it. Better yet, it can be compared to you almost getting a paper cut, but not really; it's that insignificant.
Thus my conclusion: Government regulation is a big ‘ol joke.
Do we even care?
In his book, Jonathan summarises the problem quite well when he says the following.
“How has the eating public responded?”
“In general, we make a bit of noise when pollution reaches near biblical proportions. Then Smithfield, or whatever corporation, responds with an ‘oops!’, and accepting their apology, we go on eating our factory farmed animals.”
Jonathan Safran Foer
In other words, as long as we, the consumer, continue to eat as we do, corporations like Smithfield will always be there to make animals suffer, and to fuck up the environment. That is, they'll at least be there until humanity destroys itself. We are their driving force! It's because of us that they are allowed to do what they do; we create the demand, and we should be fucking ashamed of ourselves.
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
If you wish to learn more about what animals suffer through, how the environment is being destroyed and what your meat and diary consumption is actually contributing to; pick up a copy of Eating Animals.
For the animals,
Capacity to suffer
Faulty logic - It’s okay to kill animals because animals kill animals
Gary Yourofsky on Keeping your sanity in a cruel world
The ethics of drinking milk
To close your eyes will not ease another’s pain