Guest blog by Daisy Freund, Manager of the ASPCA’s Farm Animal Campaign
Did you know that roughly 9 billion animals are raised for dairy, meat and eggs each year in the U.S.? Most of these animals are crammed together by the hundreds or thousands. Not only do these factory farms have poor or nonexistent animal welfare standards—but they’re also environmental nightmares.
Here are the top five ways factory farms are hurting the Earth:
Animal agriculture generates 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, including 9% of carbon dioxide, 65% of nitrous oxide emissions and 37% of methane emissions. Most of that methane comes from belching cows and rotting manure.
In the U.S., confined animals generate three times more raw waste than humans generate. Their manure is commonly stored in open-air “poop lagoons,” which release dangerous toxins such as hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and methane into the air and leach heavy metals, drugs and other additives given to the animals into the ground water. That’s just gross!
The waste is often used as crop fertilizer and over-applied to nearby fields, resulting in further air pollution and high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen in the water supply. Excess nitrogen robs water of oxygen and destroys aquatic life.
Factory farms deplete our water by using large volumes for cleaning, cooling and drinking.
The fossil fuels required to raise this staggering number of animals and produce their food emit 90 million tons of carbon dioxide worldwide every year. More than half of the world’s corn is fed to animals, and corn requires more nitrogen fertilizer than any other crop.
After Benjamin B.’s beloved cat, Fat Larry, escaped from his apartment, his roommates thought they found him at the ASPCA. Sadly, this new cat turned out not to be Larry. He was a loveable imposter. Benjamin shared the following bittersweet story with us:
My roommates left our apartment door open and let out my cat, Fat Larry, while I was working my night job. I was upset and in disbelief that my favorite pet in the world had gone missing. Weeks turned into months until finally in December 2010, the ASPCA contacted my roommates about a Tabby cat rescued in Manhattan. They rushed to the shelter and brought the cat back to our apartment.
When I returned home that evening, I discovered a large cat that looked almost identical to my beloved Larry. My roommates tried to convince me it was him. Frustrated with their feeble attempts to restore feline order in our apartment, I named this cat Fat Barry.
At first, Barry was timid, shaky, and despite having a huge belly, seemed to have no appetite. We set him up with a cozy bed, but he spent entire days in our cold, damp tub. If more than one person entered the room, he became paralyzed with fear. After several visits to the vet, I knew Barry was struggling psychologically.
Finally, I decided to bring him upstate to my parents’ house in a quiet, suburban neighborhood in Albany. A few weeks went by and Barry began settling into his new home. He was sleeping in the bed we set up for him and nibbling at his food. Barry was still nervous with multiple people in the room, but he would let one person pick him up and pet him. I was shocked the first time Barry actually jumped on to my lap to request some petting.
I am proud to report that Barry is now the happiest cat in upstate New York. He enjoys rolling around in the grass, and when there’s more than one person in the room, he is content as long as everyone is petting him.
Barry came into my life due to a loss of another cat, but sometimes things happen for a reason. With a little love, all pets can live a happy life.
We’re all counting on members of Congress to take action on animal fighting, horse slaughter and puppy mills—so to remind them of the amazing difference animals make in our lives, we arranged for them to spend a little quality time with some adorable animals at Paws for Love, a Capitol Hill Valentine’s Day event hosted by the ASPCA.
During Paws for Love, legislators and congressional staff got to canoodle with adoptable animals from area shelters and rescues. The shelters got to highlight their important work, and, best of all, some deserving animals actually found their forever homes! Check out the video below to see highlights from this aww-inspiring event.
As the ASPCA celebrates its 147th anniversary this month, we are proud to be upholding the legacy of our founder Henry Bergh, who knew the importance of having strong laws to protect animals. Elected officials need to know that animal welfare is important to their constituents, and every voice counts. Help carry on the tradition of Henry Bergh: Join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade to tell your representatives in Congress and in your state legislature that animals deserve to be protected.
Spring Cleaning: Empty out the dark corners of your closets, basement and attic, but before throwing your dusty treasures away, call your local shelters and ask if they need old towels, bedding, leashes, litter boxes and pet toys.
The Power of Poop: Scoop dog poop with biodegradable bags instead of plastic bags from the grocery store. If you’re a suburbanite (or an urbanite with a lawn), do some research on doggie septic systems—they help keep your lawn free of smelly surprises and break waste down into a liquid the ground can absorb.
Garden of Delights: If you have space, consider growing your own garden for your fruit- and veggie- loving reptiles and small mammals. Before using insecticides, research mulching and other gardening practices that can help reduce the amount of insecticides and herbicides you might need.
Spot On: Should your furry love leave a little dribble (or more) on the carpeting or floor, don’t reach for the bleach. Use vinegar instead. This environment-friendly liquid can act as an effective odor-remover and can kill mold and bacteria.
Cut Back: There are plenty of small ways to cut back on energy and materials. Instead of using a blow dryer to dry your freshly bathed pet, towel or air dry her. Walk your dog to the doggie park rather than driving there. Or cut down on paper products—clean up with rags or recycled paper towels.
Are you doing something special for Earth Day? Tell us about it in the comments!