Feeling the Heat: Factory Farming and Climate Change
As this summer is proving, our planet is getting warmer, and, as scientists have long predicted, severe weather is increasing and intensifying. Some effects of climate change, like the frequency of wildfires, drought, flooding and record-breaking heat, are happening faster than anticipated—and global temperatures are expected to continue to rise, largely due to human-caused greenhouse gases. We must hold the industries that are driving these devastating changes accountable.
Globally, animal agriculture represents 14.5% of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.
Specifically, the massive feed-crop production and manure associated with factory farms—industrial facilities that raise large numbers of animals in intensive confinement—are significant contributors to air and water pollution as well as climate-warming emissions.
- Factory farms emit methane and nitrous oxide, which are up to 300 times more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide [PDF].
- In the U.S., animals on factory farms produce an estimated 885 billion pounds of manure [PDF] each year, none of which is treated or regulated by a government agency.
- Nearly 50% of corn [PDF] and 70% of soy [PDF] grown in the U.S. is produced to feed animals raised in factory farms. Those crops consume vast quantities of water and require enormous amounts of fossil fuels and pesticides, all of which adds to the environmental footprint of the final products.
Despite its heavy environmental impact, industrial animal agriculture is largely exempted from federal and state air and water pollution regulations that apply to other major industries, just as it is exempt from almost all state and federal animal-protection laws.
Animals on factory farms are suffering.
Just as our environment is impacted by climate change, farm animals are suffering badly from the rise in temperatures and extreme weather. The crowded conditions and breeding for unnaturally high production of meat, milk and eggs leaves animals on factory farms even more vulnerable.
- Because cows bred for beef often have dark-colored coats, they can experience heat stress when temperatures reach the mid-70s. In fact, thousands of cows died earlier this summer when unseasonably warm temperatures hit the Midwest. This is further complicated by drought conditions affecting water and food availability.
- Due to selective breeding by the chicken industry, today’s birds grow so fast and disproportionally [PDF] that their skeletons and organs can’t keep up. Some chickens struggle to walk and suffer from heart problems, all of which makes them even more vulnerable to the heat.
- More frequent flash flooding from hurricanes and extreme weather events takes its toll on pigs and chickens. They die trapped inside factory farms as water rises, flooding their manure lagoons and polluting waterways in the process.
Factory Farming is inhumane and is destroying our planet. We must act now.
Change begins with reducing the number of animals raised on factory farms and transitioning all farmed animals to higher-welfare and pasture-based systems. This would provide animals with better options for dealing with excessive heat and extreme weather—access to plentiful shade, water and space to spread out; more resilient, slower-growing breeds that can withstand these hotter temperatures; and higher-quality diets of forageable plants that help to naturally alleviate heat stress. Ultimately, to achieve the animal and environmental benefits of pasture-based farming, we must raise significantly fewer animals annually, which means reducing consumption of animal products.
Ready to do your part?
Try our factory farm detox for a week! Join us and take action now with a one-week commitment to eliminate factory-farmed foods from your diet. We’ll help you understand confusing food labels and find higher-welfare products. It’s one powerful way that you can help cows, pigs, chickens and our planet.