Quantcast

Appalling Lack of Progress in Factory Farm Policies Despite Increased Public Awareness

Food

A comprehensive analysis of the U.S. meat, egg and dairy industries in 2008 excoriated  producers for their business practices. A new assessment of progress since then says industrial livestock production remains just as destructive, and little has been done to address any of the problems.

 

The report, from Johns Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future (CLF), says the problems identified in 2008—which included non-therapeutic use of antimicrobials in food animal production, liquid farm waste and intense and inhumane animal practices—have worsened. The CLF report blames an “assault on reforms” in Congress and finds the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Congress have acted “regressively” in policymaking on industrial food animal system issues.

A commercial meat chicken production house in Florida. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

“There has been an appalling lack of progress,” Robert S. Lawrence, CLF director, said in a press release. “The failure to act by the USDA and FDA, the lack of action or concern by the Congress and continued intransigence of the animal agriculture industry have made all of our problems worse.”

 

The CLF report says that despite the continual emergence of new scientific evidence demonstrating the severity of the threats posed by the industrial meat, dairy and egg processes, remarkably little has actually been done to address any of the problems.

 

“If the last five years has shown us anything, it is that the public is more engaged than ever in the food system,” said Governor John Carlin, chair of the commission. “The results of this analysis show that our policymakers are really not listening to their constituents.”

 

The 2008 analysis by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production (PCIFAP) recommended:

  1. Ban the non-therapeutic use of antimicrobials in food animal production to reduce the risk of antimicrobial resistance to medically important antibiotics and other antimicrobials.
  2. Define non-therapeutic use of antimicrobials as any use in food animals in the absence of microbial disease or documented microbial disease exposure.
  3. Treat industrial farm animal production as an industrial operation and implement a new system to deal with farm waste, especially liquid waste systems, to replace the inflexible and broken system that exists today and to require permitting of more operations.
  4. Phase out the most intensive and inhumane production practices (such as gestation crates, restrictive veal crates and battery cages) within a decade to reduce the risk of industrial farm animal production to public health and improve animal well-being.
  5. Aggressively enforce the existing anti-trust laws applicable to food animal production and, where needed, pass additional laws to provide a level playing field for producers.
  6. Increase funding for, expand and reform animal agriculture research.

“In 2008, the recommendations were heralded by many in the agriculture community, the agencies and Congress as the catalyst they needed to make vital changes to a food supply that has been criticized as unsustainable and in some cases unsafe,” said Bob Martin, PCIFAP executive director. “Inaction was inexcusable five years ago, now it is unconscionable.”

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Protesters holding signs in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en Nation outside the Canadian Consulate in NYC. The Indigenous Peoples Day NYC Committee (IPDNYC), a coalition of 13 Indigenous Peoples and indigenous-led organizations gathered outside the Canadian Consulate and Permanent Mission to the UN to support the Wet'suwet'en Nation in their opposition to a Coastal GasLink pipeline scheduled to enter their traditional territory in British Columbia, Canada. Erik McGregor / LightRocket / Getty Images

Tensions are continuing to rise in Canada over a controversial pipeline project as protesters enter their 12th day blockading railways, demonstrating on streets and highways, and paralyzing the nation's rail system

Read More
padnpen / iStock / Getty Images

Yet another reason to avoid the typical western diet: eating high-fat, highly processed junk food filled with added sugars can impair brain function and lead to overeating in just one week.

Read More
Sponsored
Horseshoe Bend (seen above) is a horseshoe-shaped meander of the Colorado River in Page, Arizona. didier.camus / Flickr / public domain

Millions of people rely on the Colorado River, but the climate crisis is causing the river to dry up, putting many at risk of "severe water shortages," according to new research, as The Guardian reported.

Read More
An alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, as seen here in Christmas Valley, South Lake Tahoe, California on Feb. 15, 2020. jcookfisher / CC BY 2.0

California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.

The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.

"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."

While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.

On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor said nearly 60 percent of the state was abnormally dry, up from 46 percent just last week, according to The Mercury News in San Jose.

The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.

"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.

Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.

Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.

"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.

NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.

As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.

"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.

The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.

"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."

New and recent books explore how we can effectively respond to climate change while enhancing our health and happiness. Kei Uesugi / DigitalVision / Getty Images

A warm day in winter used to be a rare and uplifting relief.

Now such days are routine reminders of climate change – all the more foreboding when they coincide with news stories about unprecedented wildfires, record-breaking "rain bombs," or the accelerated melting of polar ice sheets.

Where, then, can one turn for hope in these dark months of the year?

Read More