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New Drone Footage Exposes the Horrors of Factory Farming
By Mark Devries
The animal agriculture industry spends millions on deceptive advertising to persuade consumers that farmed animals roam freely on bucolic pastures. But I've been piloting drones over animal agriculture facilities for several years, and the video I've captured tells a far different story. Nearly all animals raised and slaughtered for food in the U.S. live in factory farms—facilities that treat animals as mere production units and show little regard for the natural environment or public health. Instead of creating widgets, these factories confine, mutilate and disassemble animals who feel pain and pleasure just like our dogs and cats.
Aerial views of the first factory farms I visited—pig facilities—didn't capture grass and rolling hills, but instead exposed rows of windowless metal buildings. Each confined thousands of intelligent, sensitive pigs who spent their lives on concrete floors in crowded pens. The footage also reveals what appear to be red lakes but are in fact giant, open-air cesspools. Waste falls through slats in the pigs' concrete flooring and is flushed into these massive pits, which sometimes have the surface area of multiple football fields. To lower the levels of these cesspools, many facilities spray their contents into the air where they turn into mist and drift into neighboring communities.
In North Carolina, this practice has been associated with spikes in blood pressure among community members and increased asthma symptoms among nearby schoolchildren. I spoke with neighbors who described walking outside and falling down in their own front yards because the stench of these factory farms made it so difficult to breathe.
I recently piloted drones over factory egg farms, perhaps the most industrialized sector of animal agriculture, with each shed confining thousands of hens and some facilities holding over a million. If I hadn't known better, I would have thought the 24 sheet-metal buildings were airplane hangars or industrial storage facilities. Mercy For Animals undercover investigations have revealed that hens inside such facilities spend their lives trapped in cages so small the birds can't even fully spread their wings. Such confinement is so intensive that many hens die and decompose among cagemates still producing eggs to be sold as food.
Indeed, drones have put to bed the myth of Old MacDonald's farm. Armed with the truth, we must take responsibility. The practices exposed only exist because people purchase products of factory farms. Each of us has the power to stand up and vote against this industry by simply leaving animals off our plates.
Mark Devries serves as special projects coordinator for investigations, with a focus on directing short-form documentaries about factory farming and animal rights. Before joining Mercy For Animals, he directed Speciesism: The Movie and conducted the world's first drone-based investigation of factory farming. The movie is widely used as an introduction to animal rights, and the drone footage has amassed tens of millions of views globally. Mark is also an attorney licensed to practice in Washington, DC.
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.