Health Effects of Factory Farming

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Agriculture in America is rapidly changing, advancing in technology and becoming more intensified in food production industrialization. This system of industrial agriculture has largely contributed to air pollution, water pollution and depletion of the top soil among many other forms of environmental destruction. All these consequences have occurred as a result of unsustainable consumption of non renewable resources such as fossil fuel, water and erosion of topsoil through industrial activities. Moreover, the system has raised human health concerns of workers and product consumers who are victims of degenerative diseases and pollution from highly concentrated animal waste (Horrigan, Lawrence and Walker). This paper seeks to examine how factory farming affects human and animal health and also the damages it causes to the environment.




 Farm animals are expressly taken as business commodities to be exploited for profit and when this is the case, animal welfare become least of the concerns. They are expected to produce to consumer satisfaction and to do this they are pushed to their biological limits for maximum production which renders them vulnerable to numerous diseases. These diseases are passed to humans when they consume these products, an example being the avian influenza passed from poultry. To top it up all, industrial farming poses great damage to the natural environment by using up non renewable resources to depletion and by polluting the ecosystem (farm sanctuary).

Consumption of plant food products is much healthier as compared to animal related products which have been associated to many diseases including cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Chemicals such as hormones and drugs are used as a shorter route to realizing high production in egg, dairy, poultry and meat industries. Apparently, excessive use of these chemicals has resulted in antibiotic resistant pathogens which cause human illnesses and even death. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and avian influenza are fatal diseases that affect humans when they eat cows affected with “Mad Cow Disease” and poultry with “bird-flu” respectively (farm sanctuary).

Environmentally, many of the chemicals used in factory farming generate a lot of wastes which are highly harmful to the environment. Natural resources such as soil, ground water and fossil fuel, which take a long time to regenerate, are being depleted at a faster rate than it can replenish. Livestock are fed with grains instead of pasture which means that a lot of energy is used up by the animal during the conversion of grains eaten to meat. Extensive monocultures of grain feedlots used to supply diet in factory farms means more use of chemicals such as herbicides and insecticides which pollute ground water aquifers (Horrigan, Lawrence and Walker).

In addition, farm animals produce a considerably huge amount of waste which contaminates waterways with pfiesteria bacteria. This contamination results in fish kills and humans are inflicted with diseases such as nausea, memory loss, fatigue and open sores. Immense natural ecosystems such as forests and wetlands have been destroyed to pave way to intensive feedlots and animal rangeland. This wasteful exploitation of resources has disrupted the ecosystems natural balance of nature (farmsanctuary).


What happens in the farm?

Factory farm animals across the U.S. face unbearable cruelty as they are exploited for selfish gains. Egg laying hens are overcrowded with barely any space to move, they are kept in wired cages which expose them to extreme feather loss and bruises all over their bodies when they rub themselves against the wired-wall cages. Each hen is expected to lay over 250 eggs per day and this makes them vulnerable to fatty liver syndrome which occurs as a result of the hens liver being overworked to produce more fat and proteins for the egg yolk. In the end their bodies become too weak to pass another egg and are termed as spent hens. They are disposed off to slaughter houses or discarded as seen in the case of Ward Egg Ranch in California where they tossed live hens into a chipping machine (farmsanctuary).

Meanwhile, dairy cows are put under a demanding task of calving every year through artificial insemination. This condition exposes them to many diseases as mastitis and milk fever which occur due to abnormal milk production by the cows.  Immediately they are born, calves are separated from their mothers and those born male are used for veal as they are unproductive to the dairy industry. Veal calves are normally kept for eighteen weeks during which they are fed on iron and fiber deficient milk that makes them anemic. As a result, their meat becomes light in color and is expensively sold in the market as veal (farmsanctuary).

How did it start?

Animal product consumption has greatly increased in developing countries since 1950 and this is attributed to industrialization in agriculture. While this is seen a step forward by the developing nations who have not dietary increase in meat at all, it is actually a source of chronic diseases. Some of the developing nations like china have begun to adopt this pattern of dietary shift where the whole country and mostly the urban dwellers doubled meat consumption in 1990. China has also begun industrial agriculture, a practice dominant in western countries (Horrigan, Lawrence and Walker).

Farm industrialization has posed a threat to rural community livelihoods throughout the U.S. and they are working towards pollution prevention and protection of their health. The benefits of traditional agriculture over the negative effects of factory farming have been indicated by many studies. Traditional farming have been practiced thousands of year’s way before industrialization and showed no environmental damage. This is because the farmers did not produce more than the carrying capacity of the land as they understood the ability of the soil in sustaining diverse crops seasonally (farmsanctuary).

Who is affected?

Communities living around factory farms and factory workers are placed at risk of contracting contagious diseases which incubate in the factory’s facilities before they become transmissible to humans. Swine flu, an example of such contaminable diseases was first discovered in 1998 at a Smith field facility in Mexico. An industrial pig farm in North Carolina is another farm factory that has produced the recombinant strain of pig, bird and human that has plagued today’s world (farm sanctuary).


Though traditional farming is not as productive as factory farming, it is sustainable and friendly to public health and the environment. This system should be adopted in order to curb the increasing environmental damages and public health problems caused by factory farming. Human beings are supposed to be stewards of nature, but this is not so in the agribusiness industry where animals are seen as commodities and are subject to harsh treatments. This animal cruelty together with production of toxic wastes from factory farming calls for environmental and animal rights activists to come forth and address these concerns. Every living thing on earth whether forests, oceans or animal species has the right to exist because of the interconnectedness of nature. An individual can also make a difference by making a choice: adopting a meat free diet.