A Sierra Club report compiled after nearly three years of reviewing
state and federal regulatory agencies’ records found: “Millions
of gallons of liquefied feces and urine seeped into the environment
from collapsed, leaking or overflowing storage lagoons, and
flowed into rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands and groundwater.”(6)
The more than 10 billion land animals raised for food each year in the
United States excrete massive quantities of urine and feces. According
to a Minority Staff of Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition &
Forestry report, the amount of farmed animal manure produced in the
United States equals five tons of waste for every woman, man, and child.(1)
Manure run-off from factory farms pollutes the land and water.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the laws regulating animal
waste are nowhere near as strict as those regulating human waste,(2) and
the Sierra Club notes that the existing laws are often not enforced.(3)
This is particularly alarming because the waste generated on factory
farms can be hundreds of times more concentrated than untreated domestic
The two most common techniques for handling waste on factory farms are
manure lagoons and sprayfields.
Spraying manure pollutes the air by emitting ammonia, methane,
and hydrogen sulfide.
Manure lagoons can flood, burst, or leak, contaminating rivers, streams,
and groundwater.(5) Nutrient runoff from sprayfields is another
way waste enters our water sources.(5) The results can be devastating.
The Senate report mentioned above states: “Spills of liquid animal waste
directly into water have an immediate environmental impact, choking out
fish and other aquatic life....The resulting hypoxia (low oxygen) from
chronic nutrient enrichment can result in fish kills, odor and overall
degradation of water quality.”(1)
Manure lagoons and sprayfields also pollute the air, by emitting ammonia,
methane, and hydrogen sulfide.
threat of pollution from intensive livestock and poultry farms
is a national problem.
— U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Report
- Animal Waste Pollution in America: An Emerging National
Problem, Minority Staff of Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition
& Forestry, 104th Congress, Dec. 1997.
- Michael Brower and Warren Leon. The Consumer’s Guide
to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from the Union
of Concerned Scientists. Three Rivers Press/Crown Publishers, 1999.
- Clean Water & Factory Farms, Corporate Hogs
at the Public Trough, Perdue Farms, Maryland, Sierra Club, 1999.
- Howard Lyman. Mad Cowboy: Plain Truth from the Cattle
Rancher Who Won’t Eat Meat. Scribner, 1998.
- EQIP Restrictions For Large CAFOs: A Key to Saving
Small Farms and Environmental Quality, Defenders of Wildlife, 2001.
- The Rap Sheet on Animal Factories, Sierra Club,