Animal Factories in Michigan: Another Reason to Go Vegan

30 Nov

There’s been a fair amount of media coverage talking about the horror that is factory farms so I hope more and more people are becoming aware of these abusive animal factories.  My initial decision to go vegan was in fact my personal rebellion and refusal to support these hellholes.  Yes! I feel angry that a few large agribusinesses have way too much power over our food supply and see farm animals as simply commodities to feed their greed for more profits. Ok. Taking some deep breaths. Since reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer (which I highly recommend), I’ve been increasingly upset about how farm animals are treated.  I’ve also been curious about factory farms in my own state, so I decided to educate myself.

The term used by the industry for a factory farm is a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation or CAFO.  I wondered how many CAFO’s there were  in Michigan.  234!!!  

What technically qualifies as a CAFO anyway?  According to the Sierra Club, Michigan Chapter, a CAFO stables or confines as many as or more than the numbers of animals specified in these categories:  (I know this is a lot of numbers that you might be tempted to just skim over, but, if you would try to let the number of animals living in each of these inhumane factories really sink in)

  • 700 mature dairy cows
  • 1,000 veal calves 1,000 cattle (other than mature dairy cows or veal calves), including heifers, steers, bulls, and cow/calf pairs
  • 2,500 swine, each weighs 55 pounds or more
  • 10,000 swine, each weighs less than 55 pounds
  • 500 horses
  • 10,000 sheep or lambs
  • 55,000 turkeys
  • 30,000 laying hens or broilers, if the AFO uses a liquid manure handling system
  • 125,000 chickens (other than laying hens), if the AFO doesn’t use a liquid manure handling system
  • 82,000 laying hens, if the AFO doesn’t use a liquid manure handling system
  • 30,000 ducks, if the AFO uses a liquid manure handling system
  • 5,000 ducks, if the AFO uses a liquid manure handling system

As you can see, these are enormous operations.  Oh, and by the way, these Michigan, factory farmed animals produce as much untreated manure as 60 million people, which is 6 times the population of Michigan!  More on all this untreated manure in a minute……

Given the size of these facilities, I became curious about the number of farm animals killed every year for consumption in Michigan.  Here’s the awful truth: (Again, please let the reality of these numbers settle in to your consciousness, if you are able)

nearly 149,000 dairy cows

871,000 hogs

nearly 75,000 beef cattle

8.8 million egg-laying hens

168,000 broiler chickens

Do those numbers boggle your mind the same way they do mine?  10 million animals forced to live in pain and squalor and then  killed so that we can eat meat and dairy products.  And this is just in Michigan, 1 state out of 50.  It makes it less surprising to learn that the total number of animals killed for food in the U.S. alone is 10,000,000,000 annually.  10 Billion!  EVERY YEAR!

So, where are these factory farms in Michigan?  There are more than 230 CAFOs concentrated in 39 of Michigan’s 83 counties. (As far as I can tell, Washtenaw County has none). According to data from Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment, several counties have more than 15 operations.

Allegan County, in western Michigan, has 29

Huron County with 24

Gratiot County with 19

Ottawa County with 18

The city of Holland, in western Michigan, has the largest number of CAFOs when grouped by zip code, with 11 facilities.

So what about all that untreated animal waste?  We have waste treatment plants to treat our human waste so that we don’t contaminate the air, land or water that we use in our lives every day.  CAFO’s are not required to treat their animal waste at all.  They spray it right back into the air, onto their land and meanwhile it pollutes our air and water.

Watch this award-winning documentary about the polluting effects of CAFOs in Michigan on air and water quality, and the subsequent health issues of the residents in the surrounding communities. CAFOs make the environment sick and kill billions of sentient beings.  And they make people sick too.  These are the three big reasons to be vegan.

If you still want more information about what’s wrong with factory farms, check this out.

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