Aaron Sanchez
Our world is on a path toward rampant pollution, and the delicate equilibrium of climate is at its tipping point. Our culture believes it has a right to own this Earth; we have enslaved it to produce what we want. As a result, our Earth will be driven to surrender by a problem unforeseen by billions: the livestock in fields, the chickens in cages and the pigs in pens. We see this in North Carolina, the second largest hog farming state, in the forms of pollution and climate change. 

Animal agriculture has begun to destroy our planet.  Beautiful forests have been razed to make room for grazing livestock for our farms and slaughterhouses; the best example being the Amazon rainforest, with animal agriculture accounting for around 80 percent of deforestation, according to Greenpeace Brazil.

North Carolina’s chicken houses and hog barns generate 10 billion gallons of fecal waste annually, enough to fill 15,000 Olympic-size swimming pools, according to the Environmental Work Group.  Moreover, Hurricane Matthew scourged these many farms, with estimated death counts of 5 million birds and thousands of hogs. As a penalty for how much of nature we’ve taken over for these hog barns, the hurricane flooded the vast open cesspools of hog waste called lagoons and inundated six facilities. 

With these lagoons submerged underwater, hog manure entered surrounding waterways. Hog manure is loaded with pathogenic bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant ones, and plenty of nitrate, fouling drinking water. Further, these nitrates feed dead-zone causing algae blooms, which lower oxygen concentration in bodies of water and disturb local ecosystems.

The Washington Post reported the same phenomenon during Hurricane Floyd: hog corpses and manure washing into watersheds, creating a 350-square-mile dead zone in coastal estuaries. Beaches miles away from Smithfield animal farm lagoons were “slathered in feces” from the chaos of the hurricane and 120 million gallons of hog manure spread to the Tar, Neuse, Roanoke, Pamlico, New and Cape Fear rivers, according to Rolling Stone.

 

In their own right, hog farms are beneficial as they contribute $2.5 billion to our economy, according to NC Farm Families. The industry generates millions of dollars in tax revenue towards local schools and infrastructure as well as to other parts of our economy.

While we shouldn’t neglect the good the farms do, will we take these benefits while the health of our citizens is at stake? We must prioritize what is more important: hog manure infesting our waterways and spreading like a poison through the veins of our planet.

A similar trend is found worldwide. Meat and dairy farms release large amounts of greenhouse gases. The oceans face acidification from global warming and overfishing, posing a real threat to marine ecosystems, biodiversity and people relying on fish populations for food or income. A growing population will only demand more from finite resources and space.
Our culture is pursuing a program that is destroying the world. I ask for compassion and cooperation, if possible. I advocate for a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle as means to live without unnecessarily crippling our already damaged world. I am aware that some may not able to support this lifestyle on the basis of inevitable dietary concerns or simply not wishing to make this decision.

I would suggest to those people to vote federal and state political candidates to office that are environmentally aware, and to purchase animal products from companies with the most sustainable practices. Our culture cannot accept this destiny with open arms and an open mouth.