I don’t believe that it comes as a surprise to anyone that the nation’s largest producers of chicken are also some of the largest producers of chemical waste into our environment. It seems as though we are being forced to make a choice these days; either provide shareholders the profits they require by cutting corners or provide for human safety, but don’t expect both.
According to the Environment America Research and Policy Center toxic chemicals such as arsenic, mercury and heavy metals are being released into our water supplies every year polluting areas such as the Great Lakes, Puget Sound and the Chesapeake Bay. Polluters such as Cargill have spent millions of dollars defeating ballot measures that would force them to adopt clean water and proper labeling initiatives, never giving a thought to the millions of people being hurt by their toxic waste. Tyson Foods came in as the most aggregious polluter, with Purdue and Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation coming in close behind.
Expecting these mega companies to remain loyal to their customers and do the right thing is just not feasible when their focus is on the bottom dollar. It is the reason why consumers need to be active and fight back; boycott their products and petition the EPA to restore the Clean Water Act initiatives. Only by voting, advocating and encouraging others to get involved will companies be held accountable and made to adopt new policies.
Massive chicken plants are not the only ones causing irreversible damage to our health; the problem is the amounts of pollution being created by concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFO’s which contain thousands of animals such as cows, pigs and chickens. Those who live near these plants report a wide variety of health issues, with most suffering from respitory infections. The CAFO’s use “lagoons” to hold the vast amounts of feces and urine created by the thousands of animals they house; when there are thousands of animals creating waste the chemicals can easily leach into the ground water and cause nitrate contamination. These animals are often fed antibiotics, which also makes its way through the animal and out through their waste. Imagine the stench if you had to live near one of these places!
It doesn’t have to be this way; there are other ways of raising and maintaining livestock that do not cause detrimental effects to the environment. There are also ways of treating the manure so that it remains less toxic and less harmful to be around. Unfortunately these methods would cost the company more and return less to the shareholders which is something that most companies are unwilling to do. It is up to the consumer to purchase free-range or organic products, and make their voices heard at the cash register. Support regulations to keep our drinking water clean and safe from toxic waste. Spreading the word and encouraging others to do the same is the only way to make a change for the better.