Factory farming is a modern agricultural practice that mass produce animals to meet the food consumption of the world's population. Factory farms house a big number of animals that will be raised in a confined space to minimize operation cost until the moment they are killed. The mass production drives down the food prices as they could produce an excess amount of animals to meet the demand. However, except for offering humans abundant amount of cheap food, factory farming is an unhealthy practice to both people and the environment.
According to a report by the United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture (FAO), factory farming generates 18% more greenhouse gas emissions (CO2) than the transport sector. It is also one of the leading causes of global warming, land degradation, air and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity. In the report, the authors calculated the emissions produced along the chain of meat products. From feed production (which includes the production of chemical fertilizers, deforestation to provide feed and open grasslands, etc.), through animal production (including emissions from the fermentation and nitrous oxide from manure), until the CO2 released during the processing and transport of animal products. When looking the results, they found out that factory farming is responsible for 9% of CO2 deriving from human activities, but produces a much more elevated of greenhouse gasses that are most harmful. It generates 65% of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times more Global Warming Potential than CO2. Most of this comes from manure. This kind of farming is also responsible for 37% of all methane produced by human activity, and 64% of ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain.
FAO report explains that factory farming uses now 30% of the terrestrial surface of the planet, which are mostly pasture but also including 33% of all the arable land used to producing feed. The clearing of forests to create new pastures is one of the leading causes of deforestation, especially in Latin America, where 70% of the forests that have disappeared in the Amazon were used for pasture.
Factory Farming is among the most damaging agricultural sectors to the earth's increasingly scarce water resources. This kind of farming is responsible for water pollution and the destruction of coral reefs, among other things. It contributes ten times more water pollution compared to the contamination of man and three times more than the contamination of the oil industry, coal, steel and manufacturing combined. Overgrazing affects the water cycle and prevents the renewal of water resources. The major polluting agents are animal wastes, antibiotics, hormones, the chemicals used to dye the hides, fertilizers and the pesticides used to spray feed crops. The production of factory farming uses 8% of the water consumed by man mainly through the irrigation of feed crops. While there are no global statistics, approximately in the United States, the production used 37% of pesticides, 50% of the antibiotics and produced a third part of the nitrogen and phosphorus that pollute the water. The sector also generates almost 2/3 of the ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain and acidification of ecosystems.
The number of animals produced for human consumption also represents a threat to the biodiversity of the Earth. The livestock constitutes 20% of the total terrestrial animal biomass, and the surface that it occupies today was formerly the habitat of wild species. In 306 of the 825 ecoregions classified by the World Wide Fund for Nature, factory farming is currently considered a "threat." According to Conservation International's list, 23 of the 32 world zones of high concentration of biodiversity are affected by a severe loss of habitats as the result of the effects of livestock production.
When we consume food from factory farms, we are at the same time consuming the cruelty and the damage behind the industry. Is it worth it to destroy part of the planet by eating a piece of meat or drinking a glass of milk? Because, while you may not have the knowledge or the technical expertise to be able to mitigate or manage the pollution, there is an alternative much easier and healthy for all: stop eating meat or at least eat less (like me, because baby steps). Without demand, there is supply. Ourselves, as independent and rational human beings, should make the right choice on food consumption instead of being misled by a price tag.