Bob's Links and Rants

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006


I just got back from the local Sierra Club meeting. The Sierra Club's State Legislative Director, Gayle Miller, discussed concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO's). These factories (it is unfair to farmers to call them "farms") house thousands to hundreds of thousands of cows, pigs or chickens in tightly confined quarters, with grates for floors. The waste from these animals contains not only urine and feces, but also blood, other body fluids, body parts, antibiotics, and more. It is collected in open lagoons for weeks or months, and then is generally sprayed in liquid form on fields. The fumes are not only horrible to smell, but are outright dangerous (far worse than ordinary farm smells). And when the manure is sprayed on snow or frozen fields, it all goes running into local streams and rivers, as it does if it is sprayed shortly before rain. Miller showed a video, "Living a Nightmare," which is available for $10 from the Sierra Club.

CAFO's are a serious threat to public health and the environment, not to mention a humanitarian disaster for the animals. Miller indicated that a lot of Michigan's over 200 CAFO's are owned by Dutch companies (?!), and run as franchises. And while small farmers, especially those close to a CAFO, strongly oppose them, they have the backing of the powerful Farm Bureau, which apparently has most of the Repugs in the state legislature in its pocket. State Repugs are planning on introducing bills tomorrow to make it even easier to run a CAFO in the state, even though the industry is almost totally unregulated already. Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm is expected to veto those bills, but apparently at some political cost. (She's up for re-election this fall.) Meanwhile, our local state senator Liz Brater, who was at the meeting tonight, is going to introduce a slate of bills intended to regulate CAFO's. She says that the votes aren't there to pass these, yet, but that the elections in November might change that.

So--Michigan readers who would like to protect our air, water and health should do the following:
  • Contact your representatives in the state legislature, asking them to oppose the Republican bills which protect CAFO's and to support Brater's bills which protect people;
  • Find out who is running for the legislature in your district, preferably in the primaries as well as in November, and be sure to support the anti-CAFO candidate;
  • Buy the video and share it with friends, or otherwise support the Sierra Club's efforts to regulate CAFO's in Michigan.
Readers elsewhere should know that CAFO's are a problem nationwide, and even in other countries, so there's probably something you can do. And eating less or no meat is always a good idea if you care about the environment.

Oh, a nice personal note: Local Sierra Club chairman Doug Cowherd came up to me after the meeting to say he reads this blog and enjoys it! Thanks, Doug.