Animals confined: ‘EE-I-EE-I-No!’

Published 10:56 pm Saturday, March 4, 2006

By Staff
Once upon a time, Old MacDonald had a farm.
Pigs, chickens, cows and ducks roamed the pastures, picking up earthworms and delighting the kids with nests of eggs, broods of piglets and a calf or two.
The windmill creaked at night and owls sailed across the moon, dropping to the ground just in time to rid the family farm of some pesky mice.
Now, his two errant sons, the MacDonald(s) brothers have forsaken those old-time lifestyles and decided to open 100s of places to eat where they could just buy 3 billion pounds of beef a year from “farms” that reek of a week's worth of stagnant manure and whole cattle never see the light of day, let alone hear the “hoot-hoot” of any owl.
It's called Confined (or “Concentrated”, to give it a little gentler touch) Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO). If that sounds like a farm to you, raise your hand.
At least two are maneuvering for locations in Northern Indiana, and Michigan is replete with them which were operating under few if any regulations until the Michigan Sierra Club, seeing no action by Michigan regulatory entities to set some ground rules.
Neighbors, those who care about water quality and eaters of CAFO food have every reason to be concerned.
It's possible for “farms” to “come of age”, so to speak, but let's face it, this represents big time, industrial-style meat production. No farm here.
Today's eaters of “fast food” hamburgers are more than partially responsible for animal production that resembles jail time for life for four-footed animals… animals whose normal, natural lives would be spent with sun on their backs, clean water to drink and a friendly touch from the farmer and his kids once in a while. What in the world is happening to our farms?
Here is how a young man described his job inside a typical CAFO barn: “Before we enter the CAFO, we have to go through a rigorous scrubbing, for if a deisease is introduced, the whole herd of animals could die. The crowded conditions invite infestation and disease … a giant pipe pours raw feces into a lagoon; most vegetation is dead or dying around the lagoon. The entire contents of the lagoon is spread on a field nearby…”
At a Hudson, Vreba-Hoff CAFO, underground tiles carry waste and manure run-off, all of it likely to contain a residue of pesticides, antibiotics, synthetic drugs and hormones , to nearby Fisher Lake. An open ditch carries run-off to a wetland and then to Fisher Lake.
A 10 million gallon sewage lagoon is adjacent to drains and ditches leading to the waters of the state” This animal septic system does not get tertiary treatment as takes place at urban septic systems before it is allowed to run into streams or low spots.
Now, possible Vreba-Hoff expansion into Northern Indiana, extending this type of animal production, has caused legitimate unrest in St. Joseph County.
Governor Mitch Daniels needs to think about the need for one of these CAFOs “in every county of the state of Indiana.”
Family doctor Leland Wolf practicing in Hudson insists that the CAFOs are also a human health nuisance. He treats partients near the Vreba-Hoff facility for difficulty in breathing, nausea, chronic bronchitis, diarrhea and asthma.
Anne Woiwode, director of the Mackinac Sierra Club chapter, who has been leading the charge to better regulate CAFO production for both environment and health reasons, has said “The concentrated production of some of the state's meat, dairy and poultry producers comes at an enormous cost to public health, to local farm economies, and to the water and air quality of our state, including the Great Lakes themselves.”
Unfortunately, Michigan CAFO owners have not seen much value to the environmental oversight by the Sierra Club of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). They fail to recognize that if they're doing that job thoroughly themselves, no oversight from outside would be necessary.
They want the Michigan Department of Agriculture to step in and take over checking up on CAFOs … a department that is decidedly supportive of the new, industrial-style production.
If this issue were just a production decision, we might have not have such a problem with it. But this is a situation where the final meat, milk or egg product raised in such facilities is being eaten by you and/or your neighbors! This stuff is headed to our dinner tables and our restaurants.
We are expected to eat meat and milk, and get healthy on it! We DO have a voice in the way the food we eat is produced.
Some consumers are willing to come straight to the farm and buy pasture-fed and organically raised beef, without all the extra chemicals, because they have put at the top of their list the support for appropriately-raised animals and good health for themselves and their children.
Can families tour a CAFO, watch ducks on a pond or take a ride on a pony? CAFOs are locked encampments of animals. The CAFO “manager” is often non-existent.
We should be saying “no” to this type of industrial agriculture by passing by the fast food outlets which create markets for such massive, concentrated fast food animal production.
Keep the food cheap and keep it in front of a family's TV screen 20 times a day, and it'll sell. Yes, it will, but look what has to happen before it gets to your table. Some traditional farmers in Indiana are saying”no”, because they see health as well traditional, wise agriculture disappearing, but who is listening?
The Old MacDonald's type farm has no doubt crumbled to the ground hundreds of times in every state of the nation, and will never rise again. Or, we could let the new MacDonald's brothers (and others like them) know that we still want an “oink-oink here and a moo-moo there”, not the chemical milk and meat that arrives at our stores and restaurants, guaranteed “fresh from the CAFO.”
PS. Watch out, moms and dads. Latest “new food” news. The Cattleman's Beef Board plans a new kids' food - “cheeseburger fries … breaded cheese and hamburger that looks like fish sticks… that would be a hit with the kids.”
Another healthy product from the fast food kings of beef and cheese? And another reason to fast-pace the production of beef to fill the orders destined to wow the kids?