Air pollution is killing 3.3 million people a year worldwide, according to a new study, but there’s an exterminator that is often overlooked by mainstream media: farming.
When farming kills
Scientists in Germany, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia and Harvard University have calculated the most detailed estimates to date of the toll of air pollution, looking in particular at the causes behind it.
In Northeastern U.S., all of Europe, Russia, Japan and South Korea, agriculture is the No. 1 cause of soot and smog deaths, according to the study. Worldwide, it’s No. 2.
Yet, in spite of the huge amounts of animal waste that factory farms produce, they have largely escaped pollution regulations; loopholes in the law and weak enforcement share in the blame, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Lead author of the study, Jos Lelieveld of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany, reinforced this point, stating that agricultural emissions are becoming increasingly important, but are very little regulated at the national and global level. Giant livestock farms, which can house an army of pigs, chickens, or cows, produce vast amounts of manure, often generating the waste equivalent of a small city, according to NRDC.
The United States is proud of its agricultural heritage, but what if you were told that the industry’s pollution killed over 16,221 people in just one year?
A recent documentary, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, now available on Netflix, asks why most leading environmental organizations are ignoring one of the leading causes of environmental damage.
Growing food organically, making homes more water efficient, driving electric cars and installing LED lights will not make a difference unless we also confront the nightmares of animal agriculture.
According to the movie, animal agriculture uses 55 percent of the water in the U.S. and is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, while all forms of land, air and ocean transportation total only 13 percent.
Everyday, 144 million animals are killed for food worldwide. U.S. farm animals produce 7 million pounds of excrement every minute and the average American consumes 209 pounds of meat each year. This means that ammonia from fertilizers and animal waste is becoming a leading killer of ecosystems, wildlife and humans, while too many environmental groups are keeping their mouths shut.
Ranchers reacted to the documentary stating that the industry needs to “beef” up on their production facts “to help balance out the conversation about sustainability and animal agriculture”.
But this hasn’t stopped the film from triggering major behavioral change among young adults. The Cowspiracy Facebook page has almost 94,000 likes and a good number of people have declared an instant conversion to veganism after watching the documentary.
What do you think of Cowspiracy and the air pollution generated by animal agriculture? Share your views in the comments section below.