Guest Column: CAFOs endanger human health by breeding disease

By James Wilson

Albert Einstein said: “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of the Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet. If the whole world adopts vegetarianism, it can change the destiny of humankind.”

I believe this has more meaning today than it did 70 years ago, mainly because of the invention of those Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), where animals are raised indoors or in feed lots in filthy conditions, which is a breeding ground for disease. A Consumer Reports study found that 70 percent of all CAFO chickens are infected with salmonella or campylobacter. And 66 percent of the grain raised in the U.S. goes toward feeding those animals. The EPA acknowledges that CAFOs are the leading cause of our soil and water pollution because they generate three times the amount of human waste, which goes untreated. It’s just piled up, left in lagoons or dumped on the ground. And a United Nations report stated that these CAFOs contribute more toward global warming than do all the car emissions. Today, CAFOs provide 98 percent of the meat available. Ten billion animals are slaughtered every year.

Before CAFOs, we didn’t have to fear mad cow disease, swine flu, bird flu, salmonella or E. coli contamination because the animals were raised organically, outdoors, free range and ate what nature provided. Nowadays, we have recalls and are advised to prepare all meats well done to kill any contaminates on which the USDA has not yet set limit standards. Even the vegetable recalls have been traced back to contamination from neighboring CAFOs.

Prior to the invention of CAFOs, people didn’t eat as much meat and consequently didn’t suffer from near the amount of heart problems, cancers and obesity as we do today. The USDA recommends 5 ounces of meat per day, which health experts say is the maximum amount of saturated fat we can consume per day without doing any harm, yet their own studies have shown that the average American is eating twice that much. Which is not surprising when you see fast food ads for double- and triple-patty burgers and buckets of chicken, which are two and three times the recommended amount.

Study after study has shown that vegetarians don’t have near the health problems as non-vegetarians. Dr. Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine ( said, “The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all the natural disasters, and all the automobile accidents combined.” The CDC reports 631,000 deaths annually to heart disease, and the AMA says that the majority of those is because of diet. The American Cancer Society says that 165,000 people die each year as a result of diet-related causes.

The bottom line is, if everyone adopted a vegetarian diet, we would all be much healthier, our health care costs would go down, there would be more food available to feed the hungry simply because the grain used to feed CAFO animals could feed a whole lot more people than you can with the meat. There would be less global warming, less pollution, and vegetarians don’t litter.

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James Wilson, a retiree, is a vegetarian and is not on any medication whatever. He lives in Speed, Ind.

From the June 16-22, 2010 issue

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