LEWIS, MADELINE MARIE, “The Negative Environmental Consequences of the Animal Agriculture Industry and the U.S. Policies in Place to Protect It.” Environmental Policy Program, Union College, Schenectady, New York, March 2017. ADVISOR: ANDREW MORRIS
With the increase in the amount of animal agricultural mega-farms since the 1980’s, the U.S. federal and state governments have set up legislation to sustain the industry and to protect its operations from being interrupted by any means. However, animal agriculture presents some dangerous environmental consequences through natural resource use, pollution, and degradation, as well as human health and animal welfare issues. Because of these harmful practices and the desire to keep them hidden from the public, activists have been working for decades to expose and challenge these practices to make people aware of the external costs associated with their food choices. In some cases, such as that of the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company, companies have gone bankrupt; in others, new regulations have been proposed on the industry. As a result, the animal agriculture industry has pushed, and gotten passed, legislation preventing activists from exposing or disrupting industry practices. Two forms of legislation in place to protect the industry will be examined in this paper. The first is known as Right-to-Farm laws and, in some cases, state constitutional amendments, which prevent anyone from interfering with an animal operation by means of trespass, vandalism, lawsuits, or proposed regulations and laws. The second type of legislation is known as “ag-gag” laws which specifically prevent whistleblowers from exposing any practices conducted at an animal facility. Through these forms of legislation, the industry is able to use its economic and political power to continuously produce animal products without any interferences, at cheap prices, and with practices that abuse animals, harms human health, and degrades and destroys our environment.