Industrial Animal AgriculturE and Endangered Species


Industrial animal agriculture is a tremendous threat to clean air and water and a healthy environment more broadly. Over the past 40 years, animal agriculture in the United States and internationally has grown and changed from smaller, diversified farming systems to industrialized operations that concentrate hundreds to thousands of animals in one confined location to be raised for meat, eggs and dairy.

Replacing the balance of organic nutrient production and beneficial cropping practices with this systematized production model has produced a variety of environmental harms.   


The Center believes sustainability must be about more than just the bottom line and what we can take from the environment and from other species. It needs to be about sharing the planet and creating a livable future for all of us who live on the Earth.

We're working on both national and local levels to address ongoing harm to wildlife and communities from industrial animal agriculture. At the national level, we're seeking to improve federal safeguards to watchdog the factory-farming industry. At the local level, we work with communities across the country to fight for their right to clean air and water and healthy ecosystems.

On all levels the Center is working hard to educate the public and government officials about the significant risks that communities and imperiled species face from dangerous industrial animal agricultural practices. Our objective is to protect biodiversity and human communities from the pollution of these systems while promoting a deeper understanding of the complex ties between human health and the health of other species.

Dangers to Air and Water Resources

Industrial animal operations release a variety of air pollutants from their confinement barns or feedlots, waste-management systems, and land-application areas. These noxious pollutants (including ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, harmful odorants, and the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide) can significantly impair air quality.

Due largely to the conventional design of industrial animal operations, such facilities can discharge a variety of harmful pollutants into ground and surface waters through runoff, seepage, deposition, and intentional or emergency releases. These pollutants (which include pharmaceutical residues, pathogens, nitrogen and phosphorus nutrients, heavy metals, and organic matter and solids) degrade water resources and destroy the aquatic habitats on which many species rely. Pharmaceuticals — such as antibiotics and hormones — are commonly used by animal agricultural industry to prevent illness and promote animal growth, and these dangerous practices put species and communities at continuing risk for health problems such as endocrine disruption and antibiotic resistance. 

Climate Change, Excess Water Use and Habitat Destruction

Industrial animal agriculture also drives climate change, consumes an immense amount of freshwater resources, and can devastate wildlife habitat. Industrial animal operations rely on a constant stream of cheap commodity crops, such as corn and soy, to feed the huge populations of farm animals they confine. These commodity crops — also often grown on an industrial scale — cause additional secondary environmental harms such as habitat fragmentation, pesticide use, water degradation and soil erosion.


Turkey feedlot photo by MPCA Photos/Flickr