Why Industrial Chicken Production is Wrong
Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns
We hear a lot about the destructive effects of large-scale cattle grazing on the environment, much less about the destructive effects of industrial chicken and egg production. In fact, the chicken industry is a major source of environmental degradation in the United States and elsewhere. Industrial chicken production kills fish and other wildlife. It dumps arsenic into the soil and water and makes chickens and humans sick with bacterial and viral diseases including Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Avian Influenza
In nature, chickens range in small flocks over broad, verdant areas contributing to the health and beauty of the land. In chicken factory farming, thousands of birds are crammed together in polluted buildings filled with disease organisms and toxic gases. The nitrogen in chicken droppings, which nourishes the land in small amounts, transforms into poisonous ammonia gases in industrial chicken houses. Chicken house pollution spreads into the surrounding environment. Poultry researcher Donald Bell notes for instance that each agribusiness complex holding a million caged hens produces "125 tons of wet manure a day." Where does it go?
On the Eastern seaboard of the United States, the destruction of the Chesapeake Bay by the chicken industry has been watched for decades, but regional politics has given the industry a free hand. More attention is now being paid as the Chesapeake Bay continues to deteriorate into Dead Zones where nothing can live. The PBS television program Frontline aired a depressing documentary, "Poisoned Waters," on April 21, 2009, showing what the chicken industry's license to pollute has led to. The chicken industry blames the growing human population in rural areas, claiming that "What the Bay needs is better sewage treatment, not fewer chicken farms." 5,600+ chicken houses comprising 6.5 million chickens - 30,000 birds per house - surround the Chesapeake Bay producing 750,000 tons of manure each year. Where does it go?
Karen Davis's talk provides an in-depth look at the environmental and related human health and animal welfare issues arising out of industrial chicken and egg production and recommends what people can do to help chickens and the planet.
Correction: In my interview I mistakenly referred to the Influenza pandemic that took place during World War One as having occurred during World War Two. The Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918, also known as the "Spanish Flu," swept across the globe during World War One killing 30 to 100 million people. "The 1918 pandemic littered the Earth with millions of corpses. . . . Evidence now suggests that all pandemic influenza viruses - in fact all human and mammalian flu viruses in general - owe their origins to avian influenza" (Michael Greger, MD, Bird Flu, pp. 11,13).
Karen Davis is the founder and president of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. She is the author, most recently, of the Newly Revised Edition of her 1996 groundbreaking book Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs: An Inside Look at the Modern Poultry Industry (Book Publishing Company, 2009).