Food safety group publishes maps to criticize large animal operations
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WASHINGTON, May 14, 2014 - They may be large family farms operated under the best accepted environmental practices, but according to a new interactive map released by the Center for Food Safety (CFS), these so-called concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are “animal factories” that could harm the environment and nearby communities.
In releasing a digital map of CAFO locations in Michigan, which CFS says will “serve as a model for other states,” the organization pinpoints individual farms and provides names and addresses. The map also details proximity to schools, hospitals and water supplies, the amount of government subsidies the operation receives (according to the Environmental Working Group's database), the amount of manure storage, permit numbers and any recorded violations.
For example, a dairy farm shows up on the website with an overview of the aforementioned data points, while images of manure, water pollution and a child wearing an asthma ventilator rotate nearby. The map allows viewers to zoom to the exact farm location.
“This map helps put these factories into the context of the communities they impact,” Paige Tomaselli, senior attorney for CFS, said in a release explaining the interactive map. “The industrial meat industry is trying to keep consumers in the dark, but these massive operations have significant impacts on the environment and overall health of a community. This map is designed to be a tool to help consumers and residents understand how these animal factories impact their lives.”
Farm and commodity organizations expressed concerns at the release of the map and related messaging, even though some state permitting agencies already provide the public with access to the CAFO registration information.
Don Parrish, American Farm Bureau Federation's senior director of regulatory relations, described the CFS effort as “not only mean, it's almost un-American.”
“This really is sad. It endangers the animals and it endangers the farmers and their families who are just trying to make a living,” said Parrish.
Chris Galen, a spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation, said CFS “apparently wants to brand some farms as ‘bad' simply because they are big, which itself is an arbitrary definition.” Oftentimes, large farms have the resources to use the latest innovations in animal welfare and sustainability, and can better deal with regulatory requirements, he said.
“These dairy operations are not like Michigan's famed auto factories; instead, they are overwhelmingly family businesses, where the owners live on the same land and are a part of the local communities,” Galen said.
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