During the Lenten season, one long-standing Christian tradition is abstaining from eating meat on Fridays. This is a means of honoring Jesus, who sacrificed his flesh for humanity on Good Friday. Many people have given up meat entirely in their lives; for some, the reason is due to the way farm animals are now mostly raised, the industrialization of agriculture. Each year in the US, approximately 71 billion animals are raised on about 25,000 factory farms, compared to 27 billion farms animals raised on traditional farms. The industry claims that factory farming is required to meet the needs of the world’s growing population. The Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) has embarked on a Sustainable Food & Farming project, which “dispels the meat industry’s myth that factory farms are necessary.”
Worldwide, half of all agricultural land is used to grow feed for farm animals. This translates to a moral failure since 82% of children who are undernourished live in countries where food is grown to feed livestock for consumption in wealthier countries. For a given area of land, plants offer 15 times more protein via direct human consumption compared to their use as feed for livestock. Another serious problem with factory farms is the massive amount of waste produced where large numbers of animals are raised in confined spaces. In Indiana, livestock generates 14 times more urine and feces (which is not treated) than the people in the state. Gas emissions from livestock significantly contribute to climate change, and nearly 80% of antibiotics used in the US are for farm animals to reduce the spread of disease. Another serious concern is the inhumane treatment of animals on many of the industrialized farms.
A full explanation of the HEC project, more details on the problems with factory farms, and practical solutions can be found online at https://www.hecweb.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Sustainable-Food-Farming-Forum-Citizen-Guide.pdf. One suggestion for addressing the problems of factory farms is to extend meatless Fridays, which used to be practiced throughout the year as a way many Christians honored Good Friday. These small sacrifices can greatly benefit the earth, Our Common Home, and its inhabitants, especially given that the industrialized means of farming is simply not sustainable.
Julie Peller Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~6 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work.