Lawsuit Forces U.S. Gov. to Reduce Water Pollution from Slaughterhouses

After 20 years of lax regulation, the U.S. government may finally be cracking down on water pollution from slaughterhouses. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that it is strengthening its water pollution standards at slaughterhouses for the first time since 2004. 

The change comes after environmental groups claimed in a lawsuit that current water standards at slaughterhouses were too weak. In fact, according to EarthJustice attorney Manny Rutinel, 95 percent of these facilities aren’t subject to any federal water pollution standards. This is despite the devastating impact pollution from slaughter plants and factory farms has had on the environment and surrounding communities.

Environmental Impacts

Each year, slaughterhouses dump millions of pounds of feces, blood, and other contaminants into rivers and streams across the United States. In fact, slaughterhouses and meat-processing facilities are top industrial sources of phosphorus and nitrogen pollution, which promotes the growth of algae blooms. These blooms can make water unsafe for drinking or outdoor recreation and create oxygen-deprived zones that cause aquatic animals to flee or die.

According to an analysis by environmental protection organization Mighty Earth, America’s largest meat companies are to blame for the Gulf of Mexico dead zone. Huge meat companies have constructed slaughterhouses, processing facilities, and industrial farms in areas throughout the Mississippi River basin that are prone to flooding. As a result, tons of “untreated animal waste and other pollutants”—145 million tons in 2018 alone—wash off their factory farms and into the Mississippi River watershed, threatening local water sources and contributing to the algal blooms that help create the Gulf dead zone

Community Impacts

Industrial animal agriculture often victimizes the most vulnerable among us. In fact, according to the EPA, a stunning 74 percent of meat plants discharging waste into waterways are within one mile of low-income communities or communities of color. Not only does the waste from factory farms and slaughterhouses contaminate waterways, but nearby communities are forced to endure the stench and insects that come with these facilities. Emanie Dorival, a nurse practitioner who runs two clinics primarily serving immigrant chicken farm workers, stated:

The way I see it, every human being should have a right to clean air, water and food, without having to fight for that right.

By choosing plant-based foods, we can help stand up for the environment and vulnerable communities, as well as spare countless animals a lifetime of misery. Learn more about plant-based eating by downloading our FREE How to Eat Veg guide today.

Cover Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals Media