Agriculture Reference
In-Depth Information
disproportionately affect minority and low-
income communities (Bowen and Wells, 2002).
Though there were laws in place as early as
the 1964 Civil Rights Act to prevent environ-
mental injustices, many communities have
dealt with unequal distribution of environmen-
tal pollutants or been closed out of political pro-
cesses. Historically, many environmental justice
issues dealt with the zoning of toxic waste facili-
ties and pollution exposure (Harvey, 1996).
Studies have found that communities of colour
or lower socio-economic status have greater
exposure to a range of environmental pollut-
ants including air pollution (Carson et al ., 1997)
and hazardous waste (Mohai and Saha, 2007).
Other studies have also found that this exposure
or proximity to pollution is associated with
increased health issues including cancer preva-
lence and mortality (Brulle and Pellow, 2006),
though it is difficult to demonstrate that such
exposures directly cause these health issues
(Wakefield and Baxter, 2010).
issue if they are concentrated in regions that dis-
proportionately affect a group of people. Some
research suggests that CAFOs are more fre-
quently located in lower socio-economic and
non-white communities (Durrenberger and Thu,
1996; Wing et al ., 2000; Mirabelli et al ., 2006).
One animal-producing region that has
received significant attention for environmental
justice concerns is North Carolina, where a
large number of pig farms are located. In 2008,
North Carolina was the second hog-producing
state up from the 15th in 1985 (Wing et al .,
2000). At the same time, the number of small
farms (fewer than 1000) dropped from more
than 80% of total operations in 1993 to 40% in
2007 while the total number of operations over
4000 hogs rose from less than 10% to approxi-
mately 50% (National Hog Farmer, 2008). The
concentration of hog farming into larger facili-
ties was also followed by a concentration of facil-
ities in the coastal plain region with characteristic
low-lying flood plains and high water tables.
Studies have found that the location of
these facilities throughout eastern North
Carolina is not uniform; large-scale hog opera-
tions or CAFOs were disproportionately located
in communities with higher poverty levels and
higher proportions of non-white residents. In
particular, the combination of high poverty and
non-white resident populations resulted in the
greatest concentrations of CAFOs. The charac-
teristic liquid manure pools used in large-scale
pig farming, in addition to the airborne emis-
sions from these facilities, have created signifi-
cant issues throughout the region. There is
documentation of groundwater contamination
from hog facilities in the region as well as a host
of public health impacts (CDC NCEH, 1998).
Following Hurricane Floyd in 1999, lagoons
throughout the region burst or spilled their
waste into local water systems, threatening pub-
lic drinking water supplies and causing signifi-
cant environmental damage (Kilborn, 1999).
However, while these impacts are dispro-
portionately affecting low-income and non-
white residents, the issue has been difficult to
address in the community. The hog farmers
themselves usually produce pigs on a contract
through a large company, making on average
slightly more than US$29,000 annually in
2006 (Employment Security Commission of
North Carolina, 2006). This limits the ability of
Environmental justice
concerns in agriculture
Environmental justice is an important topic
to consider for animal agriculture, as agri-
culture can produce air and water pollutants.
Greenhouse gas emissions as well as other toxins
including hydrogen sulfide, particulates, ammo-
nia and dust are potential concerns from animal
facilities. Nutrients and inputs used in agricul-
ture including synthetic fertilizers, manures and
pesticides in excess can affect water systems and
drinking water supplies. For communities located
in agricultural regions, agriculture can provide
significant economic benefits; however, agricul-
ture can also contribute to environmental and
human health concerns.
In some agricultural regions, particularly
those that have concentrated animal feeding
operations (CAFOs), residents have reported
adverse health impacts including higher inci-
dences of stomach and respiratory issues (Wing
and Wolf, 2000; Merchant et al ., 2005; Mirabelli
et al ., 2006). Odours are also a potential problem
for residents living near livestock facilities,
potentially affecting the health of communities
as well as their quality of life (Thu, 2002). These
pollution issues can be an environmental justice
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