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Enough- Hold Companies Accountable for the Pollution and Harm They Cause

Pollution Can't Be the Cost of Doing Business

Americans are, perhaps by design, removed from the conditions of food production in our agricultural system. This has deep consequences, from the personal level with the consumption of highly processed and unhealthy foods bringing the resulting health issues like obesity and diabetes, to community impacts from the profound polluting done by these industries of natural waterways in the United States, to global greenhouse gas emissions from raising so many livestock. We’ve talked about both the individual health effects and the climate impacts, but today we’re focusing on pollution.

 A recent study from the Union of Concerned Scientists showed that Tyson Foods has dumped millions of​ pounds of toxic pollutants directly into our lakes and rivers over the past five years. These pollutants include millions of pounds of nitrogen, phosphorus, chlorides, oil, and cyanide, not to mention bacteria, feces, and other biological contaminants. The report estimated over 371 million pounds of pollution was released into US waterways across 17 states by just 41 Tyson plants. To make matters worse, with over 5000 animal processing plants in the US, this accounts for only 2% of the overall system, and the vast majority of these companies in the industry have no reporting requirements for what they dump into our lakes, rivers, and streams.

 These lax regulations are, unsurprisingly, a result of strong industry lobbying efforts to politicians arguing in favor of looser regulatory requirements and lesser oversight. In some local jurisdictions the pendulum has swung so far in favor of industry that it criminalizes many types of investigative oversight and whistleblowing on the operations of the animal agricultural industry. These Draconian methods for suppressing the reality of industry operations and keeping Americans from examining food production are of course because a majority are against the polluting practices and inhumane treatment found in these facilities, of both animals and people. Long hours and unsafe working conditionsillegally employing young migrants and easily exploitable labor from vulnerable populations for dangerous jobs, on top of the rampant pollution and destruction of our environment are not supported by the wider populace.

This is an ongoing tragedy in our system, but in this moment, we have an opportunity to affect the future course, and scale, of some of these horrible polluting and exploitative practices. The EPA is updating its pollution standards and regulations of animal slaughterhouses and processing facilities in the aftermath of a 2017 lawsuit by environmental groups. The agency is currently considering several regulatory regimes, ranging from stricter, stronger enforcement rules favored by environmental experts to better protect waterways, downstream communities, and threatened habitats, and a laxer set of rules favored by the industry. Industry lobbying efforts are currently winning the day, with the EPA saying it’s leaning towards the weaker regulatory standards, but discussions are still ongoing, with the new rule expected in September of 2025.

Before the EPA finalizes it’s decision, now is the time to register your opinion in favor of the stricter pollution standards, both directly with the EPA, and with your member of Congress. We need to register our voices and raise the profile of this issue to get the political levers turning. At the same time, we will need organized, economic power to contend with the strong lobbying efforts displayed by the agriculture industry. Only with both avenues of power working in concert cant we beat the industry and clean up our waterways. So, join us each Tuesday in growing solidarity, as we fight for a cleaner, safer world, in which pollution and illegal dumping are not just the cost of doing business, but practices that are no longer tolerated in producing our food.

Don't shop on Tuesday.

t practices that are no longer tolerated in producing our food. Don't shop on Tuesday

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