Last weekend, we spent some time at the Oregon Convention Center. The picture above had us curious about the “Smart” Energy program that the HUGE, impressive convention center was using. I posted this picture on Facebook, and some of you shared links with me about the program. I did some reading, and this is what I found…
The photo makes it look so beautiful. The cow (the teat-less dairy cow, mind you) is enjoying the blue sky (in Oregon-ha!). There’s an old-fashioned red barn in the background, but the cow isn’t kept inside. Somehow, this happy cow that apparently had a quadruple mastectomy, is living in its’ cow-ness, producing energy for a large building that is over 100 miles away. It sounds like magic!
The picture isn’t true. First of all, I guarantee you, that cow’s teats were photo-shopped out. No biggie though…that’s not the major issue here. The big deal is that the cows–these cows–are not out under the blue sky…or even a grey sky, considering the fact that it’s Oregon. They’re not under the sky at all. One article I read said:
“….1,750 cows, which graze on the family’s farmland….”
And I wondered,how in the heck are they capturing the cows’ manure, across their 360 acres that the cows are supposedly grazing on? I kept reading, and found out that “currently” (meaning, before the big energy-saving project went into effect),
“all the raw manure — about 78,000 gallons a day — is collected in a pit, where the solids and liquids are separated via a roller system….”
Now, I have only been farming about 3 years, but you don’t have to be farming a long time to figure this out: cows are not litter box trained. Nope. Is that a shocker to y’all? You can’t train a cow to go drop its’ waste in a pit. It just doesn’t happen. The second thing I know, after only 3 years of farming? Farmers aren’t going to wander 360 acres scooping up cow manure for an energy saving program. It just isn’t going to happen. It wouldn’t be cost effective. Nope, these cows have to be penned up, in order to create this kind of “smart,” dare they call it “green” energy.
The article listed the farm’s address. I am not listing the farm in this post, because I do not want to blacklist the farm. The farmers are likely hard workers, just trying to make a living–caught up in an ugly system. I don’t think they’re “evil” people for doing what they’re doing…but I don’t agree with it, either. I’m going to show you a satellite photo of their farm, with road names and other information removed. I want to show you what’s really going on here.
And here are some closer views:
To be fair, maybe this satellite picture is a few years old and maybe the cows do graze now. Or maybe the photo was taken in an off season, or during milking hour….highly unlikely, but let’s just say maybe…Even still, how are they collecting all of that manure to use for energy? The cows would have to be penned up in one place to capture it all.
So what? Right? What’s the big deal? These confinement operations (CAFO’s) are bad on many levels:
1. For the environment (which impacts the quality of human life and health):
- There are generally high levels of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide found in the air around CAFO’s–higher than what is considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- CAFO’s pollute nitrogen into the groundwater.
- They leach estrogen and testosterone into the groundwater.
- They kill fish, create more algae and disrupt the bacterial balance in rivers and streams.
2. For human health:
- People who live near CAFO’s have significantly greater cases of allergies and asthma.
- There are higher rates of depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in areas near CAFO’s.
- CAFO’s leach antibiotics into the water supply, contributing to antibiotic-resistant super-bugs (which account for 70,000 deaths in the U.S. every year).
3. For the animal’s health:
- CAFO animals are fed cheap, government-subsidized corn and soy–2 foods that no cow, hog or chicken would eat in the wild.
- Animals are given feeds that cause them to grow much quicker than their bodies were intended to grow, which puts them at risk for organ damage.
- CAFO animals are at risk for acidosis.
4. For the economy:
- CAFO operations condense the money in a farming community to 1 single large farm, rather than dispersing the income among several small farms. Therefore, the money is less likely to be spent at various businesses in the community. Many towns with CAFO’s are declining or becoming “ghost towns.”
- Most CAFO’s are strategically placed in low-income areas were people who are not white live.
So why is this “Greenwashing”? Because it’s taking an operation that isn’t good for anyone and trying to make something good out of it. It sounds ok…but, let me think of an analogy. If you had a lot of dog poop in your backyard, because you had way too many dogs for a tiny yard, you wouldn’t turn the dog poop into chocolate pie, would you? Your kids would know the difference, don’t you think? Would you touch it? Would you want it in your bowls? It’s yucky. It’s stinky. It’s gross, no matter how much sugar you put into it. This CAFO system is wrong–and stinky–and environmentally and economically horrible. Why add sugar to it? It’s still going to stink. It’s not a smart program. A smart program would put cows on grass, where they’re meant to be.
Here is my family, in front of a cow that is advertising this “Smart” program.