Factory farming creates lots of problems, not the least of which is cruelty to animals, but the list also includes ground water and soil contamination, the releasing of greenhouse gases, unsafe working conditions to laborers and the creation of “super bugs” from injudicious use of antibiotics.
The latest problem to emerge, or at least to be reported – as factory farm operations are very secretive about what goes on outside of public view, is exploding manure pits. Confined animals create a lot of waste, which is usually stored in lagoons, pits, or piles, resulting in a smelly mess that lowers the property values in the surrounding neighborhoods. When the waste decomposes one of its byproducts is methane, a gas much more harmful to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Unlike CO2, methane is flammable, and all it takes is a spark.
The Minnesota Daily reports that over half a dozen barns have exploded in the past few years and in an incident in September of 2011, over 1,500 pigs died in such an explosion. Part of the problem appears to be the food pigs are fed. Rather than the diet they would normally eat if allowed to roam free and forage, pigs are fed inexpensive grains that are harder to digest, which results in the release of higher quantities of gases including methane. And inexpensive grain is actually a fallacy, it is only inexpensive because of taxpayer subsidies that allow grain farmers to sell their product for less than it costs them to produce it.
Factory farms were once viewed as disasters waiting to happen. The waiting is over. The Union of Concerned Scientists has reported that when you take into consideration the “true” cost of factory farming including subsidies, environmental degradation, reduced property values, and the negative impact on public health, the only ones who really benefit from factory farms are corporations that put profits above morality.