The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

Farm Animal Factories: An Abomination To Be Eliminated

DEAR READERS: This posting from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), authored with D. Lee Miller of Duke Law School’s Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, and Gregory Muren, is an important message for all:

“Corporate livestock facilities, known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), can threaten the health of communities and pollute our air and water.

“Manure from CAFOs contains more than 150 pathogens that have the potential to contaminate water supplies, while fumes and particulate matter elevate rates of asthma, lung disease and bronchitis among farm workers and people living nearby.

“Nitrates from animal manure poison drinking water sources and contribute to epic dead zones in sensitive aquatic habitats. To confine large numbers of animals in close proximity, many companies compensate for filthy conditions by using routine antibiotic regimens, and this, in turn, fuels the global crisis of antibiotic resistance.

“CAFOs are theoretically regulated by the EPA, under the Clean Water Act. However, a decade of NRDC research reveals that the EPA has left these health threats largely unmonitored. In fact, the EPA lacks basic information about most CAFOs, including their location, how many animals they confine, how much waste they produce and how they dispose of that waste. The NRDC is encouraging states to step into the federal gap, using an NRDC-designed permit to monitor and regulate CAFOs that endanger the health of their citizens and environment.”

This statement doesn’t mention the inherent animal cruelty and suffering of these animal-production systems. On that basis, as well as those enumerated above, we consumers must go beyond this proposed better regulation and monitoring by adopting more plant-based food sources for the good of all -- including our sickening planet. When it comes to cruel animal exploitation, an abolitionist position is appropriate, and preferable to a reformist one. Political expedience should not override fundamental bioethics, as per my book “Bringing Life to Ethics: Global Bioethics for a Humane Society.”

DEAR DR. FOX: I would like to know what the difference is between feral cats and pythons. They are both invasive species to North America and both decimating wildlife, yet are handled much differently.

We TNVR (trap/neuter/vaccinate/return) cats and put them right back out there to keep hunting and diminishing bird and small-mammal populations. Pythons, on the other hand, are caught and euthanized. I am in no way a cat hater, as I have five indoor rescues and 12 outdoor felines (that the people next door just left when their house was foreclosed upon). We feed them heavily, wet and dry, as to help keep them from hunting. They are all fixed and very docile.

The idea of just putting felines back where they were after fixing and tipping their ears -- what is the difference? -- M.H., Lake Worth, Florida

DEAR M.H.: Some people may ridicule you for comparing cats and pythons, but it is only human sentimentality and bad press that makes euthanizing one invasive species, and not the other, acceptable. I have spelled out my opinion concerning local animal shelters and so-called “humane” societies releasing cats considered unadoptable to fend for themselves, and accepting that they will kill wildlife, on my website ( This is also cruel to cats and is a public health issue. No cats should be allowed to roam free. We do not allow dogs to do so.

I am also opposed to people keeping any kind of nondomesticated “exotic” animal, especially reptiles and amphibians. The accidental escape or deliberate release of these animals has resulted in the spread of diseases that are decimating indigenous species across Europe and probably also in the U.S.


Dog owners could be fined up to $2,700 (AU $4,000) if they don’t walk their pets at least once a day under new legislation recognizing animals as sentient beings in the Australian Capital Territory. The territory is the first jurisdiction in Australia to recognize animal sentience.

The Animal Welfare Legislation Amendment Bill imposes a range of strict penalties in a bid to improve animal welfare. Owners can face heavy on-the-spot fines if they fail to provide basics like shelter, food and water. People who confine dogs for 24 hours must also allow them to move freely for the next two hours, or face prosecution.

There are no such laws yet in the U.S., and I feel sorry for the many dogs who are confined all day, rarely getting out or having any social contact with their own species. What is notable about this legislation is that animals are recognized as sentient beings -- a recognition that various animal industries, especially livestock, hunting and trapping, see as a threat to the status quo of animal exploitation.

(Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

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