Connecting Themes & Recommendation for Action: Incorporating Animal Welfare into Sustainability Studies

Water pollution caused by animal agriculture is a major problem that people worldwide need to acknowledge and work together to mitigate. Water is contaminated with manure that comes from confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), which are also known as factory farms. Factory farms intensively produce and slaughter animals at an alarming rate and mass scale in order for humans to consume meat, eggs and dairy. 1 million tons of manure are produced per day on factory farms in the UnitedStates alone, which is three times the amount produced by U.S. citizens per year.[1] 

Factory farms do not have adequate space to safely store this overwhelming large amount of manure. The manure is put inside open air lagoons that are usually the size of several football fields, and are prone to leaks, spills, and over flooding.[2] The risks of over flooding will increase as climate change continues to exacerbate the scale of natural disasters. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew flooded at least 14 open air lagoons,resulting in manure entering surrounding water, as well as the drowning of tens of thousands, if not millions of farm animals.[3]The same type of damage took  place as a result of Hurricane Florence this past September.[4]The animals on factory farms are left to drown since they are seen as mere objects made for profit, as opposed to the living beings they are, whose lives have value in themselves. In addition to risks of manure in open air lagoons entering surface water, manure also enters groundwater through infiltration as excess manure is used as fertilizer. The water pollution caused by animal agriculture leads to a variety of serious human health issues including antibiotic resistance and diseases, as well as environmental health issues including eutrophication and biodiversity loss.[5]

The animal agriculture industry is fueled by the demand for cheap meat and other animal products, as well as the corporate control the industry has over the government. Thus, it is vital that people do their part to stop funding the animal agriculture industry. If the industry receives less profit, the government may react to this drop in demand by removing the subsidies that power the industry and allow it to avoid internalizing externalized costs like environmental injustice, water pollution, and violation of animal welfare.Consumers can take a stand against the industry by refusing to give it financial support through reducing their intake of animal products, or better yet, switching to vegan diets. However, we do not only have a responsibility to change our own diets, but we all must educate others on the externalities of the animal agriculture industry. We must have people take personal responsibility for the cruel and unsustainable industry that benefits from the consumption of animal products.

Increasing awareness of the issue and making people want to reduce their intake of animal products will take a huge systematic shift in the way people view the animals that produce their meat, dairy, and eggs. Many people are trained from a very young age to dissociate their appreciation for animals from what is on their plates. People often view pigs, cows and chickens as objects that produce animal products, while they view dogs and cats as animals that deserve happy lives. Thus, in order to reduce or eliminate people’s support of factory farms,we need to educate people on how animals on factory farms are just as sentient and deserving of our consideration as the dogs and cats we care for. One way this can be done is to get the government to repeal Ag-Gag Laws, which silence whistle blowers who take pictures or record footage of the abuse, as well as environmental hazards take take place on factory farms.

I propose that the integration of consideration of animal welfare into the framework of the field of sustainability is a vital, and logical step to increase awareness of issues related to factory farming. The process of determining whether something’s initiatives, actions, or impacts are sustainable involves examining effects on economics, social justice, and the physical environment. I claim that animal welfare must be incorporated as part of the social sector of sustainability.This would likely have two main impactful effects, with one being that it would help eliminate the false idea that animals on factory farms are mere objects humans can use at their disposal for profit and taste. Rather, it would put them in a more accurate light of being individual sentient creatures deserving of moral consideration. The incorporation of animal welfare into the field of sustainability would also most likely result in environmental nonprofits fighting against the injustices of animal cruelty. The environmental movement has garnered public support in recent years as the threat of climate change has become more known, and it could use this attention to expose the injustices taking place on factory farms. This increased exposure will increase the population of people who feel they can no longer eat meat and animal products for ethical reasons.

One way to get the sustainability and environmental movements to include animal welfare in their scope of consideration is to include the topic of animal cruelty in university and graduate programs on Sustainability Studies. Increasing numbers of academic institutions are offering degrees in the area of Sustainability Studies including Muhlenberg College, Columbia University, and Tufts University to name just a few. By incorporating animal welfare into the social sector of sustainability at colleges and universities, the upcoming members of the environmental movement will not only be more likely reduce their intake of meat and other animal products, but will also have the passion, tools, and knowledge on how to bring this awareness to others. Animal Welfare edited by Michael C. Appleby, J, and Animal Liberation by Peter Singer are books that would be useful to have students read as they study animal welfare within the scope of sustainability.  Animal Welfare is a textbook that provides an introduction to key topics addressing the welfare of farm, companion and zoo animals. The textbook covers a variety of topics including ethics, animal pain, social conditions of animals, solutions to welfare issues, and so much more.[6]  It is vital for students to read Animal Liberation, by Peter Singer as it exposes the realities of what takes place on factory farms, and addresses the problems associated with the illogical justifications people offer for exploiting animals. Since the book’s original publication in 1975, people have been awakened to the existence of speciesism,which is discrimination based on species membership. Speciesism involves treating animals belonging to a certain species as morally more important than animals belonging to another species, despite their interests being equivalent.[7] Through students in academic programs in Sustainability Studies reading these books, they will be more understanding of the necessity to to consider animals within the social scope of sustainability.

A necessary way to measure the success of the integration of animal welfare into Sustainability Studies is to measure the increase of organizations in the environmental movement that are addressing animal cruelty. An increase in the scale at which the environmental movement advocates on behalf of animals will lead to the public being more aware of the consequences of their food choices. If more people are changing their diets, reducing the number of states with Ag-Gag laws, and exposing the truth about what happens inside factory farms environmental advocates will not only be taking a stand against animal cruelty, but also mitigating the harmful water pollution that comes along with it.

[1] “Factory Farming and the Environment,” Farm Sanctuary, accessed December 06, 2018,

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Hurricane Florence Could Flood North Carolina With Tons of Pig Sh*t,” Mercy For Animals, September 12, 2018, accessed December 08, 2018,

[4] Ibid.

[5] Niesenbaum, R., Sustainable Solutions: Problem Solving for Current and Future Generations, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018).

[6] Michael C. Appleby, AnnaOlsson, and Francisco Galindo, Animal Welfare, 3rd ed. (Wallingford, Oxfordshire: CABI, 2018).

[7] Peter Singer, Animal Liberation (London: Bodley Head, 2015).

Entrepreneurial Solution: Vegan Consultation Service

Water pollution caused by animal agriculture threatens both the health of aquatic environments and that of humans. As long as meat and other animal products continue to be produced on such a massive scale, excessive amounts of manure will continue to be produced and enter waterways. Farms producing all types of animal products contribute to this issue. One way to address the problem is to get consumers to eliminate their consumption of animal products, or at least reduce their consumption of them. If enough people decide not to give money to the industries creating the problem, or at least decrease their spending on products from these industries, the animal agriculture industry will lose its support. Additionally, if people stop demanding cheap meat and other animal products, the government will notice this reduction in demand and stop subsidizing these harmful industries.  Thus, an entrepreneurial solution that reduces the rate of consumption of meat and other animal products has great potential to mitigate the problem of water pollution caused by animal agriculture.

As more people are becoming aware of the suffering of animals that takes place on factory farms, as well as the environmental and human health issues associated with animal agriculture, there will continue to be a rise in demand for vegan options at dining locations. Examples of such dining locations that may be experiencing this rise in demand is cafeterias and dining halls at schools and universities. As veganism becomes more popular, these dining locations will need to adapt to new preferences of their customers.

This demand for vegan option creates an opportunity for an entrepreneurial solution that provides vegan consultation services to dining locations at schools. As veganism, or simply reducing consumption of animal products is becoming more common, dining institutions at schools may not have the knowledge of how to prepare delicious and affordable vegan options to serve their customers. There is a common misconception that vegan options are always more expensive than their counterparts. The business will have professional vegan consultations provide information on affordable, healthy vegan foods, as well as vegan recipes that can be incorporated in the the menus of the dining institutions paying for the service.

This business offers its consultation serves to dining institutions located within schools that go all the way from elementary level to graduate level. The consultation service will be offered specifically to these institutions for two reasons. One reason for my choice is that the demand for vegan food is most prominent in younger populations. The current vegan population is made up mostly of young people. Close to half (42%) of all vegans are between the ages of 15 and 34, while only 14% of the vegan population is made up of individuals over 65.[1] Therefore, my business is targeted at locations where the demand of the population will be highest. This will will allow for maximum

profit. The second reason my the services of my business are aimed at younger people is to change the social stigma around veganism, starting with those in younger generations. In the today’s world, children are falsely taught from a young age that they must eat meat and other animal products to be strong and healthy. Eating animals and their secretions is normalized at a very young age as parents do not usually tell their children where a hamburger comes from. Children are taught to simultaneously love animals and also eat them, without giving it a second thought. This detachment from our food has caused people to be complicit with how their food is produced. Eating animal products is normalized, while eating a vegan diet is stigmatized.

This business model is meant to have the social impact of getting rid of the stigma around eating vegan meals. By the business increasing delicious, healthy vegan options at schools, it is showing the younger generations that eating vegan does not have to be expensive, exclusive, or bland. Rather, vegan meals can be made using recognizable, affordable ingredients that taste amazing. When children at an elementary school enjoy a vegan meal, they will see from a young age that meals do not have to contain meat or animal products to be delicious and nutritious. If we destigmatize eating vegan meals for younger generations, we have the power to change the mindset of what “normal” food is for future generations. Additionally, if young children enjoy a vegan meal at school and then tell their parents about it, their parents will be more likely to try new vegan foods themselves, as well as cook these foods at home.

Key partners of the business will be school districts, as well as food manufacturing companies. In order for schools to hire a vegan consultation service, they most likely will need approval from the school districts they are part of. Additionally, the business must partner with food companies that make affordable, vegan ingredients. These will be the food companies the business recommends school dining halls to buy ingredients from in order to make the recommended vegan dishes. Key resources include staff, who in this case would be knowledgeable vegan consultations, as well as informational material to give to participating dining halls. This informational material would include recipes, prices, as well as nutritional information of the dishes the consultants recommend.

A possible unintended consequence is parents of children at these schools getting angry about the change in food options being served at schools. However, this does not have to be an outcome if the business is executed properly. The consultation service provides advice and recipes to show schools how to prepare vegan options in their dining institutions. However, the schools receiving the service do not need to make all their food vegan. Rather, they will most likely simply be serving more vegan options using what they learned. Therefore, parents will see that their children are not being forced to drastically change their diets. Rather, they are simply being offered vegan options.

Another possible unintended consequence is that only wealthier school systems will be able to afford this service, while others may not be able to. I propose that this can be prevented in two possible ways. One way to make sure the service can be accessible to all is if the federal government, or even local governments were to subsidize the business as it promotes the health and wellness of students. Another way to ensure the service is not only accessible to the wealthy is if environmental and animal rights nonprofit organizations provide funds for schools to pay for the service. Thus, governments and nonprofits could serve as possible additional key partners.

If government subsidies and financial support from nonprofits allow for the service to be accessible to schools of different financial status, I claim that the business would be a sustainable solution. Not only would people belonging to different socioeconomic backgrounds have equal access to the service but, it would also promote the economic and environmental sectors of sustainability. Those providing the consultation would provide the tools to make vegan meals with affordable, healthy ingredients. Some of these meals have the potential to be cheaper than those made of animal products. Additionally, the promotion of vegan options would mean that the dining institutions will be spending less money buying meat and animal products. Thus, the industries creating the water pollution will be receiving less financial support.

[1] Sarah Marsh, “The Rise of Vegan Teenagers: ‘More People Are Into It Because of Instagram’,” The Guardian, May 27, 2016, accessed December 04, 2018,




Organizations and Institutions:The Good Food Institute

The Good Food Institute (GFI) is a non-profit organization that indirectly addresses the problem of water pollution caused by animal agriculture. GFI’s mission is to create “a healthy, humane, and sustainable food supply”.[1] On GFI’s website it says, “Imagine a food system where the most affordable and delicious products are also good for our bodies and the planet…We envision a world in which the vast majority of meat, dairy and eggs is plant-based or clean.”[2] Based on my systems thinking sketch and evaluation, one of the most significant solutions to mitigate the problem of water pollution caused by animal agriculture is to reduce the demand for cheap meat and other animal products. I argue that the work done by GFI is both sustainable and exactly the kind of work necessary to reduce this demand.

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GFI works to fulfill its mission in four main ways, one being by fostering innovation. It does this by doing outreach to top universities for synthetic and plant biology, entrepreneurship, and tissue engineering. This is done to encourage private, as well as public sector projects that advance plant-based or in-vitro products. GFI not only connects students and researchers to these projects, but also culinary experts, entrepreneurs, and food scientists. GFI also supports existing innovation projects by working with startups and established companies that are already working on, or promoting such products. GFI helps these companies become successful in the marketplace by giving them venture capital and strategic support. GFI also educates institutions such as corporations and governmental organizations on the benefits of plant-based and in-vitro animal products. Additionally, GFI promotes alternative products by collaborating with grocery stores, restaurants, and other foodservice companies.[3]

GFI hopes to promote delicious and affordable alternatives to animal products to reduce the demand for cheap meat, eggs and dairy. Such a decrease in demand is necessary for water pollution caused by animal agriculture to be mitigated. If most, if not all meat and other animal products no longer came from actual animals, there would not be excess manure entering waterways. Due to such a decrease in waste, manure would be able to be managed more effectively. Additionally, hormones and antibiotics, which pollute water and threaten human health, would no longer need to be used since animals would no longer need to be in unhealthy, concentration conditions.

In addition to benefiting the environment, the work done by GFI also promotes the economic sector of sustainability. It does this by supporting startups and existing companies that provide profitable opportunities that do not exploit people, animals, and the environment. Additionally, by working collaboratively with restaurants, grocery stores, and food service companies, GFI maximizes the quantity and quality of plant-based alternatives. Therefore, GFI’s work is not only aiming to help create sustainable products, but also to ensure that they are profitable and are able to succeed in the market. Without marketability, such products will fail and will not be able to compete with animal products.

One could argue that GFI’s work does not fully promote the social sector of sustainability. This is because the plant-based and in-vitro meat and animal product alternatives that GFI promotes is often more expensive than animal products currently on the market, making such products only accessible to the wealthy. However, animal products are so inexpensive because they are highly subsidized by the government as a result of corporate control, and the externalities of factory farming are not internalized in the price of the products. Additionally, the work being done by GFI is what is necessary in order to remove this injustice in the food system. For instance, GFI is supporting food scientists and researchers at top universities to make plant-based product technology, as well as in-vitro meat technology more efficient. As these technologies improve, the alternative products will become cheaper to make, making them cheaper to buy. Additionally, as these products become more popular, and the demand goes up, the government may react by subsidizing these sustainable technologies, as opposed to factory farming. When discussing in-vitro meat production, Peter Singer, a well known philosopher best known as one of the intellectual founders of the animal liberation movement, said, “When new technologies create products that people want, they cannot be resisted.”[4] While such a shift will take time and work, it is vital. The work done by GFI is bringing us closer to that goal.

Another way in which GFI’s work promotes the social sector of sustainability is its promotion of animal welfare. If animal product alternatives were to be embraced successfully in the marketplace, and the demand for animal products were to decrease, fewer animals would be raised on intensive factory farms that sacrifice animal welfare at the expense of profit. As animal welfare continues to become a rising concern for consumers, plant based and in-vitro alternatives will be necessary.

GFI is supporting institutions working on technologies to make alternatives to animal products environmentally beneficial, affordable, and profitable. Additionally, GFI is creating partnerships with numerous stakeholders including researchers, companies, the government, and consumers. Involving stakeholders in projects is a vital and necessary step to creating a sustainable solution. The collaborative and innovative work being done by GFI not only promotes sustainability, but is also necessary to mitigate the problem of water pollution caused by animal agriculture.

[1] “The Good Food Institute.” The Good Food Institute. December 31, 2017. Accessed November 01, 2018.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Singer, Peter. “Can Cultured Meat Save the Planet?” Leapsmag. October 26, 2018. Accessed November 01, 2018.


Systems Thinking

Systems thinking is an approach to analysis that involves looking at the different aspects of a problem holistically. It is based on the idea that various parts of a system interrelate, and therefore must be viewed and considered comprehensively. Systems thinking leads to finding connections that otherwise could not be discovered if a problem were not examined holistically.

Figure 1. Systems thinking sketch of water pollution cause by animal agriculture

Figure 1 displays the system of the problem of water pollution caused by animal agriculture. There are four aspects of the problem depicted in the figure: causes, solutions, limitations of the solutions, and those impacted by the solutions. Red arrows depict causal  relationships between parts of the problem. Arrows going from  solutions to an entity or  group impacted by the solution are marked with either a plus or minus sign. A plus sign signifies that it is a positive impact on the entity or group, while the minus sign signifies a negative impact on the entity or group.

Based on my sketch, the two causes that must be addressed in order mitigate the problem are large scale lobbying of industries that produce animal products, as well as the demand for cheap animal products. These two factors are the driving forces of the numerous other causes of the water pollution, and are also leading limitations of all the solutions. This is because lobbying of the animal product industry and demand for cheap animal products leads to the government providing massive subsidies to such industries. These subsidies give massive power to the animal product industry, leading to corporate control of the government. As long as the industry is wealthy and there is demand for cheap animal products, it will continue to raise animals industrially. If animals continue to be mass produced for their products at the current rate, excessive amounts of manure will keep polluting bodies of water.

The solutions of water pollution caused by animal agriculture are all limited by the corporate control the animal product industry has over the government. While this corporate control is in place, it is difficult to end the leading causes of the problem discussed above: lobbying of the industry and demand for cheap animal products. The industry is being overly subsidized, making it wealthy enough to hire lobbyists to advocate on its behalf. These lobbyists outnumber individuals and nonprofits lobbying in support of animal welfare and the environment. Additionally, the control the industry has over the government leads to legislation that limits transparency of factory farms. For instance, Ag-gag legislation makes it illegal to investigate and publicize activities of factory farms. Without the elimination of such legislation, most individuals will remain unaware of environmental and animal welfare issues of the industry, and will continue to support them through a demand for cheap animal products. Unless people are presented with images and video footage of the animal abuse and environmental hazards in factory farms, individuals are most likely to not feel morally obligated to take action.

Solutions must be based on the fact that the demand for cheap animal products and large scale lobbying of the industry lead to government subsidies that give the animal product industry excessive power. Corporate control simultaneously drives the other causes of the issue, and acts as a major limitation of the solutions. Thus, there is a vicious cycle of industry power and a lack of transparency. Therefore, through campaign finance reform, the government must stop subsidizing the animal product industry in order to eliminate the industry’s control, despite the large scale of lobbying done by the industry. Additionally, policy and regulation must be made to increase the transparency of the industry. If Ag-gag laws are eliminated, more people will have access to information about issues regarding animal welfare and environmental problems within the industry. The increase of education and awareness that would follow may decrease the demand for cheap animal products, and increase the demand for plant based options. It will be difficult to change this legislation, and simultaneously reduce the demand of cheap meat, due to the cyclical nature of the problem. However, it is possible if people who are already aware of issues associated with the industry use their knowledge and passion to spread awareness to individuals and elected officials. If society demands both the elimination of cheap animal products and increased transparency of the industry, policy and regulation must be put in place that will reduce the demand for cheap animal products.

All of the solutions in my sketch positively affect other countries, those who use or live near polluted water, farm animals, as well as marine and aquatic organisms. However, they negatively affect corporations and factory farm employees. However, I do not believe these negative consequences on corporations and their employees should prevent increased awareness and policy reform from taking place. While animal product industries may suffer as a result of increased consumer knowledge and a lack of government financial support, other industries that are more sustainable may flourish in their place. For example, industries researching and producing plant-based foods and in-vitro meat production may be in higher demand. The success of such industries is not merely economically beneficial, but also sustainable. Additionally, while factory farm employees may negatively benefit in the form of job loss, there will be an increase of jobs in market of plant-based foods. These jobs are not only more sustainable, but also safer and less emotionally damaging for employees.

The causes, solutions, limitations of solutions, and those impacted by solutions of water pollution caused by animal agriculture are deeply interconnected as depicted in my systems thinking sketch. Currently, there is a vicious cycle of corporate control of the government that decreases transparency and keeps the demand for cheap animal products high through a lack of consumer knowledge. In order to mitigate water pollution caused by animal agriculture, policy and regulation must be changed, as well as the subsidization of the animal product industry. While some corporations and individuals will me negatively impacted by these changes, the long term economic, social, and environmental benefits of the changes outweigh short term negative impacts.

Individual Actions

Animal agriculture threatens the environment in numerous ways, including contribution to water pollution. Water pollution from animal agriculture threatens aquatic environments and human health. The water pollution is a result of manure from factory farms entering groundwater and surface water through infiltration and runoff. Due to the large scale demand of cheap meat and other animal products, too much manure is produced on farms, preventing it from being properly managed. As a result, nitrogen and phosphorus from the manure enters and pollutes water. Excess nitrogen and phosphorus causes eutrophication in bodies of water, which leads to numerous problems for ecosystems including reduced biodiversity.[1] In addition to threats to the environment, water pollution from animal agriculture also pollutes drinking water. This threatens human health due to increased rates of illnesses and antibiotic resistance.[2] If people continue to demand cheap animal products at such a high rate, these problems will not be resolved. Therefore, less financial support from consumers and the U.S. government needs to be given to factory farms. In order to mitigate the problem, individuals can eliminate or reduce their consumption of animal products, donate to organizations researching in vitro meat, and lobby to reduce governmental support of factory farms.

Individuals hold power in how they choose to spend their money. Therefore, by practicing veganism and choosing to eliminate animal products from his or herdiet, someone is providing no financial support to factory farms. All types of animal agriculture result in waste that pollutes waterways. Therefore, even if someone simply reduces his or her consumption of animal products, he or she is making an impact. If enough people choose to

not financially support factory farms, or at least reduce their support, there will be reduced demand for cheap meat and animal products. A decrease in the number of animals raised on factory farms will reduce the amount of animal waste entering waterways.

In addition to eliminating or reducing animal product consumption, an individual can also mitigate the problem by donating to organizations researching in vitro meat production, also known as meat culturing technologies. This technology involves removing animal stem cells and using them to proliferate and grow more in cultures.[3] If meat were grown in this way, as opposed to on factory farms, animals would be taken out of the process of meat production, meaning there would be less manure polluting bodies of water. It would also simultaneously decrease the suffering of animals, as well as mitigate other environmental problems including climate change and deforestation. Individuals can take action by donating to organizations such as The Good Food Institute that fund research and development in this technology. Through donating money to such organizations, people can accelerate the rate at which in vitro meat can possibly phase out beef produced on factory farms.

While in vitro meat production sounds great in theory, it is currently unsustainable as it is extremely expensive, and therefore economically impractical. However, with increased funding for further research, it has the potential to be a feasible solution. Additionally, if the government were to

in vitro meat

subsidize such research, as well as the production of in vitro meat, it could be made more affordable, and therefore more accessible to people of all socioeconomic backgrounds. However, current in vitro meat production will not solve waste problems associated with the factory farming of animals besides cows raised for meat. Additionally, it will not effect the factory farming of animals used for products that are not meat including chickens and cows raised for eggs and dairy. For example, the manure produced on dairy farms would still pollute water even if all beef was grown in a lab. The same is true for waste produced on factory farms producing eggs. Therefore, increased use of in vitro meat production does not have as great as of an effect on reducing water pollution as eliminating your consumption of all animal products. However, if it becomes affordable, it can be used to encourage individuals who want to continue eating meat to replace at least some of their meat intake with a similar tasting alternative. One method to getting people to decrease their intake of meat is to have sustainable alternatives on the market. Also, plant based options made to replace eggs, dairy, and all types of meat including beef, chicken and fish are currently available, and are part of a growing market. These existing plant based alternatives, along with in vitro meat have the potential to reduce the demand for meat and other animal products.

An individual can also take action to mitigate water pollution caused by animal agriculture by lobbying against the U.S. government’s financial support of the industries producing meat and other animal products. Subsidies from the government to factory farms are what allow animal products to be sold so cheaply despite extreme externalities. If enough individuals lobby and make their voices heard, they can ask the government to subsidize sustainable alternatives such as in vitro meat production, as opposed to factory farms. However, this is difficult to accomplish as the meat industry also lobbies and holds so much influence.[4] If people work together, as well as with organizations working toward the same goals, individuals can use their voices to let politicians know that citizens are no longer accepting the negative effects of factory farming. Through eliminating or reducing their consumption of meat and other animal products, supporting organizations researching in vitro meat production, and lobbying for the government to end its support of factory farms, individuals can take actions to mitigate the problems associated with water pollution caused by animal agriculture.

Resources to guide individual action:

Support The Good Food Institute, which works with and funds those working on plant based meat and meat culturing technologies:

Learn from animal rights organizations like PETA on how to transition to veganism:

Learn about the Reducetarian Movement, which encourages people to reduce their consumption of animal products:

Learn how to get politically involved with the Sierra Club to fight factory farming:

Learn more ways to end factory farming:


[1] “Sources of Eutrophication.” World Resources Institute. Accessed September 20, 2018.

[2] Niesenbaum, R. 2018. Sustainable Solutions: Problem Solving for Current and Future Generations. Oxford University Press, New York. (Chapter 5).

[3] Niesenbaum, R. 2018. Sustainable Solutions: Problem Solving for Current and Future Generations. Oxford University Press, New York. (Chapter 5).

[4] Steve Johnson, “The Politics of Meat,” PBS, accessed October 11, 2018,


Problem Identification: Water Pollution Caused by Animal Agriculture


A problem facing the environment is water pollution caused by animal agriculture. In almost every country, the livestock sector is expanding faster than the crop sector due to increasing demand. This demand is related to changes in dietary patterns, as well as the increasing human population. The ongoing worsening of water quality due to pollution from intensive animal agriculture in both developed and developing countries poses huge threats to both aquatic ecosystems and human health.[1]

Water pollution has numerous negative consequences on aquatic environments. As animal agriculture has intensified, there have been major increases in the amount of manure produced on factory farms. The manure on these large scale farms is spread as fertilizer, stacked feedlots, as well as stored inside lagoons. However, due to the increase in numbers of animals on factory farms, there is often an oversupply of manure, so more than necessary is used as fertilizer. This excess of manure which is high in nitrogen and phosphorus runs off or infiltrates into the ground, and thus enters water bodies. Therefore, nitrogen and phosphorus reaches both surface water and groundwater, leading to eutrophication. Eutrophication is when excessive nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus from manure enters water, and causes a growth of plant life that depletes aquatic ecosystems of oxygen. This leads to damaged coral reefs, as well as a  lack of oxygen for

Figure 1
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marine life, causing dead zones, which decreases biodiversity. [2] Figure 1 depicts an example of the deadly consequences eutrophication causes on aquatic animals. Additionally, the impact of eutrophication is often greatest on freshwater and estuarine systems. Eutrophication is responsible for almost fifty percent of the damaged lake area, as well as sixty percent of damaged river in the United States. Additionally, it is the  most prevent pollution issue within estuaries in the United States.[3] It is also important to recognize that pollution caused by eutrophication is not specific to an individual country. As other countries use similar intensive farming practices, they can also pollute their water. Also, since water crosses national boundaries, pollution in one country effects others. Also, water bodies flow into one another, meaning that polluting a single body of water can potentially lead to the degradation of others.

Figure 2
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In addition to water pollution caused by animal agriculture posing numerous threats to the environment, it also has negative effects on human health. As animal agriculture grows and intensifies, so does the amount of livestock manure produced every day that enters bodies of water as seen in Figure 2.

Newer polluters that pose threats to human health have begun to enter water in the past 20 years as a result of the need to inject animals with antibiotics, vaccines, and hormones in order to maximize profit.[4] When humans are exposed to antibiotics, their bodies can develop antibiotic resistant bacteria, which is a serious public health issue.[5] Also, zoonotic waterborne pathogens are a threat to humans as they lead to diseases in humans caused by microorganisms spread by animals.[6] Another one of the many threats water pollution from animal agriculture has on human health is the potential of fatal illness called methaemoglobinemia, which is caused by high levels of nitrates from manure found in water. These are only a few of the many threats pollutants in drinking water pose on human health.[7]

It is especially important to form sustainable solutions to water pollution caused by animal agriculture at this point in time. We currently in the Anthropocene, which is a new geological epoch that is characterized by human activity creating significant changes on Earth. Humans are approaching, and in certain areas exceeding planetary boundaries, leading to environmental degradation and threats to the ability of Earth to support human life.[8] It is especially vital to prevent further water pollution as it is an issue that crosses boundaries. The pollution caused agricultural practices done in a single place can cause negative effects on a mass scale due to the interconnectivity of water bodies.  Therefore, my goal for the next three months is to explore sustainable solutions to the problem of water pollution caused by animal agriculture. The initiatives, actions and impacts of such solutions must serve to meet the social and economic needs of the present and the future without exceeding planetary boundaries. This is best achieved using an inclusive and transparent process based on scientific principles that ensures resource use that maximizes renewal, encourages re-use, and minimizes waste while protecting and restoring the health of natural systems, all organisms and biodiversity; and reducing pollution and mitigating global climate change. It must also ensure ethical economic development that promotes equitable opportunity and empowers rather than exploits people and the environment, and does not undermine people’s capacity to meet their own needs, as well as an elevated standard of human well-being for all people including but not limited to improved health and increased equitable access to basic human rights. Best practice for meeting these objectives include using an inclusive process with transparent governance; and assessment through the development of measurable indicators that show improvement in each of the mentioned criteria. Sustainable solutions must be created to protect humans and the environment from the negative impacts of water pollution caused by animal agriculture.

[1] Mateo-Sagasta, Javier, Sara Marjani Zadeh and Hugh Turral. Water Pollution From Agriculture: A Global Review. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Executive Summary, 2017.

[2] “Sources of Eutrophication.” World Resources Institute. Accessed September 20, 2018.

[3] Smith, V.h., G.d. Tilman, and J.c. Nekola. “Eutrophication: Impacts of Excess Nutrient Inputs on Freshwater, Marine, and Terrestrial Ecosystems.” Environmental Pollution100, no. 1-3 (1999): 179-96. Accessed October 2, 2018. doi:10.1016/s0269-7491(99)00091-3.

[4] Mateo-Sagasta, Javier, Sara Marjani Zadeh and Hugh Turral. Water Pollution From Agriculture: A Global Review. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Executive Summary, 2017.

[5] Niesenbaum, R. 2018. Sustainable Solutions: Problem Solving for Current and Future Generations. Oxford University Press, New York. (Chapter 5).

[6] “Waterborne Zoonoses: Identification, Causes and Control.” World Health Organization. August 29, 2016. Accessed September 20, 2018.

[7] Mateo-Sagasta, Javier, Sara Marjani Zadeh and Hugh Turral. Water Pollution From Agriculture: A Global Review. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Executive Summary, 2017.

[8] Niesenbaum, R. 2018. Sustainable Solutions: Problem Solving for Current and Future Generations. Oxford University Press, New York. (Chapter 5).