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,


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