Sustainable Animal Raising vs. CAFOs

by Don Fitz

Do you have a mental image of chickens pecking at insects, hogs rooting for grubs and cattle meandering across fields?  That’s definitely part of sustainable animal raising.  For Darvin Bentlage it also includes producing his own feedstocks of grain, hay and replacement animals.  Even more important, animals raised sustainably are not pumped with anti-biotics and hormones.

Darvin is a third generation family farmer living near Lamar, Missouri, between Springfield and Joplin.  He is active in the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, and the Missouri Farmers Union.  Darvin sees hogs as especially smart animals who suffer unbearably from lifetime confinement in steel and concrete.

Russ Kremer is also active in the Missouri Farmers Union.  He strongly believes that sustainable agriculture can feed the world without over-drugging animals.  Missouri Coalition for the Environment Executive Director Kathleen Logan-Smith thinks that there is a direct link between the chemicals used by factory farms and increases in antibiotic resistant diseases among rural Missourians as well as a connection between hormone injections and stillbirths in livestock.  She worries that many of these chemicals are making their way into water and food.

The problem is Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) which have ravaged family farms across the globe.  These enormous facilities house thousands of animals in cramped conditions.  The 2011 movie “Pig Business: The True Cost of Cheap Meat” traces health and economic effects as well as problems of animal cruelty in the US, United Kingdom and Poland.  The movie “Farming Was My Life: Hidden Costs of CAFOs focuses on specific effects in Missouri.  It includes aerial footage of pig CAFOs in the western part of the state and discussions with several farmers, including Darvin Bentlage, whose lives have been turned upside down from finding CAFOs as unwelcome neighbors.

Together, these two movies cover a wide spectrum of problems with factory farms: the miserable lives of animals they confine; contamination by lagoons which hold 2–30 million gallons of animal sewage; courts overruling communities trying to protect themselves, the immense power of Smithfield Foods; the push by the banking industry to centralize the production of meat; and, the failure of regulatory agencies to enforce existing laws on factory farming.

Green Time was on cable TV in the St. Louis area for 15 years.  After moving to KNLC, the program expanded to four Missouri cities.  It appears at noon on Saturdays in St. Louis on Channel 24-1 and at 8 pm on Mondays in St. Louis on Channel 24-2, Springfield on Channel 39, Joplin on Channel 36 and Marshfield on Channel 17.
All January episodes of Green Time will focus on CAFOs and air on these dates:
• Saturday, January 7 & Monday January 9: “Pig CAFOs: Health and Environment;”
• Saturday, January 14 & Monday January 16: “Pig CAFOs in Missouri;”
• Saturday, January 21 & Monday January 23: “Sustainable Hog & Cattle Raising;”
• Saturday, January 28 & Monday January 30: “CAFOs and Human Health.”

The first three episodes feature footage from “Pig Business” and in-studio interviews with Darvin Bentlage.  The last episode includes portions of “Farming Was My Life” and an interview with Russ Kremer and Kathleen Logan-Smith.