Date: September 18th, 2009

Yesterday's Washington Post report on the livestock industry's devastating effect on antibiotic effectiveness is followed today (Friday, September 18) with a front page New York Times story on the industry's impact on the safety of drinking water supplies. The article, by Charles Duhigg, is titled, "Health Ills Abound as Farm Runoff Fouls Wells."

We read about millions of gallons of dairy farm cow waste being spread on nearby fields every year, then seeping into the groundwater that feeds wells, and we read:

"Yet runoff from all but the largest farms is essentially unregulated by many of the federal laws intended to prevent pollution and protect drinking water sources. The Clean Water Act of 1972 largely regulates only chemicals or contaminants that move through pipes or ditches, which means it does not typically apply to waste that is sprayed on a field and seeps into groundwater."

We learn that special rules created for the biggest farms are largely ignored and that "regulations passed during the administration of President George W. Bush allow many of those farms to self-certify that they will not pollute, and thereby largely escape regulation."

And as to the seriousness of the problem:
"Agricultural runoff is the single largest source of water pollution in the nation's rivers and streams, according to the E.P.A. An estimated 19.5 million Americans fall ill each year from waterborne parasites, viruses or bacteria, including those stemming from human and animal waste, according to a study published last year in the scientific journal Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology."

A county official sums up the route of the problem:

''One cow produces as much waste as 18 people....There just isn't enough land to absorb that much manure, but we don't have laws to force people to stop."

The article makes it clear that we don't have those laws because, "a powerful farm lobby has blocked previous environmental efforts on Capital Hill."

You'll find the full article on line at:

Check it out -- it is a fascinating if disturbing read. And please forward it to all of your friends thereby spreading the word and also letting the paper, which tracks "most emailed" stories, know that people want to read about the shenanigans of the livestock industry and the impact on our health.

You can join in a lively discussion taking place in the comment section on that web page, where the writer is responding to many comments and the editors are singling out some of the most interesting.

Then please also send a letter to the editor, helping to ensure that the discussion stays alive on the editorial page. You may wish to discuss any of the other ills of factory farming, including the unconscionable cruelty to animals, or to make the point that is obvious to so many of us: it is time for people to radically change their eating habits.

The New York Times takes letters at

Always include your full name, address, and daytime phone number when sending a letter to the editor. Remember that shorter letters are more likely to be published. And please be sure not to use any comments or phrases from me or from any other alerts in your letters. Editors are looking for original responses from their readers.

My thanks go to Mark Langley for making sure we didn't miss this story.

Those interested in reading more on this issue will find the impact of farm waste on the water supply covered extensively in Thanking the Monkey in a section beginning on page 274, headed "Fighting Factory Farm Filth." The powerlessness to fight those farms, due to the strength of the farm lobby, is covered in a section, beginning on page 305, headed "The Best Government Money Can Buy."

Yours and the animals',
Karen Dawn

(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at You may forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts if you do so unedited -- leave DawnWatch in the title and include this parenthesized tag line. If somebody forwards DawnWatch alerts to you, which you enjoy, please help the list grow by signing up. It is free.)

Please go to for a fun celeb-studded promo video and information on Karen Dawn's book, "Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way we Treat Animals," which was chosen by the Washington Post as one of the "Best Books of 2008." And check out Karen's new blog at !

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Date: Fri Sep 18 18:11:08 2009

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