Lynn Henning just won the Goldman Environmental Prize for her work monitoring concentrated animal-feeding operations (CAFOs), or factory farms, that moved into the rural area of Michigan where she and her husband farmed 80 acres. It is the first time the award has been given to someone resisting factory farms.

For most of her life, Henning helped her husband with the farming, grew all her own food, and raised their children. Then about 10 years ago, the CAFOs moved in, and the number of cows within 10 miles went from 500 to 20,000. Cows produce about 20 times as much waste as 1 human being, and all of it goes into huge lagoons, “where it is stored for months before being spread on fields.”

The smell, even in early March, is nearly overpowering. “It’s industrial agriculture using family farms as a disguise,” Henning says. “Manure is no longer manure—it’s toxic waste.” And it needs to be treated as such, she says, not spread untreated on fields or allowed to wash into local water sources.

For Henning, keeping her windows open in summer isn’t really an option any more, she says. She can’t hang laundry on the line or sit outside without checking which way the wind is blowing—or leave her front door open. Eating outside is largely a thing of the past.

Henning initially became involved by filing Freedom of Information Act requests, and what she learned scared her. She became even more worried when her in-laws were diagnosed with hydrogen-sulfide poisoning. The doctor told her the poisoning likely came from local manure lagoons. Henning now files complaints on behalf of other residents and endures the lawsuits and harassment that come with that role.

How Is This Restoration?

It isn’t. It’s what required to fight the terrible effects of industrial agriculture.

I think CAFOs should be banned, and I think urban and suburban residents should be allowed to keep chickens and pigs and goats (if they have enough space) and butcher them for their own use or that of their neighbors.

One a CAFO is gone, restoration will be necessary. But I have no idea what one does with millions of gallons of cowshit.

Source: “One Farmer Acts to Save Environment from Factory Farms,” by Yvonne Zipp, Christian Science Monitor, April 26, 2010

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