Hurricane Florence Threatens Millions of Human and Animal Lives

by Stuart McDonald

Animals at risk

As Hurricane Florence threatens east coast communities, people and their companion animals are evacuating. But in North Carolina, millions of lives remain at risk. Pigs, birds, and cows will be subject to flooding, winds, and overall extremely dangerous conditions. In the state of North Carolina alone, farmed pigs nearly outnumber people. There are currently upwards of 9 million pigs on NC farms.

If previous, milder storms are any indication of what’s to come with Hurricane Florence, millions of animals will die. During 2016’s Hurricane Matthew, 2,800 pigs and a staggering 1.9 million birds’ lives were taken–many from drowning. Confined to sheds and cages and abandoned as the storm takes its toll, these millions will have nowhere to go.

Environmental cause & effect

As our planet continues to rise in temperature, climate change affects weather patterns, posing a risk to humans and animals alike. Scientists have warned against resulting increased intensity of storms like Hurricane Florence, which can potentially rapidly intensify, causing far more destruction than storms of years past.

Animal agriculture contributes to greenhouse gas emissions even more than the transportation industry. But beyond that it also causes deforestation and creates massive amounts of environmentally toxic waste.

Animal agriculture is a leading cause of climate change, then comes full circle and causes more environmental devastation as a result of these storms.

In North Carolina, pig farms in particular manage waste by building enormous lagoons in which to store it. As Hurricane Florence approaches, farmers are attempting to lower lagoon levels to be able to accommodate up to three feet of rain. But there are 4,000 of these waste lagoons in North Carolina, and it all has to go somewhere. So farmers are spraying the waste over fields.

The spraying of waste as fertilizer on farmland is already causing environmental devastation and air pollution in rural NC communities near pig farming operations. Some residents have been awarded millions of dollars in damages after tests have shown pig fecal matter present in their homes, but many are still fighting — forced to breathe polluted air, seal up drinking water wells due to ammonia runoff, and endure waste literally raining onto their property. As lagoons threaten to overflow and fecal matter is being sprayed throughout the state (right before high winds and rain pummel the area), citizens are as vulnerable as ever.

What can we do?

Unfortunately, in the days leading up to Hurricane Florence, there isn’t much we can do. The devastating reality is that humans and non-human animals in these rural farming communities will be at risk. Look for a local organization that you support that’s working in the Carolinas to rescue humans and animals.

What we can do for the future is mitigate the amount of lives lost by refusing to treat farmed animals as commodities and recognizing them as the individual lives that they are. By choosing vegan foods, we can lower demand for animal products and decrease the amount of lives confined on these massive farms in North Carolina and elsewhere.

A vegan diet can also decrease our contribution to climate change–both by reducing the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted by factory farms and lessening the amount of waste produced and pumped into vulnerable communities.

For more information on how our diets affect the planet, download our free guide to Eating Sustainably.

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