Saturday, November 19, 2011

death by manure

Photo from
I have to admit, of all the hazards associated with concentrated manure pits found in industrial livestock operations, death was not the first to come to mind. I initially thought this graphic would belongs in the over-cautionary menagerie at Safety Graphic Fun.

Apparently, death by manure is a significant hazard. Farm workers can asphyxiate quickly from breathing in toxic gasses from sealed underground pits, or from drowning in above-ground manure lagoons. What a way to go, eh? Nationwide, about 20 people die every year from breathing in hydrogen sulfide, a gas unique to concentrated manure pits that are not exposed to the air. Two years ago, this gas claimed the lives of an entire Mennonite family, as the father attempted to unclog a manure pit pipe, and after he collapsed, his family members died trying to rescue him.

That snippet of news also made me think of how many people believe that just because something is "Amish made," it is must be high quality and environmentally sustainable. I grew up around Amish communities, and know first-hand that they are not immune to the problems of the modern world -- things like drug addiction, teen pregnancy, and dishonest business practices. I've encountered Amish families who believe that animals are property, something God has given you to take care of but not care about, and for whom this belief translates into treatment of livestock that is much harsher than I would personally find acceptable. There are, of course, many outstanding Amish and Mennonite family farms, but a label identifying the town or religious preference of its maker does not automatically denote wholesomeness.


  1. AMEN, once again. I feel you have a finger on my pulse. Amish made usually means inferior ingredients, as they cut corners for profit. I'll never forget my friend who bought a blueberry pie from the Amish stand at the farmer's market. The pie had about ten berries in it. The rest was food coloring and corn starch and sugar. I know you can fool anyone once but I don't know how they get repeat customers. Maybe this isn't always the case but it is what I've found to be true in our neck of the woods.

    And about their animal husbandry habits....again, you're spot on. They train horses with more whip and spur than carrot and words. Oh, they're good horsemen, but I question their practices. My niece was told her horse was only here to do her will, and she had to be firm.

    As for manure pits, yeah...toxic hazards. Unfortunately it's usually the migrant workers these industrial farms employ who get trapped and die, like the guy down the road who died this past summer when he got trapped in a silo full of pent-up gas. The owners never expose themselves to harm, only the workers they purposefully employ to avoid WC, benefits and fair wages.

    I have something for you on my blog.

  2. Thanks for the kind words and shout out to Safety Graphic Fun! Look for the favor to be returned later this week...