With the sizeable livestock population of 142 million pigs, 76 million cattle and billions of chickens farmed every year,
Europe’s factory farming sector has exceeded what the scientific community have claimed are safe bounds. Italy and in
particular the Po Valley, represents one of the epicenters of the European faming sector.
Under the shadow of noise, smell, air toxicity, chronic disease, water pollution: factory farms project negative externalities that hit neighbouring communities first, transforming local ecologies and endangering health and welfare.
In the Po Valley, a land characterized by its concentration of farmed animals, the constantly decreasing population of entire villages struggles against a toxic environment. With externalities coming from the factory farms, sore throat, eye burning, nausea, difficulty in breathing are part of the everyday. The waters are polluted too, and chronic disease rates are high.
According to local oncologists, intensive farming pollutants are dangerous: released into the atmosphere, ammonia is turned into fine particulate matter PM2.5 - listed as a group1 carcinogenic substance, with estimated premature linked mortality of 537,000 people per year globally. In some areas of Lombardy, factory farming’s contribution to the formation
of PM2.5 reaches peaks of 50% on the total.
In a time of increasingly frequent novel epidemics and pandemics, many scientists claim that factory farms, with their unique production conditions, have become dangerous pathogenic breeding grounds. An example is the African swine fever (ASF) virus, known since the 1960s, constantly threatening the entire pig-farming sector while the sector itself offers the virus the most perfect conditions for its multiplication and diffusion. In the Italian province of Pavia, in September 2023 In August of 2023, several pig farms tested positive for the ASF virus, resulting in the immediate culling of around 34,000 pigs.
Evidence suggests that living near factory farms decreases the basic quality of life. Strong odours force residents to stay
indoors keeping their windows closed, and those living in the proximity of a factory farm are at higher risk for chronic diseases, such as respiratory problems and neurobehavioral disorders.