According to new research by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), the American giant Tyson Foods, the world’s second-largest meat producer, dumped millions of pounds of toxic pollutants directly into American rivers and lakes over the last five years. This took the form of 371m lb of pollutants in 87bn gallons of wastewater with blood, bacteria and animal faeces.

The analysis covers 41 Tyson slaughterhouses and mega processing plants between 2018 and 2022, spread across 17 states, but about half the contaminants were dumped into Nebraska, Illinois and Missouri waterways.

Omanjana Goswami, one of the report’s co-authors, said to the Guardian, “There are over 5,000 meat and poultry processing plants in the United States, but only a fraction are required to report pollution and abide by limits. As one of the largest processors in the game, with a near-monopoly in some states, Tyson is in a unique position to treat even hefty fines and penalties for polluting as simply the cost of doing business. This has to change.” 

The worst of all is that this company is allowed to pollute as much because of the influence it has over politicians. According to political finance watchdog Open Secrets, the meat-processing industry spent $4.3m on lobbying in Washington in 2023, of which Tyson accounted for almost half ($2.1m).

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was forced to update its two-decade-old pollution standards for slaughterhouses and animal rendering facilities when it was sued in 2017 by environmental groups, and the new rules are expected by September 2025, but it seems that they will be leaning towards weak regulation. Dani Replogle, an attorney at Food and Water Watch, said,  “The current rule is out of date, inadequate and catastrophic for American waterways, and highlights the way American lawmaking is subject to industry capture…The nutrient problem in the US is at catastrophic levels … it would be such a shame if the EPA caves in to industry influence.”

“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.