Industrialized animal agriculture—concentrated animal feeding operations (“CAFOs”) and slaughterhouses—is inherently oppressive of both nonhumans and humans. This Article seeks to expose the human side of that exploitation, specifically examining how industrial animal agriculture was built upon and continues to propagate racism. The harms to humans of color perpetuated by this system are myriad and serious, ranging from physical to psychological and from troubling to life-threatening. This Article first examines how the animal agribusiness industry has harmed farmers and ranchers of color since the early 20th century through government-sponsored racist policies and practices. Second, the Article studies harms to workers, from those who produce animals in CAFOs to those who process them in slaughterhouses, most of whom are people of color, people whose first language is not English, and undocumented immigrants. Third, the Article considers harms to people who live near agribusiness facilities, so many of whom are people of color that these harms are considered environmental racism. Fourth, the Article assesses harms to consumers who have been shepherded into marginalized regions without access to more nutritious options, and who are forced to support the industrialized animal agriculture system that continues to compromise their health at a disproportionate rate. Finally, this Article explores legal steps that would help begin to redress these harms, but it does not purport to solve the problem or “save” those of whom animal agribusiness has taken advantage; rather, it seeks to contribute another voice to those challenging that industrial model.
I want to thank the editors of the City University of New York Law Review for the rigor and care they showed in the development of this article. I had been working through many of the ideas explored in this article for a long time and every edit, suggestion, and comment that the editors provided sharpened my thinking and clarified the larger arguments and connections I wanted to make. I also want to thank my research assistants over the years who have dug deep into the historical record, legal cases, water rights decrees, regulatory opinions, local government decision making, and public meetings that are cited in the article. I especially want to thank Lindsey Ratcliff, Jerry Dinzes, William Dewey, Nicoli Bowley, Trevor Klein, Rachel Hotz, Evan Weiss, and Camille Moore for the skill and passion in which each approached the research in this article and as part of the larger student research team of the Color of Water in Colorado project.
Tom I. Romero, II, The Color of Local Government: Observations of a Brown Buffalo on Racial Impact Statements in the Movement for Water Justice, 25 CUNY. L. Rev. 241 (2022).