Lake Erie Advocates Launch Billboard Against ‘Factory Farms’

Digital ads now showing on electronic billboards across Toledo and elsewhere in the state are part of a local campaign taking aim against concentrated animal feeding operations.

Mike Ferner, coordinator for Lake Erie Advocates, said during a news conference Thursday morning the ads showing an iconic photo of a glass of green Lake Erie water and cows and hogs on so-called “factory farms” are meant to provoke discussion.

“Nothing happens until we start talking about it, and that’s why we’ve kicked off this campaign to start the conversation about banning factory farms,” Mr. Ferner said. “When enough people demand that, it will happen, thousands of farmers will be able to go back onto the land that they’ve been kicked off of by this industry to produce the meat, milk, and eggs that we need just like they did a mere 20 years ago.”

The ads, which are also appearing on billboards in Cleveland and Columbus and on social media platforms, will be up through the end of September. Mr. Ferner was joined at the news conference by about a dozen supporters holding signs beneath a billboard near Franklin Park Mall that showed one of the ads every few minutes.

Waste produced by the animals in CAFOs is commonly spread on farm fields, which allows phosphorous to leach into the watershed and feed annual algal blooms in Lake Erie, Mr. Ferner said. Research the advocacy group did last year reportedly found that nearly 25 million animals in more than 800 CAFOs in western Lake Erie excrete as much phosphorous as the human populations of Ohio, Indiana, Chicago, and Atlanta, he said.

“It’s dumped on the land with no treatment whatsoever, and we wonder why we have a problem in Lake Erie,” he said.

Supporter Nancy Larson, who ran unsuccessfully last year for state representative and said she will run for Sylvania City Council this year, said local taxpayers who get drinking water from Lake Erie are footing the bill.

“We are paying the costs for water treatment, and we are picking up what the factory farms are not paying for and that’s not fair,” she said.

She noted activist groups are also working on a proposed executive order to send to President Joe Biden that would force federal officials to involve and cooperate with local governments on the issue of Lake Erie.

Mr. Ferner said current regulations are not being enforced, noting a pending suit in U.S. District Court in Toledo seeking just that. And the Farm System Reform Act introduced in Congress by U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) would take too long with a 20-year timeline to phase out the “unsustainable, appalling industry” of factory farming, he said.

“We’ve come to the conclusion that the regulations governing factory farms are empty, and the politicians’ feel-good solutions are part of the problem,” he said. “Therefore, we think, really, the only way to deal with this industry is to ban it.”