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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Factory farms are too crowded and risk spreading disease within livestock and to humans, but should be revamped and not abolished because of the need to feed the world, according to a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts released on Tuesday.
The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production said the negative effects of the industry are "too great" to ignore and the environmental, health, and animal welfare concerns need to be addressed.
Despite these concerns, the commission does not want industrial animal farms to be eradicated.
"We know we have to feed the world, but we have to do it in a way that is sustainable," Fedele Bauccio, one of the report's commissioners, said in an interview.
By confining large numbers of animals in cramped spaces, industrial farms increase the risk of spreading disease within the herd or flock and spreading disease from animals to humans.
Another health risk posed to humans by the current methods of industrial farming is the use of antibiotics to spur the growth of animals. The widespread use of antibiotics has promoted the development of drug-resistant bacteria in or near livestock.
"As you ingest protein that has antibiotics in it, you have less of a chance of being able to use them when you really need them," said Bauccio, who is also chief executive officer of Bon Appetit Management Company.
Industrial livestock production also hurts the environment through the huge amounts of animal waste these facilities produce. Large amounts of manure carry excessive nutrients and farm chemicals into surface waters, causing dense growth of plants and the death of aquatic animals due to lack of oxygen.
The report also addressed the treatment of animals on industrial farms, noting that when confined animals can not walk around or behave naturally, they are more likely to suffer severe distress.
The commission urges legislators to ban the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in food animal production, implement a new system to deal with farm waste, and phase out the most inhumane production practices within a decade.
Editing by Russell Blinch and Matthew Lewis