Livestock Get Sick, Suspected Effect of Fracking

From Pennsylvania to New Mexico, cows and goats are getting ill and dying; suspected cause is accidental exposure to hydrofracking chemicals.


| December 10, 2012



Schilke Ranch Cattle

The cattle on this North Dakota ranch, located near the state's booming Bakken Shale oil field, have felt the negative effects of hydrofracking with multiple deaths, extreme weight loss and their tails mysteriously dropping off.


Photo By Jacki Schilke

Reposted with permission from The Food and Environment Reporting Network. 

In the midst of the domestic energy boom, livestock on farms near oil-and-gas drilling operations nationwide have been quietly falling sick and dying. While scientists have yet to isolate cause and effect, many suspect chemicals used in drilling and hydrofracking (or “fracking”) operations are poisoning animals through the air, water, or soil.

Earlier this year, Michelle Bamberger, an Ithaca, New York, veterinarian, and Robert Oswald, a professor of molecular medicine at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine, published the first and only peer-reviewed report to suggest a link between fracking and illness in food animals.

The authors compiled 24 case studies of farmers in six shale-gas states whose livestock experienced neurological, reproductive, and acute gastrointestinal problems after being exposed—either accidentally or incidentally—to fracking chemicals in the water or air. The article, published in New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, describes how scores of animals died over the course of several years.

The death toll is insignificant when measured against the nation’s livestock population (some 97 million beef cattle go to market each year), but environmental advocates believe these animals constitute an early warning.

Exposed livestock “are making their way into the food system, and it’s very worrisome to us,” Bamberger says. “They live in areas that have tested positive for air, water, and soil contamination. Some of these chemicals could appear in milk and meat products made from these animals.”





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