Using the Legal System to Fight Factory Farms – Michele Merkel


Former EPA attorney and current Food & Justice lawyer Michele Merkel discusses how she went from working with the EPA to hold factory farms accountable to suing the EPA for not their job to protect people and the environment from problems caused by these industrial complexes.

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Discussion Questions

Use these questions as a guide for starting conversations with your friends and family about factory farms and Michele Merkel’s talk.  Add your own questions as you think of them.

  • What can you do to help improve the food system?
  • Were you aware of how our meat is being raised and what it means for rural communities? If not, what about it surprises you?
  • Why is it that our politicians and judges are so unwilling to take steps to reform our broken agricultural system?
  • What lessons can we draw from other social justice movements to shift the balance of power away from corporations?

Additional information

Find out even more information related to factory farming.  Also, find out how you can stay in touch with Change Food.

Take Action

Things You Can Do

There are many things you can do to get involved in the food movement. Below are examples of ways you can get involved. Take action and then share with a friend!

  • Use the Eat Well Guide. You can search by keyword, zip code or city and state to find sustainable food near you!
  • Vote with your fork. Use the National Food Policy Scorecard to see how your local representatives are voting on food issues.
  • Ask your local store manager or restaurant manager/owner where their meat is sourced from. Use Sustainable Table’s Questions for a Store Manager for suggested questions.
  • Are there CAFOs in your local area? Contact the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project for free, expert advice on how to fight factory farms in your community.
  • Sign and share Food & Water Watch and similar organizations’ petitions.
  • Visit the Campaigns below to sign petitions and find out the critical issues of today.
  • Take the Change Food Challenge and do 3 things to help change the food system for the better!
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6 Things You Can Do


Many groups are working toward a fair, healthy, sustainable food system – below are various campaigns that you can support to help bring good food to everyone.


Center for a Livable Future

The Center for a Livable Future conducts research on diet, food production, the environment and human health in order to promote policies that reduce threats to public health and the environment.

Environmental Integrity Project

Environmental Integrity Project, EIP, partners with grassroots organizations to find solutions for reducing pollution.

Food & Water Watch
Food & Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.
Food Policy Action
Food Policy Action was established in 2012 through a collaboration of national food policy leaders in order to hold legislators accountable on votes that have an effect on food and farming. The organization works to highlight the importance of policies that support healthy diets, reduce hunger, decrease food waste, improve food access and affordability, uphold the rights and dignity of food and farm workers, increase transparency, protect public health and the environment, reduce food-borne illness, support local and regional food systems and treat farm animals humanely. FPA promotes these policies through public education, outreach and engagement including its annual National Food Policy Scorecard.
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement

The Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Iowa CCI, works to stop factory farms from expanding or building. They also have worked to recover over $170,000 in stolen wages for workers and won ordinances to hinder the growth of predatory payday lenders.

Missouri Rural Crisis Center

With over 5,600 members, the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, MRCC, is a statewide farm and rural membership organization that seeks to preserve family farms and strives for social and economic justice by uniting both rural and urban groups.

Socially Responsible Agricultural Project
The Socially Responsible Agricultural Project (SRAP) works throughout the U.S. helping communities protect themselves from the negative impacts of factory farms, officially called Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). SRAP gives family farmers, ranchers, and other rural citizens the tools needed to develop and sustain ecologically sound, economically viable, humane farming alternatives to industrial-scale agriculture.
  • Michele Merkel

    Director, Food & Water Justice Food & Water Watch

    Food & Water Justice, the legal arm of Food & Water Watch, uses the court system to advocate for positive change and provides legal support … Read More