You or I can’t walk into a 7-11 without a camera on our trail, but just try to take a photo on a mega-farm. Even our own government can’t so much as record a head count at a corporate flesh factory.

That’s why animal-rights activists and environmental groups are accusing the EPA of failing at its job — and they’re taking the Obama administration on in court to get their tax-money’s worth from the organization that’s supposed to have their backs.

According to plaintiffs, which include the Center for Food Safety, the Humane Society and the Environmental Integrity Project, big agriculture has blocked efforts to gather the most basic information about factory farms, like size and number of animals. And the government has simply cowtowed (sorry, couldn’t help myself), dropping a 2012 rule that would have allowed the EPA to collect this data.

So there’s no transparency, and corporate farms can do whatever the hell they want. And if you don’t already know what factory farms want to do, picture mutilated chickens and turkeys, debeaked so they can be crammed into spaces so tight they can’t turn around. Cows standing in piles of their own feces for months in feedlots, awaiting slaughter — or pumped up with hormones so they can produce 10 times the amount of milk they would naturally. Gives the “Got Milk?” campaign a whole new meaning.

Beyond animal torture, factory farms are bad, bad news for the planet, flooding hormones, waste and antibiotics into the water supply. There are about 20,000 factory farms in the United States, causing a whole lot of pollution.

So who will win: the people who care most about the Earth, or the faltering agency we hired (with our tax dollars) to protect it? It feels like a classic case of big business vs. the little guy, which is an all-too familiar story these days (just look at the fracking debacle). Here’s rooting for the underdog.

Image by Farm Sanctuary