July 10, 2001 (To Search This Page Press Ctrl F)
1. Burger King Announces Animal Handling Standards
2. Burger King Petitions USDA to Enforce Slaughter Law
3. PETA Protests Wendy’s
4. Largest U.S. Grocery Chain Endorses Animal Welfare Program
5. Animal Rights 2001 Conference Offers Diversity
6. Common Ground Sought at Farmed Animal Well-Being Conference
7. Florida Initiative Seeks to Protect Pregnant Pigs
8. Mating Immature Gilts Causes Problems
9. Eliminating Agricultural Antibiotics May Reverse Resistance
10. Dangerous, Wasteful Meat (And Dairy)
11. Ostrich Industry Doesn’t Fly
12. BSE Breakthrough
13. “The Natural History of the Chicken”
1. BURGER KING ANNOUNCES ANIMAL HANDLING STANDARDS
Burger King Corp. has announced that it will require improved animal treatment standards from its suppliers. The announcement follows a 9-month “Murder King” campaign by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to get the company to meet the standards declared by McDonald’s in 1999. The new guidelines require suppliers to meet stricter standards for the care, housing, transport and slaughter of cattle, pigs and chickens. Suppliers who do not comply will face “disciplinary action.”
The improvements include: Increasing cage size for egg-laying hens to 75 square inches (3 sq. inches more than McDonald’s requires and 25 sq. inches more than the U.S. industry standard). Hens raised for egg production will also need to be able to stand fully upright, and feed deprivation will no longer be allowed for increased egg production. Beak cutting will also be “discouraged.”
The company has pledged to support research on the handling of gestating sows, and to study and purchase from facilities that have already instituted alternative care and handling procedures. Other measures include dehorning and castration restrictions (most castration on U.S. and Canadian ranches is done without anesthesia), and cattle will only be permitted to be branded once.
Emergency procedures will be required in case automated systems fail, and air quality (re ammonia levels) will also exceed current industry standards.
Burger King will be considering transport and on-farm euthanasia methods. Suppliers will not be allowed to intentionally procure emaciated or nonambulatory cattle, or those with advanced ocular cancer. Dragging nonambulatory animals to the slaughterplant will be prohibited. Burger King will conduct announced and unannounced audits of its 160 supplying slaughterplants to ensure animals are adequately stunned before slaughter.
These standards are actually stricter than what the government or industry peers require.
Additionally, the National Chicken Council has agreed to Burger King’s request to upgrade its guidelines with more specific, measurable performance criteria.
The company’s new guidelines are designed for the U.S. and Canada, and they will require equivalent standards from foreign markets “in a timely and appropriate fashion.” An annual animal handling report will be posted to the Burger King web site. PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said, “The only way to avoid cruelty in meat production is to go vegetarian, but today Burger King has taken giant steps to improve the lives of millions of animals.” Industry commentator Steve Bjerklie applauds Burger King’s action, but questions if government, instead, shouldn’t be instituting industry-wide regulations.
“Burger King Corporation Announces Industry-Leading Food Animal Handling Guidelines and Audits,” Burger King press release, June 28, 2001.
“UBC prof boosts animal welfare,” Vancouver Sun, Nicholas Read, July 4, 2001.
“PETA Halts ‘Murder King’ Protests,” PETA News Release, June 28, 2001.
“Perspective,” Meat News, Steve Bjerklie, July 3, 2001.
2. BURGER KING PETITIONS USDA TO ENFORCE SLAUGHTER LAW
In addition to announcing animal welfare standards, Burger King has petitioned the USDA to enforce the “Humane Slaughter Act.” Independent members of the company’s Animal Well-Being Advisory Council expressed significant concerns over the lack of enforcement of this law. A 1996 USDA slaughterplant survey found fewer than half of inspected slaughterplants consistently stunned animals before killing them, and only about 25% of the USDA inspectors were enforcing the Act. After McDonald’s began monitoring them last year, about 90% of plants complied. (40% of surveyed Canadian slaughterplants failed to meet minimal requirements in 1999.) Auditor Temple Grandin believes current enforcement is still inadequate and stated, “The restaurants are doing a better job than the USDA....Now it’s obvious who supplies a restaurant that does audits and who doesn’t.” The USDA denied Burger King’s charge and claims it is fully enforcing the law. A July 10th meeting of Burger King executives and USDA officials is scheduled.
“Burger King Pledges Humane Use of Animals,” The New York Times, Greg Winter, June 29, 2001.
“UBC prof boosts animal welfare,” Vancouver Sun, Nicholas Read, July 4, 2001.
3. PETA PROTESTS WENDY’S
Following successful campaigns against McDonald’s and Burger King, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) held a massive protest against Wendy’s, demanding that it, too, require improved animal care standards. As many as 350 people demonstrated at a Virginia Wendy’s, and 5 people, including James Cromwell of “Babe” fame, were arrested. Said Cromwell, “It’s high time that big corporations like Wendy’s stopped treating these wonderful animals like meat machines.” A Wendy’s spokesperson claimed the fast-food chain already has welfare guidelines comparable to those announced by McDonald’s and Burger King. Animal handling authority Temple Grandin also defended Wendy’s record.
“Cromwell Arrested at Demonstration,” The Washington Post, The Associated Press, July 4, 2001.
“‘Babe’ Actor Arrested at Va. Wendy’s Protest,” ABC News, Reuters.
“Animal rights activists protest at Wendy’s,” Virtual New York, Mike Martin, July 4, 2001.
“Wendy’s History Demonstrates Commitment to Animal Welfare,” Meat and Poultry Online, July 5, 2001.
4. LARGEST U.S. GROCERY CHAIN ENDORSES ANIMAL WELFARE PROGRAM
Kroger Co., the nation’s largest retail grocery chain, has endorsed an animal welfare program by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), a trade association representing the retail food industry. Under the new program, FMI will work with producers, processors and welfare experts to promote “best practices” throughout the animal production process. Grocery stores hope to avoid the protests that fast-food restaurants have incurred.
“Kroger Endorses Food Marketing Institute’s Program Addressing Animal Welfare,” Kroger Co. press release, Yahoo! Finance News, July 3, 2001.
“Grocery Chain Endorses Animal Welfare Program,” AgWeb News, Darcy Maulsby, July 3, 2001.
5. ANIMAL RIGHTS 2001 CONFERENCE OFFERS DIVERSITY
The annual national conference for animal rights advocates, held in McLean, Virginia from June 30-July 5th, attracted 1,000 people from as far away as Japan and Australia. Organized by Farm Animal Reform Movement (FARM), the conference offered a diversity of information, strategies and opinions; and inspired 2 local protests (see item #3 above) and a massive outreach effort during the 4th of July celebration on the National Mall. Photographs of the conference can be found at http://www.animalrights2001.org.
“Animal Rights Backers Converge in Va.,” The Washington Post, Abhi Raghunathan, July 5, 2001.
“Animal Rights 2001: Best and Biggest Ever!” FARM communique, July 6, 2001.
6. COMMON GROUND SOUGHT AT ANIMAL WELL-BEING CONFERENCE
“Chickens with weak legs and weak hearts, pregnant pigs in cramped housing, lame cattle and other such afflictions” were some of the topics at the Farmed Animal Well-Being Conference held at the University of California, Davis on June 28-29th. Sponsored by animal rights organizations, the conference hosted animal welfare scientists from as far away as Australia. Some argued animals should be treated well for their own sake. Others, such as USDA ethologist Donald Lay, took a pragmatic approach to the issue. Dr. Lay, who studies alternative pig housing, found alternatively housed pigs were less prone to serious diseases. He said “The [alternatively housed] pigs were playing a lot....They run through barking, with cornstalks in their mouths, chasing each other. In confinement, they didn’t play at all. They pretty much just kind of lie around.” Canadian ethologist Ian Duncan explained that although chickens intensely bred for meat production can have severe skeletal and cardiac disorders, the problems have not seriously affected profits. The Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, which counts 2,500 vets among its members, was a sponsoring organization.
“Caring for animals we eat,” The Sacramento Bee, Edie Lau, June 28, 2001.
7. FLORIDA INITIATIVE SEEKS TO PROTECT PREGNANT PIGS
Efforts are underway in Florida to ban gestation stalls, 2 foot wide containers in which pigs are kept during pregnancy. The pigs cannot turn around, and live so confined for up to 4 years, being released only for a few weeks to give birth and nurse in restrictive “farrowing crates.” An unsuccessful attempt to get the Florida legislature to ban the stalls led to the current petition drive for a change to the state Constitution. If 488,000 signatures are collected by June 2002, the issue will become a referendum question on the November 2002 ballot. A coalition of groups, including Floridians for Humane Farms, the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, Farm Sanctuary and The Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS), have to date obtained 140,000 signatures. The initiative could be precedent setting as to date, no farmed animal confinement method is prohibited in the country. The Florida Farm Bureau Federation, a lobbying group for agricultural interests, is fighting the initiative on grounds that the state Constitution is not an appropriate medium for the change. The industry also argues that the stalls are used for the benefit of the pigs. HSUS’s Wayne Pacelle counters “If you think of animals as just meat machines, it’s easy to justify cramming them into crates.”
“Group backing Florida constitutional amendment to protect pigs,” Associated Press, The Florida Times-Union, Jackie Hallifax, July 5, 2001.
“Legal help sought for pregnant pigs,” ST. Petersburg Times, Steve Bousquet, July 6, 2001.
8. MATING IMMATURE GILTS CAUSES PROBLEMS
Pig Management Specialist John Gadd writes about the “tidal wave of new diseases” threatening the pig industry. He admonishes that mating female pigs at their first estrus results in reproductive disappointments and a high pig replacement rate. Mr. Gadd says the 38% replacement rate, which is considered “normal,” is “madness.” A herd with such a high turnover can only be expect to have about 50% natural protection (immunity) against viral disease. Pigs can now reach 275 pounds by 200 days of age, with “young breeding females full of male genes....for rapid flesh deposition.” Mr. Gadd recommends slowing down the animals’ rate of growth to allow them to reach a mature hormonal and immune status prior to breeding. He also explains why it is cost effective to do so.
“Give Gilts More Time to Develop,” National Hog Farmer, John Gadd, June 15, 2001.
9. ELIMINATING AGRICULTURAL ANTIBIOTICS MAY REVERSE RESISTANCE
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria in Danish chickens and pigs have dramatically decreased since Denmark began banning antibiotics from animal feed in 1995. This is the first large-scale evidence that eliminating agricultural antibiotics may reverse the rise of resistant bacteria. Denmark’s pig and chicken populations have also increased in this time. Previous research indicated that antibiotic resistance is difficult to reverse. Antibiotics are routinely put in animal feed worldwide to promote animal growth, and since bacteria naturally swap genes there is concern that pathogens of other animals may transfer resistance to human pathogens. Germany and the Netherlands, which banned a particular antibiotic over the past 5 years, have also documented decreases in resistant bacteria both in humans and in other animals.
“Bacteria miss their medicine,” Science Update, Nature, Corie Lok, July 10, 2001.
10. DANGEROUS, WASTEFUL MEAT (AND DAIRY)
USA Today ran an opinion piece by Eric Schlosser, author of “Fast Food Nation,” in which he explains how feces can end up in meat. He writes that “Every day, about 200,000 Americans are sickened by a food-borne disease, 900 are hospitalized and 14 die....The CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] believes that the incidence of food poisoning has greatly increased during the past few decades.” Schlosser notes that the federal government cannot demand the recall of potentially lethal contaminated meat. All meat recalls are voluntary. He calls for a single food safety agency to assume the responsibilities now assigned to various agencies.
A cover story of the San Francisco Chronicle points out how energy consumptive meat and dairy production is and urges vegetarianism, “an ancient and less-than-radical practice,” to help save energy. The author includes a list of staggering statistics to support her claim, and castigates the Western beef and dairy interests for lobbying for special consideration concerning the energy crunch. Similarly, an article in Canada’s National Post relates how California’s dairy industry is facing growing pressure from environmental and animal protection concerns. Tulare County, CA is the world’s largest milk-producing region and has the highest concentration of cows. Herds average 1,200 cows - compared to 52 in Canada - and can reach 12,000. Tulare County cows average 30,000 pounds of milk annually compared to a U.S. average of 17,000 pounds. (A single person can milk 100 cows an hour with robot milkers.)
“Why you’re at risk from contaminated food,” USA Today, Eric Schlosser, June 27, 2001.
“Eating more veggies can help save energy,” San Francisco Chronicle, Simone Spearman, June 29, 2001.
“Milking the Industry,” National Post, Financial Post, Peter Morton, July 3, 2001.
11. BSE BREAKTHROUGH
Scientists in Israel have discovered a urine test method of detecting the protein particle believed to be the agent of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE, a.k.a., “mad cow disease”). The disease can be detected even before symptoms occur. The Jerusalem Post reports, “This means that blood donations by human carriers can be prevented, and millions of unaffected cows will be saved from wholesale slaughter.” The research team is preparing to produce a commercial kit for testing human and other animal urine. The team was able to pick out affected animals in a blind test of 100 cows, half of whom were infected.
“ISRAEL: Breakthrough in battle against BSE and CJD,” Just-food News, Aaron Priel, July 2, 2001.
“A protease resistant PrP isoform is present in urine of animals and humans affected with prion disease,” Journal of Biological Chemistry, Gideon M. Shaked et al., June 21, 2001.
12. OSTRICH INDUSTRY DOESN’T FLY
Attempts to market ostrich meat in the U.S. continue to fail. The early 1990's saw frenzied speculation in the fledgling industry, with breeding pairs selling for up to $50,000. Without a market for the meat, the industry collapsed in the mid-to-late 1990's. The USDA doesn’t track ostrich production, but membership in the American Ostrich Association has remained at 300 for the past few years, down from 2,500 in 1993, with Texas, Arizona and Illinois being the top producers. One processor in Illinois is paying $200-225 for an ostrich delivered for slaughter, about half the going price in 1995. Last year, Fuddruckers Inc. restaurant chain began selling ostrich burgers, but sales are down. Blackwing Ostrich Meats Inc., which sells ostrich meat to restaurants and retailers, such as Whole Food Market Inc., recently filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Some producers still predict the industry will happen, claiming the market has stabilized and concerns over “mad cow” and hoof-and-mouth disease are fueling demand.
“Farmer’s fowl tale: Demand for ostrich meat fails to live up to hype,” Crain’s Chicago Business, Alby Gallun, July 2, 2001.
13. “THE NATURAL HISTORY OF THE CHICKEN”
An hour-long “celebration of chickens” will air on PBS July 11th. The film, a hit at the Sundance Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival, focuses on often quirky or bizarre people and the chickens they have known. Filmmaker Mark Lewis, who wants to dispel common misperceptions about the birds, states that “They serve the commercial chicken interests who emphasize on the population that the chicken is worthless or dumb. It’s a subtext making it easier for us to eat the animal.” A PBS review notes that the film includes the facts that chickens are “remarkably complex creatures.... Adult chickens are social animals and can recognize the crow of at least 30 other roosters. With their well-developed sense of hearing, they can also communicate over long distances. Chickens love to watch television and have vision similar to humans. They also seem to enjoy all forms of music, especially classical.” The film contains footage of commercial operations including “One poultry firm [which] houses 250,000 hens in a single building. Seven or eight birds are packed int o cages so small they cannot spread their wings; the cages are stacked eight tiers high. Every 34 hours, each hen lays one egg, which rolls out onto a conveyor belt. So much for motherhood.” The PBS review further explains: “Unfortunately, the average chicken lives only seven weeks before being transported to a processing plant. More than eight billion chickens will be sacrificed this year for America’s desire for cheap, versatile meals.”
Though Lewis claims he loves “making films from an animal’s point of view,” he is not a vegetarian and is very interested in doing a film about cockfighting. Los Angeles Times television critic Howard Rosenberg comments that: “the highest respect one can give animals is to treat them humanely–and let them live.” Lewis envisions this film as being the first in a trilogy on farmed animals.
“Mark Lewis’s New Movie–Fair, Fowl and Funny,” TV Week, The Washington Post, Patricia Brennan, July 8, 2001.
“Celebrating the Chicken with a Grain of Irony,” Los Angeles Times, Howard Rosenberg, July 9, 2001.
“‘Chicken’ hatches fresh insights,” Christian Science Monitor, M.S. Mason, July 6, 2001.
“The Natural History of the Chicken,” PBS Picks.
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