A Project of Animal Place
September 19, 2001
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1. Terrorism Could Impact U.S. Agriculture
2. Biodiversity and Cloning
3. Japan Blunders with BSE
4. U.K. Calves Being Killed at Birth
5. Greenpeace Occupies Turkey Farm
6. National Farm Animal Awareness Week
7. Vegetarian Children's Reasons and Reading
1. TERRORISM COULD IMPACT U.S. AGRICULTURE
The recent terrorist attacks may divert the attention of the U.S. House and
Senate from the 2002 farm bill. The House had proposed a 10-year, $75
billion farm bill heavy on subsidies. The Senate has yet to draft its
version of the bill but intends to tie many support payments to
conservation practices. Both the House and Senate need to agree on a final
bill before the president can sign it into law. To lock in the $75 billion
earmarked for commodity programs, farm legislation must be passed by April
15, 2002. Federal funding for U.S. agriculture programs might instead be
spent on security measures. Reduced international agricultural trade and
imposed embargoes are other potential threats to U.S. agriculture resulting
from the recent events.
The vice president of the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association writes that "a
bioterrorist animal disease attack can be accomplished cheaply, quickly and
efficiently." He urges industry to increase biosecurity measures to limit
the spread of any disease introductions.
To centralize access to protocols for animal health biosecurity, Purdue
University has created a web site. The National Biosecurity Resource Center
for Animal Health can be accessed at: http://www.biosecuritycenter.org.
Hopes are that it will provide a "data haven to enable government,
commodity groups, veterinarians and producers to meet the challenges of
animal health emergencies." The project includes information on
peer-reviewed biosecurity references, cleaning and disinfecting, personal
protective equipment, research opportunities and state regulations on
cadaver disposal, manure management, and reportable diseases. The
University is also maintaining a list of biosecurity research teams to help
contacts with funding agencies.
"Terrorist act could hurt U.S. agriculture, support programs," The Pig
Site, September 18, 2001.
"Bioterrorism's Threat to the Poultry Industry," Meating Place News,
Charles Beard, Sept. 17, 2001.
"Biosecurity Resource Center Launched," National Hog Farmer, Joe Vansickle
Sr., September 13, 2001.
2. BIODIVERSITY AND CLONING
The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that
breeds of farmed animals and varieties of plants are quickly dying out.
More than 90% of the agricultural diversity that existed at the beginning
of the last century has been lost. Two farmed animal breeds disappear each
week, and some 30% are currently at risk of extinction. Valuable traits,
such as the ability to adapt to harsh conditions and disease resistance,
would be lost with them. The export of animals from developed to developing
countries is the greatest threat to domestic animal diversity. Many
indigenous breeds are being replaced by a few high-production breeds which
require costly feed and maintenance, skilled management and mild
environments. The FAO asserts that the anticipated growth in human
population makes biodiversity essential to food security. The organization
has developed a global resource management strategy.
Two U.S. companies are attempting to develop the technology needed to
enable billions of identical chickens to be produced every year. The
chickens would essentially be clones, growing at the same rate to the same
weight. The U.S. National Institute of Science and Technology has provided
the companies with close to $5 million to fund the venture. The process
entails an egg injection procedure. Automating it is proving difficult.
Even when done by hand, up to 75% of the embryos perish. One of the
companies plans to freeze stem cells from different chicken strains in
order to be able to quickly mass produce a particular strain. It has also
discussed genetically engineering birds to lay eggs containing medicinal
drugs. Animal welfare advocates are concerned that the technology will be
used to mass produce fast-growing birds who will increasingly suffer from
bone growth not keeping pace with muscle growth. A lack of genetic
diversity also raises concern that disease might wipe out entire flocks.
Proponents of the technology point out that new birds could quickly replace
them, and disease-resistant strains could be developed. The research phase
of the project is expected to last about 4 years.
"Biodiversity shrinks as farm breeds die out," Reuters, September 18, 2001.
"Clone Farm," New Scientist, Andrea Graves, August 18, 2001.
3. JAPAN BLUNDERS WITH BSE
The first Japanese cow diagnosed with BSE (see issue #29) was mistakenly
processed into beef and into meat-and-bone meal (MBM). BSE is believed to
be transmitted through MBM. The Agriculture Ministry had reported that the
cow had been burnt. The beef was not sold, but about 4,000 gallons of milk
from the cow had been marketed prior to her death. Following the BSE
diagnosis, Japan banned the use of MBM as cattle feed. However, part of the
MBM from the diseased cow was processed into feed for pigs and poultry. The
Ministry is attempting to trail other cows from the farm and plans to
inspect the country's 4.5 million bovines.
Two staggering cows are feared to be Sweden's first cases of BSE. The cows
have been killed and are being examined. Brain tumors, poison or other
maladies may cause similar impairment.
"Officials said unaware of ban on processing BSE cows," The Daily Yomiuri,
Yomiuri Shimbun, September 17, 2001.
"Japan bans MBM in cattle feed after mad cow case," Reuters, September 18,
"Sweden Says Strong Chance First BSE Cases Found," Reuters, September 19, 2001.
4. U.K. CALVES BEING KILLED AT BIRTH
An estimated 200,000 male calves will be shot at birth and buried in pits
on U.K. dairy farms. Due to disease conditions, the market for them has
collapsed. Previously, they would have been sent to France for veal
production but BSE restrictions now prohibit that. Animal welfare concerns
have led to little demand for veal in Britain. Shooting bull dairy calves
was reportedly an accepted practice in New Zealand. Many U.K. farmers
consider the practice to be unethical. The government is urging farmers to
find alternative markets but considers it to be "a commercial decision; a
In Ontario, farmers are disposing of dead farmed animals by dumping them in
fields and forests rather than pay to have them removed. Companies
previously hauled the bodies away for free to render into food for other
animals. Disease concerns have since reduced the usability of
them. Fearing that the dumped bodies may contaminate rural water supplies,
the government is studying the possibility of building large composters for
"Farmers 'forced to kill 200,000 calves,'" Electronic Telegraph, Charles
Clover, Sept. 11, 2001.
"Farmers told to stop killing 'cash calves,'" Electronic Telegraph, Charles
Clover, Sept. 17, 2001
"Death on the Farm," The Humane Society of the United States, October 12, 1999.
"Farmers elude service to dump carcasses," National Post, Michael
Friscolanti, Sept. 11, 2001.
5. GREENPEACE OCCUPIES TURKEY FARM
Twice in August, Greenpeace activists occupied turkey farms owned by
Germany's 2nd largest turkey producer. The U.S. Foreign Agricultural
Service's Global Agriculture Information Network reported that the
activists did so to draw public attention to the conditions in which
turkeys are raised and to protest the mass production of animals. The space
allotted per animal and the use of antibiotics in drinking water were the
primary complaints. According to the state veterinarian, conditions on both
farms were standard.
"Greenpeace occupies German turkey farm," Watt Poultry USA, August 27, 2001.
6. NATIONAL FARM ANIMAL AWARENESS WEEK
The plight of farmed animals will be the focus of Mutts, the popular comic
strip by Patrick McDonnell, in observance of National Farm Animal Awareness
Week, September 16-22nd.
7. VEGETARIAN CHILDREN'S REASONS AND READING
The Boston Herald ran an article explaining why a growing number of
children are avoiding meat. A number of books are suggested that might
prove helpful to these kids and their parents.
"The Veggie Table: More children change eating habits, start vegging out,"
The Boston Herald, Jennifer E. Berkshire, September 16, 2001.