A Project of Animal Place
October 24, 2001
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1. Actions Against Battery Cage Operations
2. New Animal Transport Mandate and Guidelines
3. New Findings on Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria and Meat
4. IBP Agrees to $4.1 Million Fine for Environmental Violations
5. Agroterrorism and Anthrax
6. British Sheep Population to Undergo Genetic Screening
1. ACTIONS AGAINST BATTERY CAGE OPERATIONS
Mercy for Animals, an Ohio animal rights organization, conducted
clandestine raids on two Buckeye Egg Farm operations after requests for a
tour were ignored. The group presented documentation to the press,
including a video showing featherless hens suffering from paralysis and
other disorders, and decomposing bodies in cages with live hens. A live hen
was found in a dumpster with trash and dead birds. A poultry ethologist and
a veterinarian concluded that conditions on the tape were grossly
inhumane. No substantive comment was offered by Buckeye or the Ohio Poultry
Association but an OSU agricultural science professor and a spokesperson
for Ohio's agriculture development defended the battery cage system. The
group "rescued 34 hens in dire need of veterinary care." Buckeye was
ordered to pay neighbors close to $20 million this year for odors and
flies. It is now in court for other environmental charges for which the
state is attempting to imprison owner Anton Pohlmann.
In New Zealand, the Animal Liberation Front removed hens from an Auckland
battery operation this week. The N.Z. Poultry Association views the group
as a serious threat.
Under recently passed legislation, battery cages are to be phased out of
Germany within 4 years. Egg operations will have to house hens in
free-range coops or aviaries by 2012. Agriculture Minister Renate Kuenast
has pledged to steer the country away from factory farming methods after
mad cow disease was detected there last year. Crowded cages are blamed for
promoting the spread of disease, some of which can be transmitted to humans
through eggs. Countering criticism that cheap imported eggs will flood the
country, Kuenast points out that 9 out of 10 consumers are willing to pay
more for free-range eggs. An estimated 90% of Germany's 42 million laying
hens are battery caged.
"Animal rights group says egg farms foul," Dayton Daily News, Jennine
Zeleznik, October 19, 2001.
"Covert Investigation Exposes Cruelty at Ohio's Largest Egg Farms," Mercy
for Animals press release, October 18, 2001.
"Animal group raids Buckeye Egg Farm," Mansfield News Journal, Jim Siegel,
October 19, 2001.
"Hens 'liberated' by animal activists," New Zealand Herald, October 20, 2001.
"Battery cages for egg-laying hens to be outlawed in Germany," Ananova
News, October 19, 2001.
2. NEW ANIMAL TRANSPORT MANDATE AND GUIDELINES
European Union (EU) member states have given the European Commission
authority to negotiate new rules to protect animals during international
transport. The EU declared that "The Commission must seek to ensure that a
high level of animal protection is extended to international animal
transports outside the borders of the European Union." The convention is
expected to be agreed to in 2002 and will be legally binding. The Treaty of
Amsterdam, which has been in effect since 1999, lays out the ground rules
for the actions of the EU on animal welfare in its "Protocol on the
Protection and Welfare of Animals." The Protocol recognizes that animals
are sentient beings and requires that European institutions pay full regard
to the welfare needs of animals during the formulation and implementation
of Community legislation.
Border checks have increased along the U.S./Canada border. Delays can cause
health problems for animals, and the Ontario Agriculture Ministry has
published an information sheet listing "risk factors, responsibilities and
procedures to ensure the safe and humane transportation of animals."
"EU farm ministers agree [sic] animal welfare mandate," Reuters, October
"Welfare of Animals During Transport - Council Approves Mandate for
Negotiating International Rules," European Commission, October 23, 2001
(AnimalNet, October 24, 2001).
3. IBP AGREES TO $4.1 MILLION FINE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL VIOLATIONS
IBP Inc., the world's largest meatpacker, has agreed to pay a $4.1 million
fine to the U.S. government for violating environmental laws during the
past 13 years. It has also agreed to spend $10 million for air and water
quality improvements. The agreement resolves charges involving the
company's Nebraska plant, which slaughters 5,000 cattle and tans
4,000-5,000 skins every day. Some 4 million gallons of contaminated
wastewater are treated at the plant and discharged into the Missouri River
daily. The complaint charged the company with discharging large quantities
of ammonia in the wastewater in violation of its Clean Water Act permit.
The Justice Department said problems from the ammonia date back to 1988.
IBP failed to install required air pollution control equipment, illegally
emitted an excessive amount of hydrogen sulfide into the air, and
chronically failed to report known excess releases of hydrogen sulfide. In
1999, IBP reported continuously emitting as much as 1,919 pounds of the gas
every day from the Nebraska facility. It also improperly disposed of spent
gun cartridges which contained lead. IBP was acquired by Tyson Foods Inc.,
on September 28th and is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Tyson. The
40-year old company generated nearly $17 billion in sales in 2000, and has
"Nebraska meatpacking plant fined for 13 years of environmental
violations," Environmental News Network, October 16, 2001.
4. NEW FINDINGS ON ANTIBIOTIC-RESISTANT BACTERIA AND MEAT
A recent FDA survey found 20% of supermarket ground beef and poultry
samples were contaminated with Salmonella. A few samples contained DT104, a
particularly virulent strain of the bacteria. Of the Salmonella strains
identified, 84% were resistant to at least 1 antibiotic and 53% were
resistant to 3 or more. In another study, researchers at the CDC found that
the majority of chickens it tested contained a potentially fatal bacteria
which is resistant to a combination of antibiotics. The antibiotic
combination has only been approved for use in humans only since 1999, but
is similar to one that has been used in poultry for decades. The authors of
this study concluded "food-borne-dissemination of resistance may increase
as the clinical use of [the drug] increases." A third study found that
antibiotic-resistant bacteria ingested from animals stay in the human body
long enough for it to multiply and colonize. One of the antibiotics to
which it is resistant is commonly used in chicken feed.
The studies were published in the October 18th issue of the New England
Journal of Medicine with an editorial by a Tufts University
infectious-disease specialist critical of the subtherapeutic use of
antibiotics in farmed animals. In 1998, The European Union banned the use
of antibiotics as growth promoters if the drugs are similar to ones used in
human medicine. Industry critics are calling for improved sanitation and
reduced stress in farmed animals. Industry representatives blame resistance
problems on the overuse of antibiotics in human medicine. The FDA's Center
for Veterinary Medicine has released a statement acknowledging "there is
ample scientific data linking antimicrobial foodborne resistant infections
in humans to the use of these antimicrobials in livestock and poultry." It
includes an overview of the agency's past actions and an announcement that
it will hold public meetings on the issue in 2002.
"Tainted meat raises antibiotic debate," The Associated Press, Jeff Donn,
October 18, 2001.
"Experts Debate Use of Antibiotics in Livestock Production," Ag Web News,
Darcy Maulsby, October 22, 2001.
"Antibiotic (Antimicrobial) Resistance and Animals," FDA/CVM release,
October 24, 2001.
"Antibiotics on the Farm," American Radio Works, Daniel Zwerdling.
5. AGROTERRORISM AND ANTHRAX
Agriculture is a big target for terrorists "which could set off an economic
tidal wave," warns Peter Chalk, Biological Agroterrorist Analyst for the
Rand Corporation. Agriculture comprises 1/6th of the U.S. Gross Domestic
Product and employs some 24 million people. Speaking at the World Food
Prize Annual Symposium, Mr. Chalk "stunned" the audience with a long list
of vulnerabilities. This includes concentrated and intensified production
with a general lack of biosecurity and surveillance. He noted there is an
inefficient disease reporting system and commented that distrust between
buyers and producers tends to delay reporting out of fear that an
operation might be shut down or problematic regulations could be
instituted. There are 22 foreign animal diseases that "could be introduced
relatively easily, devastating the U.S. livestock industry." Pathogens or
heavy metals could also be easily introduced to the food chain.
An article in the Denver Post explains why the state's $16 billion
agriculture industry is "highly vulnerable" to attack. Dairies and feedlots
with hundreds of thousands of cattle could be the biggest targets.
Precautions for farmers and ranchers are listed.
Inoculating farmed animals with anthrax is not considered a likely method
of attacking agriculture, since it would quickly be detected and could be
controlled. Minnesota's worst outbreak of anthrax in cattle since 1938
occurred recently but is being attributed to natural causes. State
officials suspect anthrax spores dormant in soil may have been activated by
flooding, drought or even lightening. Prior to this, the last case is
believed to have occurred there in 1953. This year, the deaths of 95
cattle, 2 horses and 2 wild deer have been linked to anthrax, all in
northwestern Minnesota. A 1999 APHIS fact sheet which references anthrax as
a terrorist tool can be found at:
"Agriculture Not Immune From Terrorism," AgWeb News, Bob Coffman, October
"Experts: Seeds of terror could strike agriculture," Denver Post, Ann
Schrader and Steve Raabe, October 22, 2001.
"Anthrax outbreak among Minnesota cattle not linked to bioterrorism," Star
Tribune, Larry Oakes, October 21, 2001.
Dairy and Animal Science Electronic Executive Summary: Anthrax
6. BRITISH SHEEP POPULATION TO UNDERGO GENETIC SCREENING
The British government has announced that farmers will be forced to
slaughter or castrate any sheep they cannot prove are resistant to scrapie,
a BSE-like diseases. The country's 45,000 flocks are to be tested to ensure
they are not genetically susceptible to the disorder. The announcement was
made after it was disclosed that a 4-year experiment, which had attempted
to determine if sheep had had BSE during the 1990's, had mistakenly been
conducted on 3,000 cattle brains instead of sheep brains. Problems with the
testing had initially been realized 3 months ago but were only made public
recently. It is theorized that sheep might have been infected with BSE
which was mistaken for scrapie. Early findings from the study suggested
this had indeed been the case, which could have resulted in the
precautionary slaughter of the country's 40 million sheep. This is still a
possibility if is found that sheep were afflicted with BSE. The Food
Standards Agency continues to advise that meat from British sheep is safe
but is calling for urgent testing of flocks.
"Farmers Told to Cull Unhealthy Sheep," The Guardian, James Meikle and
Patrick Winter, October 23, 2001.
"BSE mix-up 'known far earlier,'" BBC News, October 21, 2001.
"Two inquiries launched into BSE blunder," BBC News, October 19, 2001.