Farmed Animal Watch
A Project of Animal Place

May 22, 2002                                                     (To Search This Page Press Ctrl F)
Issue #69


1. Safeway Agrees to Mandate Animal Welfare Standards
2. USDA Backpedals on Farm Animal Well-being Task Group
3. Growth Promoter Believed to Be Knocking Down Pigs
4. Featherless Chicken
5. Dairy Management Problems
6. Dairy Image Problems

Following a 3-month boycott led by PETA, Safeway has agreed to require that its suppliers adhere to certain animal welfare standards (see issue #56). The agreement came a day before a protest was to be held outside a Safeway shareholders meeting. Safeway denies it was bowing to pressure but credits PETA with alerting the food industry to the issues. Among the mandates Safeway suppliers will have to abide by are: unannounced inspections of slaughterplants, increased space for caged hens, and no forced molting. Safeway will cease buying from suppliers who fail audits. Safeway supplier Seaboard Farms, the pig operation where a PETA investigator documented gross animal abuse, will also be subject to unannounced inspections. Safeway will be following standards set by the Food Marketing Institute rather than higher standards set by leading fast-food chains. PETA is now turning its attention to other major supermarkets, such as Wal-Mart and Kroger. 
"PETA withdraws call for boycott of Safeway stores," Contra Costa Times, Janet Adamy, May 16, 2002.

"Safeway Sends a Letter of Thanks," PETA Action Alert

The USDA declined to meet with animal advocacy representatives for the annual meeting of its Farm Animal Well-Being Task Group. Instead, Bill Hawks, the USDA's Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, agreed to meet only with Dr. Peter Singer, President of Animal Rights International and  DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, to discuss the future of the Group. Formed in the late 1990's, the Task Group is a body of USDA officials who were to periodically meet with key farmed animal protection advocates to develop specific initiatives. Some of the issues previously discussed include forced molting, handling of nonambulatory animals, and enforcement of the "Humane Slaughter Act."
During the meeting, Hawks and his associates maintained that the USDA does not have regulatory authority over animal welfare other than that concerning slaughter. [A June 2001 USDA press release states that the USDA "....has a Farm Animal Well Being Task Force to address sound standards for the care, handling, transporting, and slaughter of farm animals."] He said producers are in a difficult economic situation and suggested the way the animal protection community can make progress is by swaying consumers. Dr. Singer pointed out that, under the school lunch program, the USDA could take the lead by not purchasing eggs from force molted hens. He also noted that, through extension and research programs, the USDA could significantly influence animal welfare in many areas where it does not have regulatory powers. Singer urged that the U.S. not be allowed to fall even farther behind Europe on animal welfare issues. Despite the officials apparent unawareness of European developments, they still did not express interest in continuing the Task Group. "My overall impression was decidedly negative," Dr. Singer stated afterwards, adding "This administration is interested in the welfare of producers, not animals." He believes other means will be necessary to advance farmed animal well-being.     
"Farm Animal Well-Being Task Group Chucked by U.S. Department of Agriculture," United Poultry Concerns press release, May 22, 2002.
"Humane Slaughter," Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA) Key Facts press release, June 22, 2001.

Paylean is the brand name of ractopamine hydrochloride, a feed additive that directs nutrients to produce muscle instead of fat. Elanco, maker of the product, estimates it is fed to 40% of U.S. pigs. The effect is said to be "phenomenal" in the first week, but soon declines. The additive is suspected of causing pigs to fatigue and walk slowly or lie down, potentially becoming nonambulatory. (A distinction is made in the article between "downers" and "slows.") Notes an operator who uses the additive, "Paylean pigs cannot be pushed. They're like body builders; they walk slower and stiffer; they take twice as long to load." He ships fewer pigs per truck and makes sure "everything walks off." Nonambulation, the inability to stand or walk, is more common in heavily muscled pigs. Elanco conducted a study and found that afflicted pigs, whether or not they had consumed Paylean, suffer from metabolic acidosis (low pH). Handling was the most important factor contributing to the condition. The company recommends treating pigs as gently as possible and reducing the use of electric prods.   
"Paylean Judged on Carcass Merits," National Hog Farmer, Debra Neutkens, May 15, 2002.

A featherless chicken has been developed by Avigdor Cahaner, an Israeli geneticist at Hebrew University. The red-skinned birds also have less fat and grow faster. Cahaner claims they are more likely to survive in warm climates than are other chickens. Chickens used for meat production have been bred to gain weight rapidly. In doing so, they generate a lot of heat, requiring energy-intensive cooling systems in warmer climates. Cahaner asserts that naked chickens are also better environmentally in that the large quantities of water ordinarily needed to remove feathers will not be required. Environmentalists, however, are critical of the genetic "tampering." Animal protection advocates have also blasted the experimentation. Featherless chickens who have occurred due to random genetic mutation are more susceptible to parasites, mosquito attacks and sunburn. Males have been unable to mate due to their inability to flap their wings. Tom Acamovic of the Scottish Agricultural College points out that the birds, especially young ones, would be very susceptible to temperature variations. The new birds are smaller than conventional birds, and Cahaner plans to increase their height through additional selection.
"Scientist create pre-plucked chicken," This is London, George Wright, May 21, 2001.
"Featherless chicken creates a flap," New Scientist, Emma Young, May 21, 2002.
"Naked Chicken Plan May Make Feathers Flap," Reuters, Megan Goldin, May 21, 2002.

The most significant decline in reproductive performance of cows used by the U.S. dairy industry has occurred since the mid-1980's. Herds in England, Ireland and Australia have also reported significant declines. Conception rates in New Zealand, which has a lower average milk production per cow, are substantially higher. This is attributed to the country's grazing-based dairying. Among the reasons offered for the global decline in reproductive performance are physiological factors due to high milk production, an increase in inbreeding and embryo transfer, and concrete walking surfaces.
"One step forward, two steps back," Dairy Herd Management, Brian Gerloff, May 14, 2002.

Los Angeles television station KCAL-9 looked into controversial television ads by the California Milk Advisory Board (see issue #66). To find out if the pastoral ads were an accurate depiction, KCAL went to Chino Valley. The 350,000 cows there constitute the largest concentration in the world. At every operation the crew found cows with large, distended udders and only saw cows and calves on dirt, not on grass or pasture. Dead calves were also seen. When presented with the findings, the executive director of the Milk Producers Council claimed birthing on dirt was unusual but acknowledged that calves are typically removed from their mothers after a day. He also maintained that images such as those shown in the ads can be found within the state. The station concluded: "The reality of what we videotaped versus what the organization is handing out is totally different."   
"UP CLOSE: ĎA Beef With Dairy,'" KCAL-9.
{Thanks to Dawn James for alerting us to this article.}