A Project of Animal Place
May 22, 2002
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1. Safeway Agrees to Mandate Animal Welfare
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
1. SAFEWAY AGREES TO MANDATE ANIMAL WELFARE STANDARDS
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
2. USDA BACKPEDALS ON FARM ANIMAL WELL-BEING TASK GROUP
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.
3. GROWTH PROMOTER BELIEVED TO BE KNOCKING DOWN PIGS
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
4. FEATHERLESS CHICKEN
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
"Scientist create pre-plucked chicken," This is London, George
Wright, May 21, 2001.
"Featherless chicken creates a flap," New Scientist, Emma Young, May
"Naked Chicken Plan May Make Feathers Flap," Reuters, Megan Goldin,
May 21, 2002.
5. DAIRY MANAGEMENT PROBLEMS
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.
6. DAIRY IMAGE PROBLEMS
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."