Farmed Animal Watch
A Project of Animal Place

May 29, 2002                                                     (To Search This Page Press Ctrl F)
Issue #70


1. McDonald's Rejects Bid for Higher Foreign Welfare Standards
2. Dairy Industry Benefits from Farm Bill
3. Chronic Wasting Disease
4. Farm Workers Uncomfortable With Killing
5. Chickens Viciously Massacred at Slaughterplant
6. Upcoming Events: World Pork Expo, Livestock Care Conference
7. Newsletter of Note: Policy Bites
McDonald's shareholders overwhelmingly rejected a resolution to extend animal-welfare reforms made in U.S. and U.K. operations to all McDonald's franchises, including Canada. The initiative was put forth by PETA and Trillium Asset Management, a Boston-based investment firm. The 4% vote it did receive will enable PETA and Trillium to submit the same resolution next year.
McDonald's had argued against the legitimacy of the resolution but, based in part on documentation it received about Canada's lower standards, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission ruled in favor of the resolution being put to a vote.
McDonald's director of social responsibility called the initiative unnecessary since the company's program is global. The company's web sites, however, indicate that Canada's standards are significantly lower than those in the U.S. The Canadian site only states that audits will be done on "key beef suppliers" (with no mention of severing ties with slaughterplants that don't comply with federal standards), and that minimum cage standards for egg-laying hens will be increased to 72 square inches. A 1999 independent audit of Canadian slaughterplants showed that only 60% of the inspected plants met federal standards.
"Canadian McDonald's behind U.S. on animal rights," Vancouver Sun, Nicholas Read, May 24, 2002.
"Animal Welfare, McDonald's U.S. site.
"Animal Welfare" section of McDonald's "Corporate Social Responsibility, Canadian Fact Sheet."

The dairy industry stands to benefit from the recently passed Farm Bill. The bill establishes a minimum price dairy operations will receive for milk. Direct government payments will help operators withstand market price fluctuations. One analyst explains that, like the rest of the Farm Bill, the dairy program was about buying votes for the 2002 congressional elections and the 2004 presidential race. As a result, certain states stand to benefit much more than others. Up to 2.4 million pounds of milk per operation will be subsidized annually. This is equivalent to the amount produced by a herd of 100-150 cows, so larger operations will receive subsidies on only a portion of their output. The payments could result in an annual increase of 1.2 billion pounds of milk. This is less than 1% of the amount produced in the U.S., and would have little impact on market prices. Taxpayers may pay pennies less for milk, butter and cheese but may ultimately pay up to $1.8 billion for the program.
"Dairy farmers join herd at subsidy trough," The Chicago Tribune, Greg Burns, May 19, 2002.
"Got price supports?" The Des Moines Register, Anne Fitzgerald, May 15, 2002.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a type of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE), similar to "mad-cow disease," which is known to affect deer and elk. It was first identified in U.S. deer in 1967 and initially was only found among captive animals. Even after its discovery, deer from affected ranches were released into the wild. In 1981, wild deer were found to be infected. It was later discovered in elk, and the elk trade gave the disease a new way to spread. In1996, CWD turned up on a commercial elk farm in Saskatchewan, Canada. By 1999 elk-breeding operations in 4 U.S. states had infected animals. There are an estimated 160,000 elk in captivity on 2,300 ranches in the U.S. and Canada. Since 1998, 4,432 elk have been killed after having been exposed to the disease, which has an incubation period of 2-3 years.
Initially, CWD was limited to certain western states. Its recent detection in Wisconsin has caused alarm over how far the disease may have spread in wild populations. (It has not been found among ranched animals there.) Officials in some states are particularly concerned with the potential impact on the multi-million-dollar hunting industries. Some studies suggest CWD could theoretically infect people but there is evidence of a substantial species barrier. Five peculiar human cases of TSE, all involving people who had consumed elk or deer, have been investigated but no strong evidence of a causal link to CWD has been found. These articles consider the possible risk to people, the improbability of containing the disease, and the funds being sought and spent to address it.       
"‘Chronic wasting disease' spreads to eight U.S. states," The Wall Street Journal, Antonio Regalado, May 24, 2002.
"Mad Deer Epidemic?" National Review, James A. Swan, May 23, 2002.
"Two bills in Congress target chronic wasting disease," Associated Press, Robert Gehrke, May 23, 2002.

In a North Carolina State University survey of job satisfaction among farm workers, pig farrowing managers reported the greatest dissatisfaction (31%). The researchers surmised that this is partly due to their job requirement of killing many "poor-doing" piglets. They believe part of the aversion people have to killing animals is because they transfer their fear and the unpleasantness they associate with the death of a human to the death of  an animal. Some workers suffer psychological distress when asked to kill animals. Those who are constantly and reluctantly exposed to it can become careless and callous in handling animals. Laboratory technicians are reportedly more comfortable gassing animals rather than killing them by cervical dislocation due to the greater dissociation from the animals' death. Pig operation managers said they would prefer to be able to use chemical injections rather than the physical methods currently in use. "We are limited to methods that act through mechanisms of direct neuronal depression, disruption of brain activity, and hypoxia [lack of oxygen] to cause rapid unconsciousness and humane death," explained one of the researchers.
"Making Difficult Decisions on Animal Euthanasia," Pork Magazine, Marlys Miller, May 23, 2002.

Workers at a Puerto Rican slaughterplant were videotaped beating some 76,000 chickens to death with metal tubes and baseball bats. Other chickens were left to suffocate inside a container truck parked in the scorching sun. The Animal Protection Society issued a statement urging the public to take cages to the plant to rescue the birds and prevent the cruel slaughter. A broadcast of the tape has prompted animal protection advocates, officials and politicians to call for an end to the brutal practice. A request has also been made for an investigation by the legislature's agricultural commission. An executive with the plant said they would cease killing chickens in this way "which offends the sensibility of our people." However, he defended the order to kill the birds "because they did not come up to the high standards of quality which we demand." In the future, unwanted birds are to have their necks wrung.  
"Poultry slaughter sparks outcry in Puerto Rico," The Pawtucket Times, May 23, 2002.
The World Pork Expo will be held in Des Moines, Iowa from June 6-8th. Free educational seminars will be held on such topics as pig welfare, maximizing productivity, and the Trucker Quality Assurance (TQA) program. A question and answer session will follow each seminar. An environmental education center will offer information on regulatory issues. Admission is $8/day for adults. For the schedule and additional information visit:
Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) will be hosting a Livestock Care Conference in Edmonton on June 25th. The day will consist of half-hour sessions on such topics as research, genetics, housing, and  transportation. The second half of the day will be devoted to Canadian responses to welfare standards emanating from major food retailers in the U.S. Registration is $70. The full schedule and contact information can be accessed at:

The Center for Informed Food Choices (CIFC) is a nonprofit organization intent on providing people with reliable resources and practical, hands-on instruction on how to incorporate more whole, plant-based foods into their diets for optimum health. CIFC publishes "Policy Bites," a monthly newsletter chockful of a variety of interesting news from a diversity of sources. The free publication can be subscribed to or viewed on the Center's web site at: