Farmed Animal Watch
A Project of Animal Place

July 26, 2002                                                     (To Search This Page Press Ctrl F)
Issue #77


1. Meat Recall Turns Into 2nd Largest Ever
2. Drug Approved for Show Use; Associated with "Downer Syndrome"
3. Severe Sheep Tail Docking Increasing Rectal Prolapse
4. Industry Practices Impact Poultry Welfare: Growth, Molting
5. Canada Revises Laying Hen Welfare Code; New Zealand Seeks Input
6. AVMA Passes Resolution to Counter Animal Advocacy Activism
7. Anti-Cockfighting Measure Qualifies for Arkansas Ballot
8. PMU Industry on Edge

The meat recall begun in June (see issue #76) has been expanded into the 2nd largest meat recall in history: 18.6 million pounds. Thirty-seven people are believed to have been sickened by the beef. In February, the USDA reportedly found 3 consecutive E. coli samples at the same ConAgra plant that the recalled meat is from, but failed to take effective action. ConAgra is actually considered somewhat of a leader in food safety by public health advocates. They, instead, fault the federal government. Safe Tables Our Priority (STOP), a consumer advocacy group, has released a list of problems it sees with federal food protection policies, including the government's lack of legal authority to recall contaminated food; it's up to the company to do so voluntarily.
Elsa Murano, the USDA undersecretary for food safety, acknowledged that the Department should have contacted the suspected processing plants after it found contaminated meat. "That would have been a good thing in retrospect," she said, "From now on, we will do that." As its 2nd policy change since the initial recall, the USDA is expanding the type of meat considered unfit for human consumption if contamination is detected. It is also deliberating whether to declare E. coli a hazard likely to occur during ground beef production. Such a declaration would force production-line changes.
"E. Coli case linked to recall," Empire Briefs, The Denver Post, July 25, 2002.,1413,36%257E53%257E752658,00.html
"Supplier says signs of bad beef ignored," Rocky Mountain News, Bill Scanlon, July 20, 2002.,1299,DRMN_15_1276623,00.html
"Beef Processor's Parent No Stranger to Troubles," The New York Times, Greg Winter, 7/20/02.
"Victims' Organization Calls ConAgra's ‘Voluntary' Recall....A Sham," Safe Tables Our Priority press release, July 19, 2002 (FSNet, July 22, 2002.)
"USDA Admits Notifying ConAgra Late on Recall," The Bulletin's Frontrunner, July 22, 2002.
"USDA plans crackdown on beef inspection," The Denver Post, David Migoya, July 24, 2002.,1413,36%257E23827%257E750408,00.html

Paylean, a drug used to make pigs leaner and more muscular, has been approved for show ring use in Ohio. Paylean is ractopamine hydrochloride, the first beta-agonist approved by the FDA for use in food-producing animals (see back issues #43 and 69). Approved in 1999, it is widely used in commercial pig production. An Ohio State pig specialist warns, "The potential exists for heavy misuse of the product." The drug's effects can be rapid and extreme. Pigs fed Paylean are also more susceptible to "downer syndrome," whereby a stressed pig's muscles cease functioning properly. An Ohio State vet explains, "The pig has so much muscle that [they are] too stiff and not able to move." It was a county extension agent who pointed out to the Ohio Department of Agriculture that the drug should be permitted for show use since it is FDA approved.
"Follow Label When Using Feed Additive on Show Pigs," News, Ohioline, Candace Pollack, July 18, 2002.
"Paylean (Ractopamine)," The Manual.

Tail docking is commonly practiced within the sheep industry. The practice of "severe" tail docking, whereby the tail is surgically removed at the point of attachment to the body wall, has been adopted of late for exhibition purposes. It has been shown to be a factor in the increasing incidence of rectal prolapse, a painful condition caused by the severing of nerves that hold the muscles supporting the rectum in place. A study by Ohio State (O.S.) and other universities showed that longer tail length cut the incidence of prolapse by 80%. The docking length of tails has become a "hot issue" across the country. Industry and show officials in some states have instituted longer tail docking policies. O.S. is implementing an education program on recommended docking length, but it is not instituting a policy on it. Notes an O.S. veterinarian, "We are trying to put ourselves in the position of educators from an animal welfare standpoint and a medical standpoint. If people choose not to follow the practice of longer tail docking, that is their choice."   
"OSU Program Comes In On Tail End of Sheep Issue," Ag Answers, July 19, 2002.
"Health and Welfare of Growing Lambs," Organic Livestock Research Group, U. of Reading.     
Growth rate in chickens was shown to affect disease (E. coli) outbreaks and mortality rates in a recent study. While comparable antibody titers were developed, the fast-growing (commercially bred) birds had the highest mortality rate. Three lines of slower-growing birds had mortality levels of 8-20% while the mortality level of the commercial birds was over 40%.
Forced molting by feed deprivation decreases immune responsiveness. USDA studies have shown that this practice causes the recurrence of previous Salmonella enteritidis (SE) infection in laying hens. Birds exposed to SE during molt were 100 to 1000 times more susceptible to SE infection than were unmolted hens, they had much more severe infections with greater intestinal inflammation, the intestinal shed rate was higher, and they shed more of the bacteria. SE was also readily transmitted to adjacent cages and birds through the air. The article concludes that since an estimated 70% of all flocks in the U.S. are force molted, "this is a problem the commercial egg industry must face." (See item #5 below.)
"Rapid Growth & Disease," Watt Poultry e-Digest, John Schleifer, Volume 2, Number 7.
"Forced Molting and S.E Infections," Watt Poultry e-Digest, Volume 2, Number 5, T.H. Eleazer

The Canadian Egg Marketing Agency has revised its code of practice. The voluntary guidelines address molting, space allotment, beak cutting, handling, transport, and access to waterers. The code encourages restricting feed "only to bring on molting." Space per bird has been increased to 67 sq. inches. Alternative beak cutting methods, such as by laser, are considered. The new code is expected to be in place by summer's end.
New Zealand's National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee released its Draft Code of Welfare for Layer Hens on July 24th. As required by the Anima Welfare Act of 1999, it will consider all input on the Draft submitted by August 28th. Past experience indicates that several hundred submissions could be received. A finalized Code will be recommended to the Minister of Agriculture as early as November. The Draft and contact information can be found at:
"Egg Farmers Get New Rules," The Western Producer, Karen Morrison, July 18, 2002.

American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) delegates passed a resolution in support of gestation crates during the recent AVMA Convention. The intent of the "Pregnant-Sow Housing" resolution was to avert attention from the public perception of gestation crates and "rely on current science addressing the issue." [Over 690,000 signatures have been obtained in support of a ban on these crates in Florida. Only 488,722 legitimate signatures are needed to get it on the November state ballot.] The American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV), which submitted the resolution, hopes the endorsement of the 65,000-member AVMA will help "balance" activists' arguments to influence public opinion and pass restrictive legislation against the crates.
[During the convention, another AVMA committee rejected a resolution presented by the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (AVAR) that called for a position statement against forced molting by feed deprivation. (See item #3 above.) This was the 4th time AVAR's resolution was rejected. See (PDF FILE): ]
"AVMA Passes Sow-Housing Resolution," Pork Magazine, July 22, 2002.
"Volunteers Search for Creative Solutions in the Florida Petition Drive," The Humane Society of the U.S.
"The Welfare of Sows in Gestation Crates: A Summary of the Scientific Evidence," Farm Sanctuary.

An anti-cruelty petition has qualified for the Arkansas state ballot in November. Of the 76,462 signatures collected, 62,588 have been validated. The petition needed 56, 481 valid signatures to qualify. If voted in, certain extreme cruelty, including all human-induced animal fighting, will be a Class D felony with a penalty of up to 6 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. Similar proposals which previously were attempted in the Legislature have been opposed by the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation.     
"Petition about Animal Cruelty Qualifies for the Nov. 5 Ballot Spot," The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Michael Wickline, July 23, 2002.
Citizens for a Humane Arkansas

Recent warnings about hormone replacement treatment for menopausal women (see issue #76) have the pregnant mare's urine (PMU) industry anxious. Some 419 ranches in Canada and North Dakota produce PMU for Ayerst Organics, a division of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals (maker of Premarin and Prempro) and the sole purchaser and processor of PMU in North America. According to the article: "Pregnant mares are confined for six months in individual stalls while strapped into urine collection harnesses with pouches cupping their genitals. The barns house between 50 to 500 pregnant mares ‘on-line' during the collection season from October through March. In spring, the mares are turned out to pasture to deliver their foals and to be bred again within a month. By Oct. 1, they're pregnant and back in the barns, tethered to urine hoses."
The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Equine Practitioners, and the International League for the Protection of Horses have inspected and approved PMU ranches. Scrutiny of the industry is escalating, however, and in response the North American Equine Ranching Information Council (NAERIC) was created with seed money from Wyeth (see issue #66). NAERIC has a "rigid rule" that ranchers are not to speak to the media or allow outsiders in their barns. According to a NAERIC spokesperson, a "few" (12,000) of the 35,000 foals born to the mares each year are sold for meat. Critics say at least 30,000 are. (See issue #29.) This lengthy (Star-Ledger) article examines the history of the industry and the controversy about it.
(A class action lawsuit is being prepared as a result of the recent news about hormone therapy: )
"Hormone fears may hurt Sask. PMU sales," The Leader-Post, Sylvia Macbean, July 19, 2002.
"Hormone Drugs' Other Controversy," Star-Ledger, Robin Gaby Fisher, July 21, 2002.
North American Equine Ranching Information Council
"Premarin and Horse Slaughter: The Hidden Story," MetroPets Newsroom, Cheryl Kucsera.