Farmed Animal Watch
A Project of Animal Place

August 9, 2002                                                     (To Search This Page Press Ctrl F)
Issue #79


1. Florida Referendum is On
2. Gestation Crate Alternatives, Advice
3. Reasons for Rising Sow Mortality, Reduced Gilt Farrowing Rates
4. Recycling Recalled Meat
5. Many Countries Restricting, Banning U.S. Poultry
6. Activists' Documentation Said to Be Propaganda, Atypical
7. Egg Industry Convenes to Discuss Animal Welfare
8. Ohio Ag Industry: Threats and Promotional Efforts

The Florida petition drive to ban gestation crates has gathered enough validated signatures to get on the November 5th ballot (see back issue #16). If approved by the voters, illegal use of the crates could result in a fine of $5,000 or a year in jail. Opponents object to the change in the state Constitution, which the initiative seeks to do. Proponents counter that legislative efforts have been foiled by politicians beholden to the industry.

"A pregnant pause, please, for pig vote," South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Robert Nolin, 8/7/02.

"Trickle feeding" is an automated feeding system which provides one alternative to crating pigs during their 4-month pregnancies. Pigs are penned together with food distributed to individuals at the rate of the slowest eater, preventing competition. The USDA plans to evaluate the system, which has already been tested in Europe. (See also issue #73.)

In a pig industry publication, an English consultant urges U.S. producers to adopt welfare measures, including the elimination of gestation crates, in order to meet European market demands. He explains that production there will likely be curtailed, not because of welfare standards but due to pollution restrictions.

"New Feeder Curbs Pregnant Sows' Hoggish Ways," ARS News, Don Comis, July 15, 2002.
"Do You Want This Market?" National Hog Farmer, John Gadd, July 15, 2002

Crowding, breeding, handling, inappropriate diets, and a predisposition to disease are all implicated in the nation's rising sow mortality rate. According to veterinarians at the Swine Vet Center in ST. Paul, Mn., many operations are experiencing a sow mortality rate of 10%. This feature article details possible reasons why, including inexperienced and untrained workers, inadequate facilities for sick pigs, allowing pigs in poor condition to deteriorate, and injuries.

Farrowing (birthing) rates for gilts (pigs who have not yet had a litter) can be reduced by up to 55% if they are handled by overworked or disgruntled workers during artificial insemination.

"15 Reasons for Rising Sow Mortality," Pork Magazine, Marlys Miller, January 7, 2002.
"Ohio State to Teach Sow Insemination," UPI Farming Today, Gregory Tejeda, July 24, 2002.

At least 12,000 of the 18,600,000 pounds of recalled meat have been returned to ConAgra (see issue #77). Recalled meat can be cooked and resold as human or nonhuman animal food, used for fertilizer or other inedible products, or buried in a landfill. Cooking recalled meat is a common practice in the food industry. Notes one food inspection official, "Even though cooking it to 265 degrees makes it sterile, I still don't like poop in my chili." So far, the death of one person may have resulted from consumption of the recalled meat. ConAgra has decided not to process the recalled meat for human consumption, which it previously had said it might do.

"Recalled meat recycled," The Denver Post, David Migoya, August 2, 2002.,1413,36%257E23827%257E769242,00.html
"Tainted Meat to be made into non-food products," The Denver Post, David Migoya, 8/9/02.,1413,36%257E53%257E783658%257E,00.html

The U.S. is the world's largest exporter of chicken, having exported $1.9 billion worth last year. However, countries are increasingly rejecting imports of U.S. chicken. Disease and antibiotic and other chemical residues are frequently cited as the cause of these rejections. The industry argues that foreign competition is the real reason. This lengthy article examines the controversy.

"U.S. Companies Find Many Countries Restrict, Ban U.S. Poultry Imports," The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Cristal Cody, August 6, 2002.
U.S. Poultry & Egg Export Council

Wild Oats Markets has suspended sales of duck meat from a California duck company following an investigation by Viva! USA. The group charges that ducks are kept in unsanitary, crowded pens without water for bathing, and that the birds' bills are cut. Woodland Farms Inc.(owned and operated by Maple Leaf Farms) denies the allegations, and says the organization is confusing it with larger operations where abuses might occur. (Woodland raises 600,000 ducks annually at 6 California locations.) Whole Foods and Trader Joe's have already suspended duck meat sales as a result of Viva's campaign. However, a spokesperson for Trader Joe's said the photo evidence is "propaganda." All 3 of the chains are awaiting independent certification of animal care methods before resuming sales. PETA recently wrote to Whole Foods asking them to commit to animal welfare guidelines for its suppliers equal to or better than those adopted by Safeway and others.

Advocates for Animals (AA) found conditions still horrendous on a return visit to 2 pig farms operated by Scotpigs, one of Scotland's largest pig production companies (see issue #62). The 2 farms have been suspended from an independent quality assurance program, run by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), since April when similar conditions were found there. In addition to further cannibalism, AA said this time it found dead and dying piglets, "a [crated] sow screaming as her piglets gnawed at a rotting wound on her leg," and pigs eating what appeared to be asbestos from the walls. The Scottish SPCA (SSPCA) received many calls from the public after footage was televised. As before, the SSPCA made recommendations but brought no charges against Scotpigs. QMS wants to assure the public that the documented conditions are not typical of the industry.

"Market stops sale of duck," The Press-Enterprise, Ellen Braunstein, August 4, 2002.
The Duckling Council
"Ducks Out of Water," Viva! USA
PETA Wants the Whole Truth Behind Whole Foods," PETA press release.

"Videotaped pig images not typical, say experts," Aberdeen Press and Journal, August 6, 2002.
"'Horrific' West Lothian Piggery Makes Major Improvements," Neil Moir, ibid., August 7, 2002.

A 1-day welfare summit held prior to United Egg Producers (UEP) annual meeting is the topic of a 2-part article. Among the more than 100 participants were representatives of several animal protection groups. The European situation and its global impacts were discussed, along with alternative production systems. Regulatory perspectives for the U.S. were given by an APHIS official who noted that animal welfare will be a key issue in World Trade Organization (WTO) talks. Molting was a particularly contentious subject. Diets that could be used if the industry is "forced" to stop depriving hens of food were described. Beak cutting was also discussed. (It was noted that one reason it is done is to reduce feed intake.) A representative of a genetics company explained that breeders try to improve welfare by changing birds' needs to fit the environment. Welfare certification programs run by animal welfare organizations were also explained. A representative of the Animal Agriculture Alliance told of high-profile activist campaigns which she said are conducted by groups that can outspend the agricultural industries on public relations.

At the poultry industry's "Back to Vegas....Back to Basics" conference, trade and welfare were also discussed. Animal welfare was described as a "gathering storm," and all in the industry were encouraged to "join the fight." One presenter warned that "The animal rights people are getting to the media, retailers and legislative entities as evidenced by many different avenues." Another noted that activists are "attacking" supermarkets and threatening boycotts. It was estimated that for the average flock to go from the current 48 square inches per bird to 67 inches could cost an additional 12.2 cents per dozen eggs. Though it was pointed out that egg prices are too low due to the high number of birds in production for the past 5 years, 3 states were given "top honors" for increasing their hen populations.

"Focusing on Layer Welfare," Egg Industry, May & April issues. (UEP welfare certification standards are also given in the April issue.)
"Back to Basics at Urner Barry," Egg Industry, John Todd, May 2002.

Environmental and animal protection activists are deemed by an industry commentator to be "the most significant threat" to the Ohio egg industry. He writes that their actions have created growing skepticism about the industry. Efforts underway to counter these challenges are explained in the article. The USDA is funding a $500,000 promotional campaign for Ohio agriculture. The "TV blitz" campaign, to begin in September, will tell of the positive impact modern family farms have on Ohioans. Animal well-being is described as a "hot button" issue in another article in the same poultry industry publication.

"Egg production advances provide opportunities," Poultry Times, Jack Heavenridge, 8/5/02.
"Helping Ohioans Better Understand Modern Family Farming...." PRNewswire, May 20, 2002.
"Egg companies should focus on finances and animal welfare," Poultry Times, Dr. Casey W. Ritz, August 5, 2002