A Project of Animal Place
September 16, 2002
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1. FDA Announces New Antibiotic Guidelines & Public Meeting
2. U.S. Sheep Survey Results Released
3. Costlier Cows Causing Changes
4. New Jersey Governor Funds Drafting of Farmed Animal Standards
5. Farmed Animal Ballot Initiatives
6. Political Windfall for Agriculture
7. Suffocation, Contamination in On-farm Sabotage
8. Farmed Animal Reproductive Center Opening & Tour
9. McDonald's Makeover
1. FDA ANNOUNCES NEW ANTIBIOTIC GUIDELINES & PUBLIC MEETING
To address concerns that antibiotics given to farmed animals are contributing to the decreasing usefulness of antibiotics used in human medicine, the FDA has proposed regulations that may limit new animal drugs in the future. An FDA official explained, "We have substantial evidence now that resistant pathogens do form in treated animals and can be transmitted to humans through the food supply." By weight, more than half the nation's antibiotics are used for agriculture. The proposal, released last week, would require the maker of a new animal antibiotic to assess whether it could promote the growth of disease-causing bacteria resistant to antibiotics used to treat humans. Currently, pharmaceutical companies only need to show that hazardous residues won't be left in animal products. A method for reviewing some animal antibiotics already on the market is also included in the draft. The FDA will take into account public comments submitted within the next 2 months. A public meeting on the document will be held in Washington, D.C. on October 2nd.
"FDA Combats Resistance to Antibiotics," The Washington Post, Marc Kaufman, Sept. 15, 2002
"FDA Announces Public Meeting and Availability of Draft Guidance on Antibiotic Resistance," Center for Veterinary Medicine (FDA) Update, September 11, 2002.
2. U.S. SHEEP SURVEY RESULTS RELEASED
The USDA has begun releasing details of a survey on sheep production in the U.S. it conducted in 2001. The Department compiled information from 22 major sheep-producing states, representing 72% of U.S. sheep operations. The first release regards management trends including population, breeding practices, reproduction, marketing, mortality, cadaver disposal, biosecurity, and shearing. Other releases on the survey are expected this autumn. A few of the survey findings follow. About 66,000 operations raised nearly 7 million sheep, of which 65% were raised primarily for meat production. Over half (57%) of all sheep were raised in operations with 1,000 or more sheep, though only 2.4% of "farm flocks" raised sheep in intensive confinement. Only 1.3% of operations used artificial insemination, the rest relying on natural breeding. More than 90% of lambs had their tails docked, and male lambs were castrated on 77% of operations. Nearly a quarter of all rams and a fifth of all ewes were culled over the year. About half of all sheep who were culled were removed due to old age. Some 5% of adult sheep in range and farm flocks died prior to be marketed, and 1 in every 10 lambs died within a year of their birth. The PDF document can be obtained from: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/ceah/cahm/Sheep/sheep.htm
"National Sheep Study Details U.S. Flocks, Shepherds," Agri-View News, Kelli Gunderson, Sept. 5 & 12, 2002.
3. COSTLIER COWS CAUSING CHANGES
Current high prices for replacement heifers and cows in the dairy industry are causing changes in the structure of western dairies. High milk production per cow has been the primary objective of these dairies, with strict cow culling. Poorly producing cows were given little chance to improve before being sent to slaughter. Replacement rates of 35-40% per year have been common. Additionally, due to breeding practices, many female calves who were produced were not retained. A 1995 survey of the U.S. dairy industry found that, on average, 100 cows would produce 93 live calves, half of whom were female. Of these 47 female calves, about 8 would perish prior to reaching 26 months of age - the average age of calving and entering the milking herd. Of the remaining 39, some would be culled due to production or health problems, leaving about 30-32 calves from the original 93 to serve as replacements and to expand the milking herd. To meet the 35-40% replacement rates, heifers were imported from other regions of the country. Due to the high national demand for replacement animals, western dairies are having to change these and other practices. A related article focusing on Wisconsin's increasing dairy herd sizes can be found at: http://www.agriview.com/dairy/dairy2.html
A McDonald's executive recently explained to Texas ranchers that the company is looking to imported beef due to a diminishing supply of U.S. culled cows. He said the number of culled cows in the U.S. has dropped from 10 million a few years ago to 5.5 million this year. (McDonald's is the largest buyer of U.S. beef.)
"High Heifer Prices Spur Management Changes," Agri-View News, Ron Johnson, Sept. 12, 2002
"Texas Cattlemen Make Counteroffer," Associated Press, September 12, 2002.
4. NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR FUNDS DRAFTING OF FARMED ANIMAL STANDARDS
In 1995, New Jersey amended its anti-cruelty statute by requiring the development and adoption of: "(1) standards for the humane raising, keeping, care and treatment, marketing, and sale of domestic livestock; and (2) rules and regulations governing the enforcement of those standards." Lack of funding has been a problem in getting the standards, rules and regulations put in place. Recently, New Jersey Governor James E. McGreevey provided funding for the N.J. Department of Agriculture to begin drafting the standards.
"Write a 'Thank You' Letter to NJ Governor McGreevey," Farm Sanctuary News and Action Alerts, September 10-17, 2002.
"New Jersey's Law," Stop Cruel Factory Farming in New Jersey.
5. FARMED ANIMAL BALLOT INITIATIVES
This November, farmed animal initiatives will be on the ballot in 3 states. In Florida, voters will decide whether gestation crates should be banned (see issue #51). Voters in Oklahoma will be able to outlaw cockfighting in the state (see issue #41), while those in Arkansas will decide whether to toughen penalties for cockfighting and other "extreme acts of animal cruelty" (see issue #77). Oklahoma voters will also be able to increase the number of signatures needed to nearly double the current amount required to get an initiative promoting the welfare of animals on future ballots. Beginning in the 1990's, animal protection became the dominant issue on statewide referendums. Wayne Pacelle of The Humane Society of the United States explained, "Agriculture groups and other animal use industries often exert disproportionate influence on state legislators.....That's why the initiative process is so very important." The article includes the addresses of web sites regarding the pending initiatives.
Federally, the "Downed Animal Protection Act" is still pending in Congress (H.R. 1421 and S. 267). Farm Sanctuary recently conducted an undercover investigation at Texas stockyards. Photos from the investigation are posted at: http://www.farmsanctuary.org/newsletter/tx_stockyards.htm
"Animal Protection Measures Top Issues in Elections," U.S. Newswire, September 12, 2002.
6. POLITICAL WINDFALL FOR AGRICULTURE
The previous issue of Farmed Animal Watch contained items about the Senate's approval of $6 billion in federal emergency assistance for farmers and ranchers due to current drought conditions, and the USDA's recent purchase of tens of millions of pounds of meat. This week, the New York Times ran an editorial stating that it was "mainly politics, not compassion" that elicited the drought aid. It notes that few Senators were willing to obtain the money from the $180 billion Farm Bill by trimming some of the "lavish entitlements" from it. (The bill had been passed with the agreement that any additional expenditures for agriculture would be offset by spending reductions within the bill.) President Bush is also taken to task for the "unconscionable overspending." The editorial explains that Bush ignored an earlier effort to pass a bill which would have helped farmers and ranchers buy generous insurance against economic downturns. It notes that one of the main reasons Congress is now seeking the emergency aid is to help those involved in animal agriculture. An extensive article on the politics of agricultural disaster aid can be found at: http://www.agweb.com/news_show_news_article.asp?articleID=91410&newscat=GN
The current issue of Cow-Calf Weekly (distributed by Beef magazine) states:
"Consider the power position that U.S. agriculture holds at this time with the control of both the House and Senate riding largely on what happens in a few ag states. It should be no surprise that the record farm bill, the foreign trade debate, packer ownership, country-of-origin labeling, etc., have all been front-burner issues this year.
Nor is it a surprise that nearly every week the government rushes to hand out more money. Just in the last two weeks, USDA announced the release of $150 million and the stores of non-fat dry milk for feed-short livestock producers, authorized the use of all CRP acres for emergency haying and grazing, and it announced the largest purchase of pork since 1998 to prop up the falling pork market, hinting that more purchases could be forthcoming. This is after the government already this year more than doubled the amount of pork purchased compared to the last several years.
Perhaps, agriculture should have a joint meeting of all the producer groups and see if there is something else to be milked from the system. After all, the odds of agriculture enjoying so much political clout any time in the future are remote at best."
"The Politics of Drought," The New York Times, September 15, 2002.
"Thank God for Election Years," Cow-Calf Weekly, Troy Marshall, September 13, 2002.
7. SUFFOCATION, CONTAMINATION IN ON-FARM SABOTAGE
Ventilation fans were shut off to 23,000 "tightly packed broilers" last month, 3 weeks after a similar incident left 55,000 birds dead at another Tyson chicken operation (see issue #81). Both were in Kentucky, 50 miles apart, and are believed to be the first of their kind in the state and for the Arkansas-based company. A University of Kentucky poultry specialist said, "The cruelty to the animals themselves to die in suffocation is great....[with fans off] they can die really quick." The remoteness of the operations makes crimes against them that much easier. A local county agriculture extension agent remarked, ""Those things are big, sometimes they're remote. Somebody can go in there and pull off vandalism pretty easily without people knowing about it for awhile." The death of the birds is a loss to the company of at least $60,000. The Kentucky Poultry Federation, Tyson and the Kentucky Farm Bureau are offering a $10,000 reward to anyone with information leading to convictions.
In 3 separate incidents this summer, an estimated total of 145,000 pounds of raw milk was contaminated with antibiotics in Wyoming County, N.Y. It is believed that either a lactating cow received an illicit injection of an antibiotic or the drug was dumped into a bulk milk tank. During the past 2 years, as many as 20 such incidents have been reported in western part of the state.
"Kentucky chicken farmers concerned about killings of 75,000 chickens," Associated Press, Kimberly Hefling, September 13, 2002.
"Tainting of raw milk puts focus on investigation," Buffalo News, Todd Fielding, Sept. 13, 2002.
8. FARMED ANIMAL REPRODUCTIVE CENTER OPENING & TOUR
The Center for the Study of Fetal Programming will be showcased at the University of Wyoming's annual field day and open house on September 21st. The purpose of the Center, the first of its kind in the U.S., is to examine the effect of maternal stresses (e.g., under-nutrition, hormone therapies, high elevation) on fetal and neonatal growth and development as well as on the postpartum health and longevity of the offspring. The intent is to find ways to produce healthy, fast-growing, more uniform calves and lambs, and to also use the research results for healthier human babies. The Center is a joint effort, with U.W. providing animal and laboratory facilities and New York University providing faculty and research equipment. Tours will be conducted from 10-11:30, followed by overviews of departmental research from 1:30-3:30. For more information, call: (307) 766-2540.
"Wyoming Cuts Ribbon on Fetal Center, Cow-Calf Weekly, Vicki Hamende, Sept. 13, 2002.
"Livestock study center to open at UW Sept. 21," Associated Press, September 13, 2002.
9. MCDONALD'S MAKEOVER
McDonald's is planning to revive lagging sales by revamping its image. Changes include new signage to replace the traditional golden "M," more comfortable seating, different decor and, yes, retiring Ronald McDonald. The star of the company's advertising campaigns for the past few decades, the clown is considered a dated icon. In recent years, he's also been a target for anti-globalization campaigners. Mr. McDonald is already being phased out of commercials but may continue to make occasional appearances at children's parties. According to one advertising agency, his grin and red hair is more likely to scare children than make them laugh. One 5-year old critic confirmed, "I don't think he is funny at all, I don't like him. I think he should go away."
"Curtains for the Fast Food Clown," The Herald (Glasgow), Vicky Collins, September 9, 2002.
"McDonald's Announces Discount Menu, Revamps Restaurants," The Meating Place, Joshua Lipsky, September 9, 2002.