A Project of Animal Place
October 3, 2002
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1. N.Z. Permits Human Genes in Cows
2. Biotech Advances and Resistance
3. Feedlot "Encyclopedia"
4. Live Sheep Exports Halted From Australian Port
5. RSPCA Votes on Severing Ties with Industry
6. Cypress Farms Tragedy Recounted
7. Cheating at the World Dairy Expo
8. Greased Pig Contest Forced to End
1. N.Z. PERMITS HUMAN GENES IN COWS
New Zealand is permitting the insertion of human and other animal genes into cows. The country's Environment Risk Management Authority (ERMA) granted a "bitterly contested application" submitted by AgResearch, an independent research and development company with government ties. The company has been vague about its intent with the cows, saying only that it wants to produce special proteins in their milk that can be used to fight disease. (Last year its parent entity, the government-owned Crown Research Institute (CRI), impregnated 51 cows with genetically modified calves for multiple sclerosis research.) ERMA's decision included a prohibition on the introduction of viruses to cows, and requires CRI to report to ERMA with any new genes it wants to insert. The company has expressed interest in inserting human, goat, deer, sheep and mice genes into cows.
2. BIOTECH ADVANCES AND RESISTANCE
Milk from cloned cows is virtually indistinguishable from normal milk, according to research conducted by U. of Wisconsin and U. of Utah researchers. The data was released at a conference on biotechnology (see issue #81) and has not yet been published. The study could speed commercial use of cloning in agricultural production. The FDA is currently drafting cloning guidelines for agricultural production. A series of FDA white papers on the subject are to be readied by spring. The agency has informally requested that products from cloned animals be kept out of the food supply, but there is no legal requirement against it.
"In Getting Rid of One Stink, Enviropig's Maker May Create Another," Star Tribune, Sharon Schmickle, September 30, 2002.
"Cloned Food Products Near Reality," The Washington Post, Justin Gillis, September 16, 2002.
"Should the Feds Buy Biotech?" D.C. Digest, Ed Maixner, October 2, 2002.
3. FEEDLOT "ENCYCLOPEDIA"
Minnesota is completing possibly the largest study ever undertaken of animal feedlots. The "Generic Environmental Impact Report on Animal Agriculture," is a 6,000-page document which has taken 4 years and $3 million to produce. It was prepared to aid legislators in permitting decisions regarding the state's 40,000 feedlots, of which 25,000-30,000 are thought to be active. The report was composed with the input of a 25-member citizens committee that included industry groups and environmental and animal welfare advocates. It makes 76 main recommendations, taking into consideration economic, environmental, health and community concerns. The document can be accessed at: http://www.mnplan.state.mn.us/eqb/geis/ A 324-page section on farmed animal health and well-being is also included. A compact disc of that section can be ordered by sending $10 to: Jen Rinick, Animal Welfare Institute, P.O. Box 3650, Washington, D.C., 20027.
"Web site digs into Minnesota farms," Star Tribune, Joy Powell, September 26, 2002.
4. LIVE SHEEP EXPORTS HALTED FROM AUSTRALIAN PORT
After some 2,400 (over 3%) of the 75,000 sheep on board a ship died, the Australian government ordered a halt to live sheep exports from a certain Victorian port. The shipment was the 5th in 3 months to record losses greater than 2% (see issue #76). Extra safeguards had been imposed upon the last shipment by the government, including an inspection of the sheep by the Commonwealth chief veterinary officer prior to departure. The Agriculture Minister attributed the deaths to the preparation of the sheep prior to boarding rather than to on-board management. An industry spokesperson said the deaths were caused by stress at the port feedlots which caused early mortalities, failure-to-eat syndrome, and heat stress upon reaching the Middle East. The shipping moratorium will remain in place until at least October while an independent inquiry is conducted. Risk management practices are being introduced which cover heat stress issues. A computer model has been introduced to monitor voyages and take account of the types of animals, time of year, and weather conditions.
"Export ban a further blow," The Herald Sun, Michael Harvey, October 2, 2002.
"Australia closes sheep port after more deaths," Reuters, October 2, 2002.
"Sheep export investigators to meet," ABC Gippsland Victoria News, October 2, 2002.
5. RSPCA VOTES ON SEVERING TIES WITH INDUSTRY
In late September, the board of the Australian RSPCA voted on severing financial ties with any company that farms or kills animals. Proponents claimed the practice to be a breach of the organization's constitution. The RSPCA endorses barn-laid and free-range eggs from 52 accredited operations. In turn, it receives 2 cents for every accredited egg sold (totaling $110,000 Australian in 2001). Pace Farms, the country's largest egg company, is among those accredited for barn-laid eggs. Pace also has extensive battery egg operations (see issue #81). The motion was defeated 30 to 8. A farmer who raised the matter is now considering taking legal action against the alleged constitutional breach. The RSPCA says the practice encourages the public to buy cruelty-free eggs. Animal Liberation Victoria charges that it is a conflict of interest and RSPCA inspectors cannot be trusted.
6. CYPRESS FARMS TRAGEDY RECOUNTED
The St. Petersburg Times published an account of the economic factors leading up to the Cypress Farms hen starvation case (see issue #84). Records show that trouble had been brewing for years. Cypress had been operating in the red since 1998, losing over $15 million. In 2001, United Egg Producers, an industry trade group, warned members of overproduction and the expectation of poor prices ahead. After bankruptcy was declared this year, birds were fed only once or twice a week. Owner Jim Biggers had pinned his hopes on selling the business in a deal his attorney, Herbert Donner, was skeptical of from the start. Food for the birds ran out on February 19th. A bankruptcy receiver learned of their condition on February 28th. On March 5th, the Florida Poultry Association delivered food to keep the surviving birds alive until they could be killed. Animal protection advocates argue that Biggers knew the financial end was near and should have given the birds away. Citing market conditions, Donner countered that no one wanted the birds. State Attorney Bernie McCabe has decided not to prosecute Biggers though over 50 letters were sent urging he be charged with animal cruelty.
7. CHEATING AT THE WORLD DAIRY EXPO
At the World Dairy Expo in 1998, nearly half of the cows entered into competition were found to have been illegally altered to enhance their chances of winning. (A winning cow can bring lucrative breeding offers and embryo sales.) A common form of cheating involves enhancing the appearance of a cow's udders by injecting them with a substance such as saline, glucose, isobutane gas, or liquid silver protein. According to a "cow fitter," someone who prepares animals for show, sophisticated cheating techniques are trickling down to junior shows.
8. GREASED PIG CONTEST FORCED TO END
Greased pig contests have been taking place at Henderson County (N.C.)'s Farm City Day since 1955. Last year, in response to a query about legally protesting the contest, the county passed a public demonstration ordinance. It was rescinded a week later after the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups challenged the ordinance's fees and waiting period violated the Constitution. This year, a remote control Ford pickup truck equipped with a greased "tail" will replace the 2 pigs. Stewart David, who filed the lawsuit against the county on behalf of Carolina Animal Action, commented that the contest "with youths up to 18 and special needs children, tells children that it is alright to terrorize small, defenseless animals." He pointed out that if dogs and cats were treated that way the public would be outraged and the organizers would be prosecuted, explaining: "Pigs suffer in the same way as dogs and cats, and perhaps more in such a situation since they are not used to being handled by people." The farmer who was to supply the pigs said the protestors were destroying the spirit of Farm City Day, which was intended to show non-farm residents how food is produced. He said the pigs were not injured, quipping "If one is hurt, we just have an unscheduled barbecue."