A Project of Animal Place
October 31, 2002
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2. Irradiated Beef in School Lunches, Alternative Labeling
3. Fatal Harvest
4. Precedent-Setting Award Against Pig Operation
5. Perdue Pollution
6. Pig Industry Checkoff Ruled "Unconstitutional and Rotten"
7. "Dominion" Reviewed
About twice as many U.K. cattle as previously believed are now thought to have been infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), bringing the total to over 2 million. Previous calculations were based on the number of cattle showing clinical symptoms of the disease, extrapolating backwards to take into account those already killed. The new calculations are based on biochemical testing of some 14,000 cattle slaughtered between 1999-2000. There have been nearly 179,000 confirmed cases of BSE in British cattle since 1986. Authorities assure that the new figures do not change the estimated number of cases of the human version of the disease, variant Creutzfeld-Jacob disease (vCJD). Those estimates are based on the number of human cases so far. So far, 117 people in the U.K. have died from vCJD [11 surviving people are believed to be afflicted with it]. The number of yearly deaths from vCJD have been decreasing since 2000. The report, by scientists with the University of London's Imperial College, also estimates BSE prevalence in mainland Europe between 1993-1997. In contrast to dropping rates in the U.K., infection levels in Greece, Italy and Belgium have shot up, fueling alarm about the likelihood of vCJD there.
"One million mad cows in Britain were missed - study," Reuters, Patricia Reaney, Oct. 8, 2002.
Monthly CJD Statistical Figures, Department of Health (England)
2. IRRADIATED BEEF IN SCHOOL LUNCHES, ALTERNATIVE LABELING
By the end of the year, irradiated beef may be served to the 25 million children in the national school lunch program. The government has allowed the sale of irradiated beef since 1999, but until now it has been prohibited in the school lunch program. This changed with the passage of the Farm Bill in May, which gave schools the option of purchasing the treated meat. The meat industry wants the government to urge schools to buy irradiated meat as a food safety measure, pointing to support from the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization. Opponents, such as Public Citizen, argue that irradiation destroys vitamins and minerals and can cause chemical changes linked to birth defects and cancer. Food poisonings in U.S. schools have been increasing by 10% each year, according to a report by the General Accounting Office.
"Alternative Ways to Say ‘Irradiated' on Food Labels, Says FDA," Watt Poultry USA, 10/14/02.
3. FATAL HARVEST
Fatal Harvest is a new book which chronicles the problems of industrial agriculture, offering organic farming as the solution. Essays by 30 authors, along with over 250 photographs, make up the 7 sections of the book which "debunk the 7 myths of industrial agriculture." They are: Industrial agriculture will feed the world; Industrial food is safe, healthy and nutritious; Industrial food is cheap; Industrial agriculture is efficient; Industrial agriculture offers more choices; Industrial agriculture benefits the environment and wildlife; and Biotechnology will solve the problems of industrial agriculture. The title is explained in the introduction which states: "The industrial agriculture system is clearly unsustainable. It has truly become a fatal harvest."
4. PRECEDENT-SETTING AWARD AGAINST PIG OPERATION
An Iowa jury awarded neighbors of an Iowa Select Farms (ISF) pig operation a precedent-setting $33 million in damages earlier this month. The ruling "sent shock waves" through the pig and cattle feedlot industries. The plaintiffs charged the company with lowering their property value with noxious odors and excessive flies from improperly disposed of bodies and waste. ISF was assessed $1.06 million in actual damages and $32 million in punitive damages. The jury was able to award the punitive damages by determining that the company had acted with "willful and wanton disregard for the rights and safety" of others. ISF plans to appeal on the basis that the operation was built to state specifications and was never cited for environmental violations.
"An Ominous Message for Feedlots," Cow-Calf Weekly, Troy Marshall, October 18, 2002.
5. PERDUE POLLUTION
For years, Virginia regulators have "tussled" with Perdue Farms over waste from the company's slaughterplants on the state's Eastern Shore. Perdue has been fined $295,000 since 1986, most recently last year, for cyanide and other pollutants discharged into a small creek feeding the Atlantic Ocean. The federal government has now joined the state in demanding that Perdue improve its sewage treatment system. The EPA cited the company for 71 alleged violations of the Clean Water Act in July and September for thousands of pounds of pollution released into the creek. The agency is threatening criminal prosecution but has yet to fine Perdue for the incidents. The sewage treatment plant is supposed to screen up to 3 million gallons of wastewater a day. It is 30 years old and was last upgraded 12 years ago following legal action by Virginia.
"Perdue Farms: Doing the Right Thing," Watt Poultry USA, Terrence O'Keefe, September 2002.
"Perdue Farms, Maryland," Corporate Hogs at the Public Trough, Sierra Club, 1999.
6. PIG INDUSTRY CHECKOFF RULED "UNCONSTITUTIONAL AND ROTTEN"
A federal judge has ordered a halt to the Pork Production, Research and Consumer Education Act, commonly known as the check-off program. The 16-year-old program is funded by a mandatory 40 cent fee on every $100 of pig sales, much of which goes for generic advertisements such as "Pork, the other white meat." Independent operators are opposed to the program which they feel primarily benefits large corporations. They were successful in an industry referendum held 2 years ago which called for an immediate abolition of the fee. However, after the Bush Administration came into office, the USDA dismissed the referendum ruling that it had been procedurally flawed. The new ruling is the result of a subsequent lawsuit. The judge wrote: "The government has been made tyrannical by forcing men and women to pay for messages they detest. Such a system is at the bottom unconstitutional and rotten." The National Pork Producers Council, a trade association which spends the $50 million raised each year by the checkoff, is expected to appeal the decision with the aid of the USDA and the Department of Justice. A similar ruling this summer against the beef checkoff has been stayed for appeal (see issue #74).
"U.S. hog producers square off over pork checkoff," Reuters, Bob Burgdorfer, October 30, 2002.
7. "DOMINION" REVIEWED
"Dominion: The Power of Man, The Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy," was recently reviewed by the Washington Post (WP) and the New York Times (NYT). Dominion examines the Bible-based belief in human dominion over other animals. Author Matthew Scully, a former special assistant and senior speechwriter to President Bush, was raised Catholic and has been a vegetarian for 25 years. WP reviewer Nicols Fox [author of "Spoiled: Why Our Food Is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It"] asks "Why do so many otherwise kindly Christians and compassionate conservatives not only tolerate the widespread abuse of farm, lab and game animals but also routinely label those who attempt to defend and protect these animals as dangerous, misguided radicals, dismissing every argument for mercy?....The answer, Scully says, comes down to simple anthropocentrism: Too much concern for animals is threatening to a theological worldview that puts humans at the apex of God's creation...." Fox notes that "Challenging the daunting coalition of science, religion and commerce, [Scully] skillfully refutes almost every argument that allows the misery and suffering of animals to be tolerated."
"‘Dominion': The Most Compassionate Conservative," Sunday Book Review, The New York Times, Natalie Angier, October 27, 2002.