Farmed Animal Watch
A Project of Animal Place

October 31, 2002                                                     (To Search This Page Press Ctrl F)
Issue #91


1. Twice as Many Cattle Believed Infected with BSE
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.
"BSE Underestimated - Study Doubles Epidemic Size," Nature, October 9, 2002.
"One million mad cows in Britain were missed - study," Reuters, Patricia Reaney, Oct. 8, 2002.
Monthly CJD Statistical Figures, Department of Health (England)

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.
The FDA recently announced that it can be petitioned by food companies wanting to avoid using the word "irradiation" on labels of food treated with irradiation. Less controversial terms such as "cold pasteurization," could instead be approved as long as the label was not false or misleading. Consumer research must be submitted showing comprehensibility of the proposed label.
"Agri Dept. Oks Irradiated Meat in School Lunches," Associated Press, October 26, 2002.
"Alternative Ways to Say ‘Irradiated' on Food Labels, Says FDA," Watt Poultry USA, 10/14/02.

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."
Farmed animal issues are particularly addressed in the section on food safety. The increase in food-borne disease "is largely attributed to the industrialization of poultry and livestock production. Most meat products now begin in ‘animal factories,' where food animals are confined in shockingly inhumane and overly crowded conditions, leading to widespread disease among animals and the creation of food-borne illnesses. According to the CDC, reported cases of disease from salmonella and E. coli pathogens are ten times greater than they were two decades ago, and cases of campylobacter have more than doubled. The CDC saw none of these pathogens in meat until the late 1970s when "animal factories" became the dominant means of meat production. Even our fruits and vegetables get contaminated by these pathogens through exposure to tainted fertilizers and sewage sludge. Contamination can also occur during industrialized processing and long-distance shipment." Antibiotic usage and the resultant microbial resistance is also covered.
Excerpts of all 7 sections can be found on the AlterNet site: and 13903-13908, along with "Farming without the Factory," an article on alternative animal production systems at:  The table of contents and select essays are available in their entirety on a web site devoted to the book and the "Organic & Beyond Campaign" at:
"Toxic to the Tongue," Lenora Todaro, Village Voice, July 31-August 6, 2002.

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.
"Neighbors Win $33 Million in Pork Nuisance Suit," Agriculture Online News, Oct. 14, 2002.
"An Ominous Message for Feedlots," Cow-Calf Weekly, Troy Marshall, October 18, 2002.

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.
In a trade publication, Perdue explains that it took out full-page ads in local papers to inform customers, neighbors and regulators of its strategy to remove manure from the Delmarva Peninsula. The ads showcased the company's new AgriRecycle plant, which turns used chicken litter into fertilizer pellets. The plant was chosen as the subject for the ad campaign because "[it] is the most visible example of Perdue's commitment to environmental stewardship." A company spokesperson explains that "perception of a company's environmental practices can play as big a role in consumer buying decisions or regulatory activity as the reality of those practices." Perdue advises other companies to get involved in environmental planning at the local level from the start to help set the agenda.
The Delmarva Peninsula may have the highest concentration of chickens in the country, and the AgriRecycle pelleting process allows potential pollutants to be transported to other areas of the country for use as fertilizer. (According to the article, chicken sheds are cleaned out every other year.) The finished product, MicriStart60, is a certified organic fertilizer approved by the Organic Materials Review Institute for use in organic crop production. Most of it is transported to the Midwest in the same railcars used to carry feed grain back to the Eastern Shore. Perdue is also conducting feed experiments with chickens in the attempt to reduce the amount of phosphorus they excrete. Perdue [which has annual sales of over $2 billion annually] notes that it spent $12 million on the AgriRecycle plant and an additional $6 million in improvements to wastewater treatment systems in the past 2 years.   
"EPA pushes Perdue to fix waste plant," The Virginia-Pilot, Scott Harper, October 10, 2002.
"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.

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).
"Judge Overturns Fee Farmers Pay for Pork Ads," The New York Times, Elizabeth Becker, October 29, 2002.
"U.S. hog producers square off over pork checkoff," Reuters, Bob Burgdorfer, October 30, 2002.

"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."
NYT reviewer Natalie Angier [author of "The Beauty of the Beastly"] explains, "Scully's argument is, fundamentally, a wholly moral one. It is wrong to be cruel to animals, he says, and when our cruelty expands and mutates to the point where we no longer recognize the animals in a factory farm as a living creature capable of feeling pain and fear....then we debase ourselves." She continues, "For better or worse, we have dominion over the earth, and how we manage that position, whether as bloodthirsty tyrants or as benign patrons, is a core measure of our worth." Both reviewers criticize Scully for taking an absolutist position (though it is noted that he considers organic farms with humanely-treated, grass-fed cattle to be "a decent compromise"), and for not clearly denoting when killing is acceptable.
"Feeling Their Pain," Book World, The Washington Post, Nicols Fox, October 13, 2002.
"‘Dominion': The Most Compassionate Conservative," Sunday Book Review, The New York Times, Natalie Angier, October 27, 2002.