Farmed Animal Watch
A Project of Animal Place

April 16, 2003                                                     (To Search This Page Press Ctrl F)
Number #13 Volume 2


CONTENTS


1. The New Yorker on Ingrid Newkirk, PETA, & Farmed Animals
2. "Open Rescue Pioneer" Patty Mark
3. Action Group Pippi Action
4. Hens, Eggs & Disease in Connecticut
5. "Civil Disobedience Comes to Farm Country"
6. Oklahoma Passes "Eco-Terrorism" Law
7. AMI's New V.P. of Public Affairs: Dan Murphy

 

1. THE NEW YORKER ON INGRID NEWKIRK, PETA, & FARMED ANIMALS
"The Extremist" is the title of an April 14th New Yorker article by magazine staff writer Michael Specter. While the article is ostensibly written about Ingrid Newkirk, co-founder and leader of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) -"the world's largest and best known animal-rights organization"-  6 of the article's 14 pages are devoted to explaining farmed animal issues and recent developments. (An additional page is filled by "Egg Machines," a painting of a battery hen operation by Sue Coe: http://www.graphicwitness.org/coe/coebio.htm )
 
The author, who conversed with Newkirk over a 6-month period, explains her transformation into an activist. Specter also discusses PETA's highly controversial tactics and statements, noting in the subtitle that it is "the most successful radical group in America." The article provides context to some of these controversies, and presents Newkirk's reasoning in regard to them. Specter comments: "Newkirk loved the notoriety, and still does; jousting with the media thrills her. ‘We are complete press sluts,' she told me. ‘It is our obligation. We would be worthless if we were just polite and didn't make any waves.'" Newkirk elaborates, "[M]y job isn't to hold on to members, as much as I'd like to–it's to get people who just don't give a damn about this issue to look twice." The article tells how PETA's shock tactics serve as leverage for more moderate organizations within the animal protection community. Readers are taken on a candid behind-the-scenes tour of the structure, operation, and strategizing of PETA, which raises more than $15 million annually from its 750,000 members and supporters.
 
PETA's campaign against KFC is said to be its most important current campaign (see: http://www.kfccruelty.com and N.7, V.2). Specter undertook a trip through the Eastern Shore of the Delmarva Peninsula: "poultry country." Encountering chicken shed after chicken shed, he stopped and entered one and was "almost knocked to the ground by the overpowering smell of feces and ammonia." Turning up the light in the dark building, Specter found himself in the company of some 30,000 chickens sitting silently and unmoving: "[t]hey were almost like statues of chickens, living in nearly total darkness" for the totality of their 6-week lives. A man who contracts with Perdue to raise chickens explains that, in the quest to use as little feed as possible, the birds are kept in dimness to discourage them from moving about and expending energy. While speaking with the man, Specter observed a chicken on top of a dirt pile who was "writhing, its head mangled and its bones visibly crushed. But its vastly oversized chest was heaving up and down and its beak dug slowly at the dirt." Minutes later, the dirt and bird were dumped into a dumpster.
 
Intensive genetic selection has resulted in the breed of  chickens raised for meat reaching 4-5 pound slaughter weight in 6 weeks versus the 17 weeks it took 50 years ago. Joy Mench, an animal science professor at UC Davis, explains that, due to accelerated growth rate, the bird's "skeleton quickly bends and sometimes breaks under the weight of the muscle mass. The way they are raised in those crowded conditions with no exercise makes it worse." Countering the common assertion that chickens are stupid, she states: "Chickens show sophisticated social behavior. That's what a pecking order is all about. They can recognize more than a hundred other chickens and remember them. They have more than thirty types of vocalizations." Studies have also shown that chickens will alter their behavior to avoid or alleviate pain.       
 
Specter writes: "American meat producers have become remarkably specialized and economically adept. Since the animals are seen as widgets, their welfare has never been much of a priority. The guiding imperative is efficiency and economy, and of course you can raise many more chickens, pigs and cows if you cram them into an aluminum shed or a crate rather than let them wander around the farm. A pig living in a concrete crate that is two feet wide can't move, and that's the point." According to USDA figures, in 1994, 73% of the pigs raised in the U.S. were on small farms and 27% were on large industrial ones. By 2001, those figures were reversed. The gestation-crate-to-farrowing-crate-to-gestation-crate life of breeding sows is explained, as is the life of the million calves raised for veal in the U.S. each year.         
 
In response to the author's inquiry about the daunting challenge farmed animal advocates face, Bruce Friedrich, PETA's vegan outreach director, explains his reasons for optimism. He points to the "sea change" that has occurred in this country in the relatively recent past regarding how certain people are treated (e.g., slavery, women's rights, and laws against child abuse). The author continues this vein by noting existing animal protective measures, the increased popularity of vegetarianism in the past 20 years, and McDonald's adoption of animal welfare standards (see issue #15).
 
At the American Meat Institute's "Animal Care and Handling Conference," held in February, representatives of all segments of the industry were in attendance [animal protection advocates were disinvited, see N.3, V.2]. Specter writes:  "[t]here was a clear understanding that everyone from McDonald's to the United States government was now beginning to take animal welfare more seriously." While one speaker reported "the disconnect between an animal in the farmland and the cellophane at the grocery store is nearly complete," Adele Douglass of American Humane, who delivered the keynote address, opined: "The activists are beginning to win....And these guys know it." She later commented to Specter: "Ingrid is the Devil to these people. She is what they dream about when they have nightmares." (See N.9, V.2) When asked about PETA's influence on the company, Bob Langert, McDonald's senior director of social responsibility, "couldn't bring himself to utter the name of the group at all." Watching 350 leading American meat manufacturers wander around the conference, Specter surmised "It would be hard to attribute that shift [toward animal welfare] solely to the desire of large corporations to treat animals more gently during their brief, fully programmed lives."
 
Temple Grandin, "without question the most influential person in the American meat industry today,"states: "Since 1999, I have seen more change in the way animals are treated in this country than I did in the previous thirty." The article notes that, in addition to Burger King, Wendy's and Safeway adopting animal welfare standards, Burger King now offers veggie burgers at all of its 8,000 U.S. outlets (see issue #59). PETA even has a pop-up ad for it on its web site. Asked about PETA's seeming newfound willingness to compromise, Newkirk denies that she is changing her approach. Specter explains: "Newkirk certainly can see that easing suffering is a worthy objective, but it is never her goal– just a stop along the way."

http://courses.ats.rochester.edu/nobis/animals/new-yorker-ingrid-newkirk.pdf

 

2. "OPEN RESCUE PIONEER" PATTY MARK
Patty Mark, president of Australia's Animal Liberation Victoria (ALV: http://www.alv.org.au and see issue #82), helped pioneer "open rescues," whereby sick and injured animals are removed from production facilities by individuals who do not attempt to conceal their identity but instead openly seek publicity for their actions. She is the subject of a 10-question interview conducted by Compassion Over Killing (COK). Mark, who grew up in a small Illinois farming town, tells of her startling revelation in making the connection between meat and animals. She relates her early campaigning for farmed animals in Australia (both she and Ingrid Newkirk credit Peter Singer's "Animal Liberation" for sparking their activism) and the frustration she experienced with the pace of change.
 
Mark began visiting and denouncing production operations and slaughterplants. After 15 years of  standard campaigning, she receiving a call from a distraught egg operation worker. The caller told of vast batteries of caged hens where ill, injured and trapped birds were ignored and left to die and rot in the cages. The caller contacted Mark when her co-workers began shooting birds who had fallen into the manure pits below the cages, often leaving wounded ones to slowly die. After viewing footage obtained by an ALV member who shot it from the manure pits, "I immediately just wanted to go there and get [the hens] out. No other thought came to mind. It was like when one witnesses an accident: the immediate impulse is to try and help," Mark explains. Realizing how persuasive such footage could be, she and a coterie of ALV members covertly visited the operation. "The situation was so bad that there was no question of covering our faces or identity, it was the owners of this property who needed to hide," she said.
 
A news program subsequently agreed to air the tape and the story made national headlines. Excellent media coverage continued in the ensuing decade. Trespassing and theft charges against the team members have resulted in more tip-offs and greater publicity, causing authorities to cease pursuing them. (Mark has been arrested numerous times, once spending 5 days in jail and another time 10 days.) "Because we don't damage property, we are no immediate threat to the industry....Yet our main goal of saving as many individual lives as we can and documenting the situation to educate the public continues," Mark explains. "Open rescue is the best investigative journal the animals have because it ensures the facts and true pictures are there in the open for all to see," she contends.    
 
In Australia, the RSPCA is generally the main legal authority in animal-cruelty prosecutions. Mark notes that, ironically, it is the biggest obstacle to prosecuting those responsible for cruelty to battery hens. She claims the RSPCA has ignored evidence and even recommended egg operation managers update their security to keep the ALV team out. It has, in fact, financially partnered with Australia's largest battery egg company (see issue #87) - a company ALV urges the RSPCA to prosecute. "It's a sad state of affairs in Australia when animal activists have to battle the RSPCA as much as the factory farmers," she laments.
 
Mark believes Australia is "definitely moving toward a ban on battery cages," and briefly describes the progress and setbacks that have occurred. The growing popularity of eggs from alternative systems does not please ALV because they have found "heart-breaking cruelty and over-crowding" in them. Mark elaborates: "the commercial production of any type of eggs means all the male chicks are gassed, suffocated, blended or crushed at a day old because they'll never lay eggs. The current killing method is pouring hundreds of male chicks in huge industrial blenders whereby at the flick of a switch they are all liquified into a ‘smoothie.'"
 
To counter burn-out, Mark advises: "It's so important that activists remember to always have time off, time when they are not thinking and worrying about all the suffering. Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that we are animals as well and equally deserve some moments of the joy and freedom we work so hard to get for others." She concludes: "If we are still learning, imagine what the public still has in front of them. I was so traumati[z]ed when I found the hen drowning in her own feces in the dungeons of Alpine Poultry ten years ago. COK now sends me the exact same images from the manure pits in the USA battery hen factories. Weak, forgotten and totally helpless little birds literally drowning in their own shit. And this, only the tip of their hell....Open rescue teams in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the USA share photos of what we find in the sheds. Mix them up on a table and any photo could be from any country....Never despair and keep in mind that the important thing is that the photos are on the table, in the newspapers and on the tv screens."
 
An abridged edition of the interview is contained in Issue #14 of COK's newsletter, "The Abolitionist." The complete interview is contained on the COK web site: http://www.cok.net/abol/14/5.php ALV's Open Rescue web site is at: http://www.openrescue.org  It contains accounts and photographs of investigations in Australia, the U.S., and Austria's first such event, which occurred on March 14th.
 

3. ACTION GROUP PIPPI ACTION
In Sweden, 60 hens were recently removed from cages by four activists from Action Group Pippi. A letter was left at the site by the group who say the birds will now "be cared for in a way that gives them the opportunity to do those things that hens like to do." The group is named after Pippi Longstocking, a character created by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, in honor of Lindgren's work for hens. Pippi is said to symbolize values held dear by the group: belief in a better world, strength, struggle, creative naiveness, goodness, rowdyism and sincerity. Photos of the removal can be viewed at: http://www.raddningstjansten.org/aktion13
 

4. HENS, EGGS & DISEASE IN CONNECTICUT
According to the Environmental Organizers' Network (EON), an environmental activism group at Wesleyan University, Connecticut has more chickens per square mile than any other state in the U.S. In March, 4.7 million hens at the state's largest egg company, Kofkoff Egg Farm, were quarantined due to an outbreak of avian influenza. More than 3 million birds at 2 of Kofkoff's 7 facilities have been sickened by the disease. The source of infection is unknown but the virus appears to be the same strain as one known to circulate in New York City's live bird markets. (The virus was isolated from its passage into fertile eggs.) The quarantine prompted Japan to temporarily ban U.S. poultry imports. The Ct. Agriculture Department has approved a plan for the company to begin vaccinating chickens against the disease rather than kill them. Kofkoff, which controls more than 90% of the state egg market, replaces 100,000 chickens every 2 weeks. Due to the lack of previous experience with such large-scale vaccination efforts, non-vaccinated birds will be put in with vaccinated flocks and tested regularly.
 
EON recently received photographs taken inside a Connecticut battery egg operation, sent by an anonymous source. The organization is conducting a campaign against such operations and has added the photos to its web site: http://www.wesleyan.edu/wsa/warn/eon/index.html Links to a series of articles on the outbreak and other information about Kofkoff can also be found there.
 
"Chicken Quarantine," Associated Press (AnimalNet, 3/7/03), Donna Tommelleo, March 6, 2003
http://131.104.232.9/animalnet/2003/3-2003/animalnet_march_7.htm
"Avian Influenza in the United States of America in a commercial poultry enterprise Emergency report," ProMED-mail, 3/15/2003.
http://131.104.232.9/animalnet/2003/3-2003/animalnet_march_17.htm
"USDA Approves Plan to Vaccinate Connecticut Chickens Against AI," Meating Place Daily News, Joshua Lipsky, April 7, 2003.
http://www.meatingplace.com/meatingplace/DailyNews/oop/qnohit_g.asp?ID=10680
 

5. "CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE COMES TO FARM COUNTRY"
The April issue of Animal People contains a series of articles about illicit investigations and actions conducted on behalf of farmed animals, entitled "Civil Disobedience Comes to Farm Country." Patty Mark (see item #2) is profiled, and activities undertaken by COK (see N.7, V.2), Mercy for Animals (see N.8, V.2) and the Utah Animal Rights Coalition (see N.3, V.2) are recounted. The case against Susan Costen is also included. Costen, a farm manager for Farm Sanctuary, was charged with 3rd degree felony burglary for removing a severely injured lamb from a neighboring farm (see also: http://www.farmsanctuary.org/media/pr_susie.htm ) Farm Sanctuary's conviction of ISE America for throwing live chickens into the trash is also explained (see also: http://www.farmsanctuary.org/media/pr_eggs.htm ). Animal People considers some of the state "anti-terrorism bills pushed in recent legislative sessions....to criminalize almost any unauthorized exposure of anything done in the name of agriculture." Animal People's web site is: http://www.animalpeoplenews.org
 

6. OKLAHOMA PASSES "ECO-TERRORISM" LAW
The governor of Oklahoma signed the "Eco-Terrorism Protection Act" into law on April 10th. Under the new law, anyone who enters an animal agricultural operation and disrupts or damages it will be subject to a felony charge, jail time and a $10,000 fine. A supporting congressman said the bill is a preventative measure to head off potential action by radical animal rights groups. Opponents, such as the Sierra Club and the Oklahoma Family Farm Alliance, claim the bill was requested by the Oklahoma Pork Council to protect large animal breeding operations. They point out that terms such as "disrupt" and "damage" are not defined in the legislation and warn it will affect neighbors, journalists, and whistle-blowers who have reported large companies dumping dead animals' bodies and body parts into state waters and trash bins overflowing with dead pigs (see: http://oklahoma.sierraclub.org/cafo/photos.html ). Senator Bruce Price, who introduced the bill, says opponents may be overreacting.  "Just reporting animal abuse would not be an offense under this bill, in my opinion," he assured, adding that if  problems do ensue "we may have to come back and more clearly define it."
 
"Henry Signs Law Fencing Farms from Trespassers," Daily Oklahoman/Associated Press, Carmel Perez Snyder, April 11, 2003.
"Henry Signs ‘Eco-Terrorist' Bill," The Shawnee News-Star, April 11, 2003.
http://www.news-star.com/stories/041103/gov_9.shtml
 

7. AMI'S NEW V.P. OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS: DAN MURPHY
The American Meat Institute (AMI) has announced that Dan Murphy will become its vice president of public affairs on April 28th. In this position, Murphy will develop public affairs strategies, oversee general and trade media relations, and manage AMI's on-line news reporting. He is known for his commentaries on animal rights and other controversial topics. [He was a featured speaker at Animal Rights 2002: http://www.animalrights2003.org/outline/IndustryPerspectives.html ] Murphy has edited Meat Marketing & Technology since 1999, and recently resigned as senior columnist for MeatingPlace.com. From 1992 to 1994, he was editor of National Provisioner, and from 1982 to 1992 served on the staff of Meat Processing, working as its editor from 1987 to 1992. He received a B.S. in health science and journalism from the University of Oregon in 1982.
 
AMI represents the interests of cattle, pig, lamb, and turkey packers, processors and meat suppliers throughout North America. It provides legislative, regulatory, public relations, technical, scientific and educational services to the industry. A separate, tax-exempt organization,  the AMI Foundation, conducts research, education and information projects for the meat industry.
 
"Veteran Meat Industry Journalist Dan Murphy Joins the American Meat Institute," AMI press release, April 7, 2003.
http://www.meatami.com/SubscriptionRedir.cfm?Press=1&ID=1505