Farmed Animal Watch
A Project of Animal Place

May 2, 2003                                                     (To Search This Page Press Ctrl F)
Number #14 Volume 2


CONTENTS


1. "Killing Them Softly"
2. KFC Announces Animal Welfare Standards
3. Legality of Fast-Growing Chickens Challenged
4. SARS
5. On-Line Global Factory Farming Discussion (TODAY)
6. Notes
 

1. "KILLING THEM SOFTLY"
"Killing Them Softly," is a lengthy article which appeared on the front page of the April 29th Los Angeles Times. It opens with a description of how indifferent slaughterplants have been to the suffering experienced by animals during the slaughter process. Author Stephanie Simon goes on to tell of the "revolution in livestock handling" that has occurred in recent years. She notes that, while the reforms are voluntary, they have gained the momentum to become standard throughout much of the food industry. "Customers used to tell us what they wanted to eat. Now they tell us how they want it produced," states a United Egg Producer spokesperson. Animal welfare advocates "sense the tide is turning," noting that farmed animals are being viewed as living beings with wants, needs and fears for the first time since intensive animal production began. But they "caution that many cows, pigs and especially chickens still suffer mightly, trapped in a system that treats animals as commodities to be pushed through an assembly line from birth to death and onto the dinner plate as cheaply as possible."     
 
The attendance of hundreds of farmers, truck drivers and slaughterplant managers at an industry seminar on animal care and handling (see issue #100), and the USDA's hiring of 50 new inspectors to monitor animal welfare in slaughterplants, are seen as indications of industry's changing attitude. In part, the reforms are driven by self-interest since stressed animals result in lower quality meat. Indications of growing political interest in these matters include legislation in California and New Jersey to ban certain confinement methods, and the recent Florida amendment (see issue #94, for information on the California legislation, including a recently conducted poll, see: http://www.chicoer.com/Stories/0,1413,135~25088~1321262,00.html and http://www.farmsanctuary.org/actionalerts/CA_zogby.htm For information on the N.J. bill, see: http://www.njfarms.org/pr_njveal.htm and http://www.meatingplace.com/meatingplace/DailyNews/oop/qnohit_g.asp?ID=10351 ).
 
The new welfare approach is credited to a 1996 federal slaughterplant audit conducted by Temple Grandin (see item #2, issue #16. EDITORIAL NOTE: The 1996 federal audit was the result of the USDA's Farm Animal Well-Being Task Group: http://www.vegan.com/current/hs0707985.html The Task Group has been abruptly dissolved by the Bush administration (see issue #69)). Though her visits were announced, she found problems at 2/3rds of the cattle slaughterplants she inspected. Animals suffered repeated shots to the brain or were sent to be dismembered while still conscious (see issue #2). Similar problems were found at 1/3 of the pig plants. Grandin developed objective performance standards based on the highest standards a handler could meet on a regular basis, and then trained workers. Grandin reports that 94% of plants she inspected last year (as a private consultant) effectively knocked cattle insensible prior to slaughter compared to 36% in 1996. McDonald's hired her in 1997 to work with its suppliers. The company now conducts surprise audits of its slaughterplant suppliers. Additionally, to become certified handlers, thousands of truck drivers have taken courses in which they are taught such things as not slamming on the brakes while transporting animals.
 
PETA's campaigns to get fast-food restaurants and supermarkets to set animal welfare standards for their suppliers are mentioned. The organization is now going after poultry slaughterplants via a campaign against KFC (see issue N.1, V.2 and item #2 below). The plants have received less scrutiny even though chickens constitute more than 90% of the warm-blooded animals killed for food in the U.S. The article includes an explanation of the standard method by which chickens are slaughtered. Activists contend that many end up being boiled to death in scalding water. KFC counters that it sends inspectors on unannounced inspections of its suppliers to ensure that birds are "slaughtered quickly and without pain."
 
Farms, ranches and feedlots lag behind slaughterplants in adopting welfare reforms. This is attributed in part to the larger number and greater diversity of these operations. The article notes that industry groups "deflect some of the pressure by insisting that reform be based on science, not sentiment. They argue there's no scientific proof that chickens need sunlight or that pregnant sows need space to move. They complain that activists are inappropriately treating livestock like pets when they call for poultry to be given toys to ease the boredom of confinement, or calves to be given painkillers before castration. And they point out that many reforms have unintended consequences." It goes on to list examples of activists' demands and industry's arguments against them. The egg industry is particularly criticized for the cramped conditions hens are kept in. Activists point out that the 67 square inches per bird required for egg packages to carry the United Egg Producers new "animal care certified" logo (see issue #56) affords hens less space than is taken up by a standard sheet of paper.
 
The article concludes by returning to the slaughterplant visited in the beginning. The manager explains that just a few years ago he thought nothing of letting pigs sit for hours in transport trailers, stifling in summer, freezing in winter. Lame pigs were drug across the yard, others were prodded with electric shocks. Some stunned pigs regained sensibility prior to slaughter with a few staggering off the conveyor belt and charging workers. He explains how things have changed, including the use of a computerized electric harness rather than a retractable bolt gun for stunning. According to the article, workers could be fired if they let a pig suffer. "They're good animals," one worker says, "We try to treat them right."
 
"Killing Them Softly," Stephanie Simon, The Los Angeles Times, April 29, 2003.
http://tinyurl.com/ap6o
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-slaughter29apr29,1,4943129.story?coll=la%2Dhome%2Dleftrail
 

2. KFC ANNOUNCES ANIMAL WELFARE STANDARDS
KFC has announced it is instituting new welfare standards for the chickens it uses for food. The standards address their treatment from hatchery to slaughter. They apply to the birds' housing, nutrition, and how they are caught and transported to slaughter. KFC, the world's largest chicken restaurant chain, purchases chickens from 18 suppliers. The company has also asked the federal government to review a possible change to slaughtering birds with carbon dioxide in place of electrocuting them and slitting their throats. It expressed concern about the gas's possible effects on workers. KFC is the first restaurant company to publicly endorse the standards of the National Council of Chain Restaurants and the Food Marketing Institute (see item #75). The company said it has been reviewing welfare standards for years and denied that the recent PETA campaign influenced its decision (see item #1). It claims to have had previous standards for its suppliers' processing facilities.
 
PETA says the announcement is an attempt to deceive compassionate consumers. The organization claims KFC is ignoring the recommendations of its own animal welfare advisory board. It is continuing its campaigning against KFC and is pressing for 8 "key minimum reforms." They include: switch to gas killing (which PETA says is an accepted method that does not require government permission); install cameras in slaughterplants to enforce welfare standards; switch to mechanized chicken-gathering; genetic selection for leaner birds used for breeding purposes; stop forcing rapid growth and the use of growth-promoting substances; allotting at least 1.5 square feet of space per bird (4 sq. ft. for birds used for breeding); provide chickens with sheltered areas and perches; and allow chickens to fulfill their natural desire for activity. Further details can be found at: http://www.kfccruelty.com/index-nr.html       
 
"KFC Announces New Animal-Welfare Standards," Associated Press, Bruce Schreiner, 5/1/2003. http://www.kansas.com/mld/kansas/business/5762092.htm
 

3. LEGALITY OF FAST-GROWING CHICKENS CHALLENGED
Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) is challenging the legality of using fast-growing chickens in the U.K. The organization is basing its case on the EU's 1998 General Farm Animal Directive that declares: "No animal shall be kept for farming purposes unless it can be reasonably expected, on the basis of its genotype....that it can be kept without detrimental effect on its health and welfare." CIWF says modern chicken breeds grow up to 4 times as fast as traditional ones, now reaching the weight they are slaughtered at in half the time it took 30 years ago. The group says this causes heart and lung problems, and cites studies showing up to 30% of the 800 million chickens raised in the U.K. each year suffer painful, sometimes crippling, leg disorders. According to CIWF, "In the worst cases, birds can only move by crawling on their shanks." It also notes that the birds used for breeding purposes are kept on restricted rations, causing them great hunger. The action follows repeat warnings to the government by its own Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) about the cruelty involved in chicken production. Three years ago, FAWC said there had been little or no improvement in evidence of lameness in birds, and the chairperson called for cruelty prosecutions of farmers. The government has yet to act on this. The British Poultry Council says CIWF's charges are based on outdated and flawed research. It contends the incidence of leg problems is "very, very low," and that it is not a case of starving but controlling the feed of breeding flocks. The agency named in the case, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), says farms are subjected to regular veterinary inspection and that it is possible to prosecute farmers if chickens are found to be suffering. A decision on the merits of the case is expected in mid-May.  
 
"Birds' Factory-Farming Plight," Daily Mail, Sean Poulter, April 9, 2003
http://www.femail.co.uk/pages/standard/article.html?in_article_id=175912&in_page_id=2
"Legality of ‘Broiler' Chicken Farming Challenged," Independent Digital, Paul Peachey, 4/10/2003. http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/this_britain/story.jsp?story=395644
 

4. SARS
China's Guandong province is "notorious for exotic cuisine prepared with freshly killed beasts." In Guandong's live animal ("wet") markets, wholesale food vendors tend to a veritable zoo of domestic and wild animals, many stacked in cages one atop another "in hundreds of cramped stalls that stink of blood and guts." Many of the animals are ill, some are missing limbs chewed off in an attempt to escape chains or traps. A Newsday article tells of cats with glazed eyes and bloody paws, and a deer on an intravenous drip whom a dealer is trying to keep alive long enough to sell. Animals are purchased live and are butchered on the spot or later by the buyer. A photo gallery of one such market can be viewed at: http://www.newsday.com/news/health/ny-hssars0423.story A video is also available on the CNN site: http://www.cnn.com/2003/HEALTH/05/01/sars/
 
When the stench of urine and feces from the many species, including the human vendors, becomes intolerable, it is washed away with a power hose. This aerosolizes much of it into inhalable droplets. Cages double as seats and dining tables for the market workers. In such environments, viruses can easily move between humans and other animals. The province is the birthplace of the world's new plague, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). A high percentage of the disease's earliest victims were employed in the Guandong food industry. Food handlers were found to be infected at a rate 5 times higher than for other people. The causative agent of SARS, a coronavirus, genetically most closely resembles a virus responsible for respiratory infections in chickens. (In several countries, a mutant coronavirus is causing outbreaks of contagious pneumonia among pigs. Other coronaviruses are responsible for shipping fever, a disease in cattle stressed by transport, and are found in many cattle who die of pneumonia in feedlots.) Prior to the outbreak, at least one live market had been moved indoors after tourists and world wildlife conservationists complained to authorities about the public market, magnifying disease possibilities.
 
Scientists have long considered south China, where people live crowded together with other animals, to be a breeding ground for new viruses which can transmit between species. It is believed to be the source of some of the world's most deadly pandemics. The Guandong province has for centuries had the world's largest concentration of humans, pigs and poultry living in close proximity. Scientists such as Peter Daszak of the Consortium for Conservation Medicine, a Harvard/Tufts alliance, argue that viruses in the modern world are better able to cross species barriers because agriculture and industry have relentlessly breeched ecological barriers that once kept diseases isolated. Examples include the avian influenza virus that claimed human victims in Hong Kong in the recent past (see issues #53 & 55) and the Nipah virus that jumped from pigs to people in 1999. In the Netherlands, 83 people have been infected by a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza, which recently killed a veterinarian. Some 25 million birds have been killed in an attempt to control the virus. (See upcoming issue for more information and: http://www.pighealth.com An article on human disease caused by farmed animal production practices can be found at: http://www.theeastcarolinian.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2003/04/29/3eaea0dd0cbfa )
 
By May 1st, SARS, which arose in January, had killed 378 people worldwide and infected over 5,600. Relapses are now being reported. It's current death rate of 6% could likely reach 10%. The Guandong government has agreed to allow World Health Organization researchers to investigate the genesis of the disease. Meanwhile, in Beijing, companion animals of SARS victims are being killed although veterinary experts point out there is no evidence they can spread the disease. Tens of thousands of animal fairs, markets, and restaurants have been raided with more than 800,000 endangered animals confiscated and 1,428 suspects arrested.  
 
"From China's Provinces, A Crafty Germ Spreads," The New York Times, Elisabeth Rosenthal, April 27, 2003. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/27/health/27SARS.html
"China Animal Market Could Hold Key," Newsday, Laurie Garrett, April 23, 2003
http://www.nynewsday.com/news/ny-hssars0423,0,2642854.story
"SARS: Another Deadly Virus from the Meat Industry, Michael Greger, April 13, 2003.
http://www.vegsource.com/articles2/greger_sars.htm
"Crossing the Species Barrier," The Boston Globe, Stephen Smith, April 29, 2003.
http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/119/science/Crossing_the_species_barrier+.shtml
"Animals Suffer in the War on SARS," BBC News, April 30, 2003.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/2989479.stm
 

5. ON-LINE GLOBAL FACTORY FARMING DISCUSSION
Worldwatch Institute, an independent environmental and social justice research organization, will be conducting an on-line discussion about the globalization of factory farming on May 2nd from 2-3 P.M. EST. Questions for the discussion can be submitted in advance. Worldwatch's Danielle Nierenberg will explain why international regulations and improved zoning are not enough. Nierenberg wrote the feature article in the current World Watch magazine, which examines the growth of intensive animal confinement operations in developing countries, such as China and Mexico: http://www.worldwatch.org/pubs/mag  She tells how these mass-production facilities threaten indigenous farmed animals, spread disease, and contaminate the environment while forcing small farmers out of business or into the factory farming system. A May 9th on-line discussion will examine the virtues of local food production. To submit a question or join the discussion, visit: http://www.worldwatch.org/live
 

6. NOTES
1.) The New Yorker article on Ingrid Newkirk, synopsized in the previous issue, can be found on-line at: http://courses.ats.rochester.edu/nobis/animals/new-yorker-ingrid-newkirk.pdf
2.) Item #3 of the previous issue mentioned Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren. Information on her Foundation for Better Animal Protection: My Cow Wants to Have Fun can be found at: http://www.awionline.org/farm/lindgren.htm