Farmed Animal Watch
A Project of Animal Place

June 5, 2003                                                     (To Search This Page Press Ctrl F)
Number #19 Volume 2


CONTENTS


1. BSE: "Downed" Animals, Cross-Species Transmission
2. "Downer" Expose Elicits Industry Complaints
3. Faulty Feed Labeling at Buckeye Egg Farms
4. The Changing Egg Industry
5. EPA Sued over New CAFO Regulations
 

1. BSE: "DOWNED" ANIMALS, CROSS-SPECIES TRANSMISSION
"The cow went down and that's why it was shipped. It was still alive. It was just not getting up anymore." So explained the farmer of the Canadian cow found to be infected with BSE (see N.17, V.2). He said she couldn't stay standing and was trucked to slaughter. A meat inspector reported that the cow looked thin and had pneumonia. Ten feed mills received parts of her rendered body, some of which was processed into chicken feed and dry dog food (some of which may have been sent to the U.S.). While giving feed containing ruminant remains to cattle is illegal, some 60 cows from 3 different farms that received the feed were ordered to be slaughtered since it could not be confirmed that they had not been given it. So far, 18 farms have been quarantined and over 1,160 cattle have been killed for testing. Due to inconclusive findings, another 650 cattle are to be tested. Five bulls from a herd the infected cow had been in were sent to Montana in 1997. The bulls were used for breeding purposes and are thought to have spent 1-3 years at the same operation prior to having been sent to stockyards in Montana and South Dakota. They are believed to have been slaughtered after the ban on the use of cattle in ruminant feed.
 
NONAMBULATORY ANIMALS: It is unknown how many nonambulatory animals ("downers") enter the Canadian food chain. Animal Alliance of Canada, an animal protection organization, obtained government documents showing that in 1999 in Ontario, 639 sick cattle were approved for slaughter. Additional records were available for only 358 of them, of which 316 were slaughtered for human consumption. The others were sent to rendering to be made into animal feed and other products. The government has a code of practice that says that sick, injured, or disabled cattle in severe distress should be euthanized or slaughtered on the farm and not trucked to slaughter. However, the federal code is merely suggested practice with no regulatory force. The Canadian Cattlemen's Association guidelines also recommend that nonambulatory cattle not be sent to slaughter. Nonambulatory cattle are, however, allowed to be chained and dragged from transport vehicles to slaughter.
 
In Canada, as in the U.S., cattle showing classic symptoms of BSE (e.g., staggering) are to be tested for it. But an animal who does not exhibit these signs and merely appears thin or listless -or exhibits no symptoms at all- could still have the disease. Infected cattle usually don't exhibit disease symptoms for about 5 years but are typically slaughtered at about 30 months of age. Sylvie Farez, a veterinarian with the Canada Food Inspection Agency, says there are too many nonambulatory animals at slaughterplants to be able to test them all. According to Consumer Union's Michael Hansen, only 3,337 Canadian cattle were tested for BSE among the 3.5 million who were slaughtered in 2002. In the U.S., only about 3,300 of an estimated 55,000 nonambulatory cattle were tested. (Other sources put the number of nonambulatory cattle at 195,000 to 1 million.) A total of 19,900 cattle were tested for BSE in the U.S. in 2002, up from 5,272 in 2001 [out of an annual slaughter total of about 35,000,000]. A 2001 German study found that nonambulatory cows were 10-240 times more likely to test positive for BSE than ambulatory cows. In Canada, about 2% of cattle are slaughtered in places that are not federally licensed and have no federal inspector present. Regarding both Canada and the U.S., animal scientist and industry consultant Temple Grandin remarked: "You've got dairymen out there, they don't have to worry about cleaning up their downers. They take them to the slaughterhouse, and though less and less slaughterplants want them -your big plants just don't accept downers anymore- you've got smaller plants that are getting to be a niche market of downers....There will always be certain restaurants that'll buy that stuff." The USDA is considering banning all nonambulatory cattle from being used for human consumption (see issue #53), and has already banned its own procurement agency from purchasing the meat from these animals. 
 
CROSS-SPECIES TRANSMISSION: About 44% of the 1 million cattle who die prior to slaughter are rendered. Elk and deer with chronic wasting disease (CWD), a similar disease, are also processed into animal feed. (In the U.S., some 50 billion pounds of animal bone, skin and other tissue are processed into meat meal, bone meal and other products each year.) While both Canada and the U.S. have prohibited the use of most ruminant remains in ruminant feed since 1997, they are still used in feed for chickens, pigs and other nonruminant animals who are thought not to be susceptible to the disease. (It is believed that prions, the agents considered responsible for BSE, have not been found in ruminant blood, fat, milk and gelatin, which is still allowed in ruminant feed.) These animals can then be killed and used in ruminant feed. There is concern that they may serve as unaffected carriers of the disease. (The surprising results of cross-species infection experimentation can be found in a New York Times article entitled "Mad Cows, Sane Cats," at: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/03/science/03SPEC.html ) Due to related disease concerns, the FDA has proposed limits on the use of deer and elk in dog and cat food.
 
Gleaning the Canadian Food Inspection Agency regulations, a Vancouver Sun reporter notes they are "evidence that just about anything can go into animal feed if it will make somebody a penny." One example he gives is the use of stomach and intestinal contents of pigs and poultry in the making of feed for ruminants. Similarly, U.S. regulations permit the use of poultry manure and litter in animal feed. A researcher with the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defends the use of manure in animal feed, writing that "Feeding of animal wastes results in reducing feed costs and a lower price of animal products." Others defend rendering as an economic and ecological way of utilizing material that would otherwise have to be buried or incinerated.
 
Because prions can withstand the intense heat used in the rendering process, animal remains in farmed animal feed have been banned in Britain since 1996 and in the European Union since 2000. (Thousands of British cattle born after a ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban exhibited BSE symptoms.) Additionally, feed tends to stick to machinery and ruminant-inclusive feed can commingle with ruminant-exclusive feed if processed at the same facility or transported in the same trucks. It is estimated that 44,000 British cattle were infected with BSE because of this. Prohibited feed can also be illegally fed to ruminant animals, intentionally or unintentionally.
 
CHANGES & COMPARISONS: Canadian officials are now considering changing the regulations that allow ruminant remains to be used in chicken and pig feed. The USDA is also considering additional safeguards against BSE, including the handling of nonambulatory animals: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/oa/topics/BSE_thinking.htm A comparison of North American and European safeguards, entitled "U.S. Violates World Health Organization Guidelines for Mad Cow Disease," a June 4th report by Dr. Michael Gregor, can be found at: http://organicconsumers.org/madcow/GregerBSE.cfm
 
Numerous sources were used for this item. To access them, click here
 

2. "DOWNER" EXPOSE ELICITS INDUSTRY COMPLAINTS
A 4-part investigative series about the treatment and use of nonambulatory cattle, broadcast last autumn by Washington state's KIRO 7 News (see issue #92), has the state dairy and beef commissions complaining. The industry representatives say the series was incomplete, misleading, sensationalized, biased, unfair and inflammatory. The USDA, which was depicted as derelict, is also critical of the expose. Rather than pursuing legal action, the commissions have asked a local nonprofit media accountability group, the News Council, to mediate. KIRO is refusing to participate in a June 14th Council hearing. Station representatives say they instead want to show the commissions additional video which "was too shocking to show the public." The 2-day series is said to have generated 500 e-mails of appreciation from viewers. KIRO is planning a follow-up round of reports. As a result of the series, the two Washington meat processing plants that accepted nonambulatory animals have ceased doing so.
 
"KIRO's ‘Downer' Beef Series Spawns Industry Complaints," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Melanie McFarland, May 30, 2003.
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/tv/123978_tv29.html         
 

3. FAULTY FEED LABELING AT BUCKEYE EGG FARMS
Buckeye Egg Farms, Ohio's largest egg company and the fourth largest in the country with 9.75 million hens in 3 counties, has been found in violation of federal labeling laws. FDA inspectors warned the company it was not properly labeling feed that could contain cattle remains, and was not properly recording the amount of antibiotics used in feed. Buckeye reports it is now in compliance. The company has an extensive history of environmental violations and is under the threat of closure (see issue #97 and http://www.cleveland.com/search/index.ssf?/base/living/1054546648199271.xml?lxoth ).
 
"Beleagured Megafarm Says Its Chicken Feed Follows Rules," Associated Press, Casey Laughman, May 31, 2003.
http://www.cleveland.com/search/index.ssf?/base/news/1054373575295660.xml?nohio
 

4. THE CHANGING EGG INDUSTRY
Earlier this week, The Plain Dealer, Ohio's largest newspaper, ran a number of articles (including the one in item #3) about the changing face of animal agriculture in the state, with a particular focus on egg production. In 1970 there were about 10,000 egg farms nationwide. Now only 280 remain, most of which are large corporations. "The Squawk Over Ohio's Eggs" tells how cages became more crowded "because birds were cheap and cages were not," which led to the practice of beak cutting. "Production practices are dictated by economic necessity, not by a desire to treat animals in any particular way," explains Brian Roe of Ohio State University's Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Developmental Economics. The article discusses United Egg Producers new welfare standards, which by 2008 will allot each hen 67 square inches of space, about the amount covered by a Kleenex tissue. In contrast, McDonald's is already requiring its suppliers provide hens with 72 square inches of space. "Birds are treated like machines in the U.S.," HSUS's Michael Appleby states. He favors the European approach, where cage-free egg farms are emphasized. Hens kept in cages there after 2012 will have to be given at least 85 square inches of space, perches, nesting boxes and scratching areas.
 
Male chicks hatched into the egg industry are soon ground or gassed to death and made into feed.
Female chicks have their beaks cut with a heated blade at about 10 days of life as preparation for life in a crowded cage. "She lives in a windowless shed, where light, water, feed, heat and ventilation are computer controlled. On some farms, her manure will be allowed to pile up beneath the bank of cages, causing strong ammonia vapors to fill the barn. When she is about 65 weeks old, she is starved an average of 10 days to induce molting....At about age 2, she is so physically depleted that her bones often break when she is removed from her cage for disposal," the article explains. A 1999 European study showed about 30% of hens arrive at slaughterplants with recently broken bones. A Q/A entitled "How Hens Live," can be found at: http://www.cleveland.com/search/index.ssf?/base/living/1054474263222280.xml?
 
Covert investigations conducted by Mercy for Animals (MFA) and other animal rights groups are discussed. Looking at photos MFA took of Weaver Bros. egg operation which show "small cages stuffed with bedraggled, grimy hens, their heads swollen with hideous growths"and "grocery carts overflowing with dead birds," company president Tim Weaver says "I don't know if they're definitely our birds." He contends the pictures could have been staged. Last December, he reported a break-in at the facility and is considering pressing charges. Allowed in a limited area of one Weaver Bros. facility, the Plain Dealer reporter and photographer saw "a sea of birds" and "thousands of blood- and manure-splattered eggs." After an MFA "open rescue"at Daylay Egg Farm, the company gave Union County Humane Society board members a tour of the operation. The board president said they were pleased with what they saw which wasn't anything like the footage MFA had shown them: http://www.EggCruelty.com Another Plain Dealer article explains that birds at Daylay do not have their beaks cut and are "soft molted," fed a low-protein feed rather than starved to induce molting: http://www.cleveland.com/search/index.ssf?/base/living/1054553402180680.xml?lxoth  
 
Nest Eggs was a cage-free egg-production program Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT) ran from the mid-1980's until last year: http://www.fact.cc/NE_Main.htm Remarking on the egg industry, FACT's Richard Wood states, "There's inhumanity from start to finish, and we knew we couldn't solve everything." Hens had 2 square feet each in cageless facilities with nesting and dusting areas. Starvation was not used to induce molting. "Consumers hold the key to creating a more humane egg industry," Wood asserts. A 1999 survey conducted for the American Humane Association found consumers would pay 5% more for food labeled "humanely raised." "We're our own worst enemy," egg industry veteran Don Wise acknowledges of the changing industry, remarking, "We know what the problems are." The series includes a national and state graphic.
 
"Megafarming: Size Brings Conflicts," The Plain Dealer, Fran Henry, June 1, 2003.
http://www.cleveland.com/focuson/living/index.ssf?/focuson/more/eggs.html
 

5. EPA SUED OVER NEW CAFO REGULATIONS
In December, the U.S. EPA. began requiring wastewater discharge permits for 15,500 qualifying confinement animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Previously, about 4,500 operations with a record or high risk of manure runoff were required to have them. The operations are to develop and follow a plan for handling manure and wastewater. The EPA has since been sued by the National Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the Waterkeeper Alliance. They claim the new rules shield operations from liability for pollution caused by animal wastes, don't require them to monitor groundwater or prevent animal wastes from contaminating drinking water, and exempt contaminated runoff by labeling it "agricultural stormwater." The specifics of the new regulations as they apply to Ohio are discussed in the Plain Dealer article linked below. It also discusses alternative manure management practiced by Daylay Egg Farms (see item #4 above).
 
The Sierra Club has also accused the EPA of holding closed-door meetings with animal agriculture industry officials regarding clean-air laws. The organization released a copy of a nearly year-old confidential memo to EPA officials from John Thorne, a lobbyist representing many of the largest agricultural groups. The memo proposed a two-year industry-funded $11 million research program during which thousands of participating operations would be exempt from air quality and toxic waste cleanup laws. [Thorne has since said it would be a 30- month study.] The EPA said it met with industry to negotiate points raised in a National Academy of Sciences report about problems with accurately measuring emissions from manure. A group representing state and local air pollution program administrators and control officials sent the EPA a letter objecting to industry immunity because it would "impede the ability of states and localities to address agricultural air emissions, and also set troubling precedent in air quality legislation." Ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, dust and other pollutants from megafarms have not been covered under the Clean Air Act. Environmentalists are also concerned the EPA may also dismiss emissions from waste lagoons and buildings as "fugitive emissions," enabling most CAFOs to avoid having to comply with the Act: http://tinyurl.com/djk6 or  http://www.qctimes.com/internal.php?story_id=1012096&l=1&t=Business&c=31,1012096
 
A county district court jury in Kentucky recently found in favor of neighbors who sued Tyson Chickens (a subsidiary of Tyson Foods) and its contractor, B&G Poultry, for odors emanating from 16 large chicken buildings. Both businesses were fined the maximum allowable amount ($500) for each day of violation: http://tinyurl.com/djlk or  http://www.myinky.com/ecp/gleaner_news/article/0,1626,ECP_4476_2010043,00.html      
 
"State Rules Still Short of Ideal, Some Say," The Plain Dealer, Fran Hill, June 2, 2003. http://www.cleveland.com/search/index.ssf?/base/living/1054553402180680.xml?lxoth
"Environmentalists Are Worried About Proposal to Give Big Farms a Break From Pollution Laws,"Associated Press, John Heilprin, May 6, 2003.
http://www.enn.com/news/2003-05-06/s_4302.asp