Farmed Animal Watch
A Project of Animal Place

August 19, 2003                                                     (To Search This Page Press Ctrl F)
Number #26 Volume 2


CONTENTS


1. Israeli Supreme Court Rules Out Foie Gras Production
2. Taiwanese Force-Feeding/Slaughter Ritual Denounced
3. Buckeye Hens Released to Sanctuary
4. Farmed Animal Welfare Standards
5. "Ethical Omnivores"
6. Organic Production
7. "Pastured Poultry"
8. AWI Fundraiser Features Pig Products
 

1. ISRAELI SUPREME COURT RULES OUT FOIE GRAS PRODUCTION
On August 11th, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the method used to produce foie gras (liver pate) is cruel and the Health Ministry regulations permitting it is illegal. Israeli law prohibits unnecessary cruelty to animals, and the court majority opinion stated that long-accepted agricultural practices are not exempted from this law. Force-feeding geese will become illegal in March 2005. The practice has been banned in England, Switzerland, Denmark, Austria, Belgium and Germany. Israel is the world's 3rd largest foie gras producer.
 
According to Anonymous for Animal Rights (AAR), a leader in the decade-long campaign for the ban, a recent survey found 69% of Israelis consider force-feeding ducks and geese to be animal abuse. One of the justices offered the following explanation: "The process, in which a metal tube is inserted into the goose's throat, through which food is compressed into his stomach, is violent and harmful. The process causes a degenerative disease of the goose liver, and its enlargement up to 10 times its original size." A video of the procedure was shown in court. Photos of it can be seen at: http://www.anonymous.org.il/e-pic-geese.htm Due to a current recession, the court gave the industry a year and a half to come up with a humane alternative production method. Both sides expressed doubt that such a method could be found. "Any method that achieves the aim of swelling the liver is going to entail cruelty," said Andre Menache, a prominent animal protection advocate and veterinary surgeon. AAR believes the issue may next move to the Israeli Parliament (the Knesset) with the industry trying to get regulations passed to bypass the court decision. See: http://lists.envirolink.org/pipermail/ar-news/Week-of-Mon-20030811/004770.html
 
In the U.S., PETA recently persuaded the Boston Symphony to forego foie gras at its upcoming gala ( http://www.peta.org/news/NewsItem.asp?id=2755 ) and the Animal Liberation Front continues carrying out clandestine assaults on a foie gras company and other California agricultural entities (see: http://www.pressdemocrat.com/local/news/15vandal_a1empirea.html and http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2003/08/19/MN245934.DTL ).
 
"Goose-Fattening Deemed Too Cruel," Arutz Sheeva, August 11, 2003.
http://www.arutzsheva.org/news.php3?id=47925
"Israel Court Cans Foie Gras Farms," BBC News, August 13, 2003.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/3146835.stm
 

2. TAIWANESE FORCE-FEEDING/SLAUGHTER RITUAL DENOUNCED
A competition in Taiwan, in which force-fed pigs too obese to stand are dragged in front of thousands of people to have their throats cut, is being challenged by animal welfare groups. The "Pig of the President" is a religious custom of the Hakkas, an ethnic population of over 4 million  people in Taiwan. The Environment and Animals Society (EAST) claims the pigs, who can reach weights nearing a ton, are force fed sand and heavy metals and are terrified and screaming during the ritual (see links below for photographs). Force feeding and ritual slaughter are said to be outlawed in Taiwan. The Taiwanese president said the 170-year-old practice of sacrificing "divine pigs" must be respected as part of Hakka culture: http://tinyurl.com/kekr  The World Society for the Protection of Animals is active in both this and the Israeli foie gras campaign (see item #1): http://www.wspa-international.org/site/index.php?page=257&ilocale=1
 
"‘Appalling Plight' of Super-Fat Pigs," BBC News, August 8, 2003.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3136587.stm
 

3. BUCKEYE HENS RELEASED TO SANCTUARY
Buckeye Egg Farm has release some 1,050 hens to Oohmahnee Farm, an 86-acre farmed animal sanctuary located outside of Pittsburgh (photos at: http://members.bellatlantic.net/~vze3hg6v/buckeye_rescue.html ). Buckeye has appealed a state order to shut down (see N.23, V.2). The released hens were ones who were no longer profitably producing eggs and would otherwise have been killed. Bill Leininger, Buckeye director of operations, is working with Cayce Mell, co-founder of Oohmahnee, despite their philosophical differences over what constitutes humane treatment of hens. If Buckeye is forced to close, it will have to get rid of nearly 15 million hens. According to both Leininger and Mell, the birds might be burned alive or bulldozed into the ground. Leininger stressed he will only deal with Oohmahnee on the depopulation matter. 
 
[Oohmahnee recently gained custody of 145 sheep after neighboring farmers had a change of heart and decided to not send them to slaughter. With over 1,000 other residents, the sanctuary is seeking "loving, lifelong homes" for the sheep.] PETA's Ingrid Newkirk was the featured speaker at Oohmahnee recently held annual open house: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/tribune-review/westmoreland/s_149073.html   
 
"Buckeye Hens Strut to Freedom at Animal Sanctuary," The Plain Dealer, Fran Henry, August 7, 2003.
http://www.cleveland.com/search/index.ssf?/base/living/1060255801297010.xml?lxoth
 

4. FARMED ANIMAL WELFARE STANDARDS
The United States is dramatically improving the quality of the lives – and the humaneness of the deaths – of cows, pigs and chickens. So begins an August 12th USA Today article about animal welfare reforms within the meat, milk and egg industries. Noted reforms include slaughterplants redesigned to take into account cattle behavior, larger cages for chickens (see item #3 of N.21, V.2), and a Florida law against pig gestation crates (see back issue #94). Objective, measurable standards are increasingly being used to monitor handling and killing methods in slaughterplants (see N.14, V.2). The standards call for 95% of cattle to be stunned with one shot, 99% accuracy in the electrical stunning of pigs, and 98% accuracy in the electrical stunning of chickens. [United Poultry Concerns contends that chickens are immobilized rather than stunned, and has recently released a report entitled "Poultry Slaughter: The Need for Legislation." See (PDF file): http://www.upc-online.org/slaughter/slaughter3web.pdf ]
 
After World War II, federal policies encouraged intensified agricultural production practices. By the 1990's, "the way farm animals were treated in the USA had gotten about as bad as it could under the relentless pressure to produce food more cheaply." Indoor confinement systems were used for producing pigs and chickens. Chickens raised for meat were bred to gain weight so rapidly that their skeletal systems couldn't keep pace. They now reach slaughter weight in about 6 weeks, half the time required 50 years ago. The practice of amputating part of the beaks and toes of chickens used for egg production was employed to keep them from pecking and scratching each other in the close confinement in which they are kept. Forced molting, depriving hens of food for 4-24 days to stimulate higher egg production, became the industry norm. Referring to the 1980's as "the bad old days, animal scientist and industry consultant Temple Grandin ( http://www.grandin.com ) explains: "When you breed for feed conversion, you tend to breed a flighty, excitable animal, a very high-fear animal. You breed a calmer chicken, she's going to need more feed but she's not going to peck others to death."
 
The article reviews the welfare developments that occurred from 1992 to 2002, a time which Canadian animal welfare scientist David Fraser says was a  watershed in animal welfare worldwide. High-profile campaigns by PETA and others were causing concern among industry that consumers, particularly youth, might stop eating meat. [In 1989,] animal rights activist Henry Spira began negotiating with McDonald's (see: http://www.americanradioworks.org/features/mcdonalds/book.html ) and, largely facilitated by the McLibel verdict ( http://www.mcspotlight.org/case/index.html ), eventually [1997] got them to work with Grandin, who helped formulate their animal welfare standards (see: http://www.americanradioworks.org/features/mcdonalds/index.html ). She also undertook a survey of U.S. slaughterplants [in 1996] and found the Humane Slaughter Act was being grossly  violated (see http://www.grandin.com/survey/survey.html [The survey was commissioned by the USDA as the result of pressure from the International Coalition for Farm Animals, which Spira and philosopher Peter Singer initiated. See http://www.vegan.com/current/hs0707985.html and issue #69. The August 12th USA Today also includes an article about Dr. Grandin entitled: "Cattle-Behavior Expert Adds Humanity to the Job" at: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2003-08-12-animals-side-usat_x.htm ] By 2002, some 500 slaughterplant audits worldwide had been conducted for McDonald's. [As the world's largest purchaser of animal products] McDonald's has forced change throughout the entire industry.
 
In 1999, United Egg Producers announced the first animal welfare guidelines for an industry trade group. By increasing space per hen from some 50 square inches per bird to 67 square inches fewer birds die and more eggs are laid, though the cost per egg is slightly higher. Some 80% of hens in the country are reportedly being kept in accordance with the guidelines (see http://www.eggscam.com). In 2001, the National Council of Chain Restaurants and the Food Marketing Institute (which represents grocery store chains) commissioned animal welfare academics to review the standards of various animal industry groups (see item #6 of issue #80. [In early August, the National Pork Board announced its "Swine Welfare Assurance Program." See  http://www.porkboard.org/SWAPHome/default2.asp ]). The review group has developed guidelines for cattle, pig, sheep and goat slaughter and egg, milk and chicken production. Ones for handling cattle and pigs are under review. The new guidelines are similar to the industries standards but in some cases stricter. Cow tail docking is not allowed, more space is required for chicken production, and pig gestation stalls are to be phased out. Audits of egg, milk and chicken production facilities are to begin this summer with audits of pig production facilities to follow. Discussions are still underway for inspecting cattle and feedlots. Criticism that the guidelines are merely voluntary and purchasers can ignore the results are countered by proponents who note that large purchasers will probably require all their suppliers adhere to the guidelines across the board.
 
Ultimately, it's up to consumers to bring about changes in animal production through their purchases. Certified Humane is another standards program which, according to the article, has created a "gold standard" for animal welfare (see N.21, V.2). This autumn, supermarkets will begin offering animal products carrying the Certified Humane label. Even the highest industry standards don't match those of the European Union, which are set to go into effect 2012. Nor are animal rights activists satisfied with them. PETA's Bruce Friedrich explains, "We just don't want people to think that what the industry is doing is eliminating cruelty. It's clearly not." He goes on to point out ways in which farmed animals will continue to suffer.
 
"Food Sellers Push Animal Welfare," USA Today, Elizabeth Weise, August 12, 2003.
http://www.usatoday.com///news/nation/2003-08-12-animals-mainbar-usat_x.htm
 

5. "ETHICAL OMNIVORES"
The search for "humanely raised" animal products is opening up new ground in what was previously a no-man's land between omnivores and vegetarians. This article tells of the growing number of "ethical omnivores," people who will only consume "cruelty-free" animal products. Animal welfare advocates assert there is still an enormous gap between industry reforms and true humaneness. The "confusing sea of claims" is considered, with particular attention given to the Certified Humane program (see item #4), which allows tail and beak amputation. Jack Sparks, a program board member, explains: "People, when they hear the animal welfare community is behind it... think we demand the cows be tucked into the sheets with chocolate on the pillow. That's not the case, they're very common sense." Whistling Train Farm, which produces pigs and eggs, is presented as an alternative system with greater freedom for the animals. It is noted that even there, animals are killed in a short fraction of what their natural life span would be.
 
"‘Ethical Omnivores' Want Meat from Cruelty-Free Environments," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Rebekah Denn, August 13, 2003.
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/food/134685_mindful13.html
 
           
6. ORGANIC PRODUCTION
U.S. organic food and drink sales climbed to $11 billion in 2002, up from $1 billion in 1990. Horizon Organic, White Wave, and Nest Fresh Eggs are 3 Colorado companies profiting from the organic boom. Dean Foods, the nation's largest processor and distributor of dairy products (http://www.deanfoods.com ), owns White Wave, maker of Silk soy milk. It is in the process of acquiring Horizon Organic, which makes and sells organic dairy products (see http://www.horizonorganic.com and item #2 of issue #93). Nest Fresh, a cageless egg operation (see issue #83), produces some organic eggs and has begun also selling organic chicken. Among other things, the article discusses the economics of alternative production.   
 
Slowing sales growth rates in some European countries are causing a surplus in the organic meat and dairy sectors. The demand for organic food is expanding beyond the western world as more regional markets develop. Consumer demand and the formation of trading blocs are expected to drive market growth. See: http://www.meatnews.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=article&artNum=5941
 
"Organic Evolution," Rocky Mountain News, Janet Forgrieve, August 2, 2003.
http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/business/article/0,1299,DRMN_4_2154272,00.html
 

7. "PASTURED POULTRY"
Chickens in free-range production systems may actually spend little [if any] time outdoors. This article attributes that to the breed of bird, with rapid weight gain resulting in impaired mobility. [Poor outdoor access and/or barren outdoor environments can also be contributing factors. See "Free Range Chickens Need Trees," in the August 7th issue of Nature: http://www.nature.com/nsu/030804/030804-7.html ] "Pastured poultry" is a system whereby pens are used to keep chickens in grassy areas. There is no legal definition for the practice. Washington state passed a law this year permitting operators producing fewer than 1,000 chickens a year to slaughter them. A mobile processing unit to be used by a group of farmers is being considered. See also: http://apppa.org and http://www.ibiblio.org/farming-connection/grazing/pastpoul/resource.htm
 
"Pastured poultry: Advocates say both consumers and animals benefit," The Seattle Times, Judith Blake, August 13, 2003.
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/foodwine/2001493053_chickens130.html
 

8. AWI FUNDRAISER FEATURES PIG PRODUCTS
Fried pigs' ears, stuffed pigs' feet and pastries made from larded dough were served at a mid-August fundraising event for the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI). The products were made from "humanely raised" pigs. The event, held at the Acme Chophouse in San Francisco, offered a vegetarian alternative to individuals who ordered in advance. A pre-dinner discussion examined the inherent cruelties of factory farming. AWI responded to those who criticized the animal protection organization for having meat served at the event by noting its "humane husbandry" program. It bans gestation and farrowing crates for pregnant pigs; prohibits tail docking; and requires bedding and outdoor access for pigs, and nesting opportunities (see: http://www.awionline.org/farm/standards.htm ). Some 300 farmers are enrolled in the program. The event was also defended as a way of reaching people who are not receptive to vegetarianism.
See: http://lists.envirolink.org/pipermail/ar-news/Week-of-Mon-20030804/004490.html and http://lists.envirolink.org/pipermail/ar-news/Week-of-Mon-20030804/004531.html
 
The August 16th issue of the Guardian (U.K.) included a commentary by Jeremy Rifkin entitled "Man and Other Animals: Our fellow creatures have feelings - so we should give them rights, too." Rifkin notes that research (sponsored by fast-food chains) has found that pigs crave affection and are easily depressed if isolated or denied playtime with each other. A lack of mental and physical stimulation can impair their health and increase disease incidence. He presents other examples of nonhuman-animal sensitivity and intelligence, and asserts that these capacities make other beings deserving of our empathy. See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1019899,00.html
 
"Getting Their Men," San Francisco Chronicle, Leah Garchick, August 1, 2003.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/08/01/DD257768.DTL