Farmed Animal Watch
A Project of Animal Place

August 28, 2003                                                     (To Search This Page Press Ctrl F)
Number #27 Volume 2


CORRECTION: In item #5 of the last issue, the Certified Humane program was incorrectly identified as Humane Certified. For more information on the program, see item #6 of N.21, V.2. The Associated Press had reported that American Humane's "Free Farmed" program (see issue #9) had failed. Thanks go to alert readers Caryn Ginsburg and Charlie Zigmund for informing us that is not the case. For more information on the program, see: http://webcenter.petplace.aol.com/articles/artShow.asp?artID=5077
 
CONTENTS

1. Subsidies Create Mountains of Milk
2. High Cow Death Rates Getting Higher; Drenching
3. Chefs Reconsidering Foie Gras
4. Corporate Farming Developments
5. HFA Provides Sanctuary for FFA Calf; Taped Tail
6. The Legend of the Tamworth Two
7. Dr. Ned Buyukmihci Profiled
8. Future Trends Symposium: Food Animal Welfare
 

1. SUBSIDIES CREATE MOUNTAINS OF MILK
Some 1.28 billion pounds of surplus powdered milk are being stored by the government  in caves and warehouses across the U.S. Each pound of it costs taxpayers 80 cents, not counting storage costs, amounting to $1 billion. The USDA was required to buy the milk in order to help boost prices as the result of dairy policies that critics say encourage overproduction. The dairy price support program, initiated in 1949, is a congressional statute requiring the USDA to purchase milk once prices fall below a certain level in order to support prices for it. The government is having a difficult time disposing of all the milk, which it offers to school meal programs, food banks, and as foreign aid. It has even shipped 200 million pounds of it for use as cattle feed in drought areas: http://www.directag.com/directag/news/article.jhtml?article_id=1012504 
 
Ken Cook, head of the Environmental Working Group, says it is the same problem with all agricultural commodity subsidy programs: "It sends a signal to produce without regard to the market....Uncle Sam ends up owning it, or trying to dispose of it one way or another, even as we try to stimulate demand" (see: http://www.ewg.org/farm/farmbill/stake.php ). A USDA official involved with the program says change can't be expected until the next farm bill.
 
Launched late last year, the Milk Income Loss Contract program, originally expected to cost $1.3 billion, will probably end up costing up to $4 billion before it expires in 2005: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A15945-2003Aug19.html
For a detailed industry perspective of the dairy situation, see: http://www.agriview.com/articles/2003/08/20/dairy_news/producer01.txt
An article on an industry plan to cut production can be found at:
http://news.statesmanjournal.com/article.cfm?i=66872
An article on the plan to build the West's "largest cow town," a 2,000-acre gated community in the Mojave Desert where 600 dairy families would live with some 90,000 cattle, can be found at:
http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/5839943.htm
 
A new USDA program created by Congress last year has an annual budget of $90 million to compensate farmers who suffer significant price drops due to cheaper imports. The trade protection program is in effect through 2007. See: http://www.fas.usda.gov/itp/taa/taaindex.htm  
 
"Federal Policy Creates Milk Mountains," Pioneer Press, Tom Webb, August 18, 2003.
http://www.twincities.com/mld/pioneerpress/news/politics/6557034.htm
 

2. HIGH COW DEATH RATES GETTING HIGHER; DRENCHING
The death loss rate of cows in dairies across the nation is high and getting higher. Rates reported in the U.S. include 5.9% in the North and 7.7% in the South. The USDA's 2002 National Animal Health Monitoring System study reported an average death rate of 4.8% nationwide [up from 3.8% in 1996 (p. 34): http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/ceah/cahm/Dairy_Cattle/Dairy02/dairy2002-ptII.pdf  Cows, whose natural lifespan is 20-25 years (per the USDA's 1984 Yearbook of Agriculture), are usually killed by age 4 (PDF file): http://agbiopubs.sdstate.edu/articles/EXEX4019.pdf ]. Common reasons for cow deaths include mastitis, toxemia, and fatty liver syndrome/metabolic disease.
 
"Drenching" is a procedure routinely performed on some cows after having given birth. With the intent of minimizing or eliminating metabolic diseases in early lactation, gallons of nutrient-dense solution are administered to a cow by way of a 6-7 foot tube down her throat. "Drenching fresh cows is more voodoo than science right now," says a USDA research veterinarian. He cautions those "brave enough to try this" that even with special equipment one in 250 cows can be expected to drown. He explains how to insert the tube and cautions not to put it down the cow's windpipe. He believes impatience is primarily the problem, and warns "If you hook this up to a sump pump, kiss the cow goodbye."
 
"What is a Normal Death Rate?" Dairy Herd, Brian Gerloff, August 6, 2003.
http://www.dairyherd.com/news_editorial.asp?pgID=727&ed_id=2812
"Drench Dilemma," Dairy Today, Paula Mohr, June/July 2003.
http://www.agweb.com/pub_get_article.asp?sigcat=dairy&pageid=98494
 

3. CHEFS RECONSIDERING FOIE GRAS
With the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) carrying out attacks against it, chefs in the San Francisco area are reconsidering serving foie gras, which is made by force-feeding ducks and geese. One incident involved concrete poured into the drains at a restaurant that was soon to open, said to symbolize "the damage done to the ducks' digestive systems by force-feeding them." (An article and video report can be found at: http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/news/081903_nw_lme_sfchef.html See also N.26, V.2.) Some chefs vow to continue offering foie gras, perhaps as their own act of defiance. Others say the acts have rekindled concerns about the way some animals are raised for food. Chef Traci Des Jardins of Jardiniere's said she visited a foie gras operation in 1995 and is haunted by the image of the ducks (see N.26, V.2). She intends to discontinue serving the item and see how her customers respond. "Chefs are kind of like politicians now," one states. Others agree that writing a menu is becoming a political act. The manager of Jardiniere's and the Acme Chop House discusses more environmentally and politically appealing items. Last month, he was confronted by animal rights activists after the Chop House arranged a dinner and panel showcasing "humanely raised pork" (see item #8, N.26, V.2). The owner of a California foie gras operation argues that his production methods are less inhumane than those used for chicken production. He claims the force-fed geese run after them for more food. FBI agents are calling the ALF acts a case of domestic terrorism.
 
"Chefs in a Stew Over Foie Gras," The San Francisco Chronicle, Kim Severson, August 22, 2003.
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/08/22/BA266523.DTL
"‘Meat is Murder' Militants Target California's New Taste for Foie Gras," The Independent, Andrew Gumbel, August 23, 2003.
http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/story.jsp?story=436349
 

4. CORPORATE FARMING DEVELOPMENTS 
Environmentalists and animal protection advocates are using Buckeye Egg Farms as a rallying point in their efforts against megafarms (see N.23,V.2). "If you get a bad actor like Buckeye Egg, it plays right into their hands," said Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Fred Dailey. "They point to them and say ‘see, this is going to happen to you.'" Dailey acknowledged that neighbors and many farm organizations also appealed to the state for help against Buckeye. An Ohio Family Farm Coalition spokesperson said Buckeye has taken attention away from other operations that deserve scrutiny. Tim Weaver, president of Weaver Brothers Inc., one of the largest egg operations in the state, contends it isn't fair to paint all agricultural operations with the same brush (see N.8 & 19, V.2 ), and that animal care standards have been raised in recent years. 
 
A project by Bell Farms Inc. to build a mega-complex with capacity for 96,000 pigs on 4,000 acres of the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota has been foiled by the Humane Farming Association (HFA) and other opponents. The Rosebud Tribal Council initially agreed to a 15-year lease of the land, and a contract with Bell Farm's Sun Prairie partnership was approved by the state Bureau of Indian Affairs. The project, slated to be the 3rd largest pig production facility in the world, has been the subject of a series of environmental lawsuits and appeals beginning in 1998. The tribal council subsequently withdrew its support, and construction was stopped when Bell lost its lease on the land. Two of 13 planned sites, each with 24 buildings holding about 2,000 pigs each, had already been completed and continued to operate even after Bell lost an appeal this year. It has filed another lawsuit, against the government and the tribe, which HFA and others are attempting to have dismissed. HFA was also successful this year in keeping a Japanese corporation from building the largest pig production facility in Oregon.    
 
On August 19th, a federal appeals court struck down an amendment to South Dakota's constitution that prevents corporations from owning farmland or engaging in farming in the state. State officials in Iowa, which has a similar ban, are closely studying the decision. Nine states have statutory limitations on corporate farming, while South Dakota and Nebraska have constitutional bans on it. The court upheld a previous ruling that the amendment violated the U.S. constitution, noting that it discriminated against out-of-state businesses. The court also said supporters of the amendment failed to prove "a ban on corporate farming would effectively preserve family farms or protect the environment." The decision is said to be significant in its implications for corporate limitations in the other nine states.
 
"Buckeye Egg Farm a Rallying Point for Big-Farm Opponents," Associated Press, August 25, 2003.
http://www.newarkadvocate.com/news/stories/20030825/localnews/126772.html
"Bell Dealt Blow, Feedstuffs, Michael Howie, March 3, 2003.
"Bell Farms Defeated in South Dakota."
http://www.hfa.org/campaigns/bellfarms.html
"Corporate Farm Ban Struck Down," Des Moines Register, Anne Fitzgerald, August 20, 2003.
http://www.dmregister.com/business/stories/c4789013/22042078.html
 

5. HFA PROVIDES SANCTUARY FOR FFA CALF; TAPED TAIL
At the other end of the spectrum, HFA (see item #4) was instrumental in enabling 13-year-old Alex "Ally" Bell to send a calf she'd raised for 3 & ½ months to sanctuary instead of slaughter. Bell had been caring for Max since he was 2 weeks old, as an FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) project. When she realized he would probably be purchased for slaughter, she sought sanctuary for him instead. Bell's father bought Max, and HFA offered to provide him with a safe and lifelong home at its Suwanna Ranch, a 5,000-acre California refuge for formerly abused and neglected farmed animals. Bell, who has become a vegetarian, said she thinks all FFA students who raise farmed animals should tour slaughterplants as part of their education. Her FFA advisor said "I don't try to hide the facts from my students....We're trying to give them the best possible learning experience." He acknowledged some students "can be a little emotional toward the end, but it's not a traumatic experience." HFA's Bradley Miller said, "We applaud and support Alex's courage to break from the herd and re-think her involvement with the FFA program. [Animal Place runs a similar program for 4-H and FFA students, see: see item #10, issue #88.] Max was neutered and dehorned at the University of California before being delivered to his new home.
 
When a woman at the Washington County Fair (NY) angrily complained about a cow with a docked tail, the dairy owner used a piece of duct tape to attach a flyswatter to the remainder of Jasper Jane's tail. Duane Robinson explained that cows "just make a mess all over" with their tails. "When you're milking, you get hit in the face easily," an employee of the dairy added. Regarding the flyswatter, Robinson said, "It was sort of a joke." (The article includes a photograph. See also issue #97.)  
 
"She has a Beef with Slaughtering," The Davis Enterprise, Sharon Stello, August 21, 2003.
http://www.davisenterprise.com/articles/2003/08/21/news/132new2.txt        
"No Tail? No Problem," Bennington Banner, Katie Booker, August 25, 2003.
http://www.benningtonbanner.com/Stories/0,1413,104~8676~1590216,00.html
 

6. THE LEGEND OF THE TAMWORTH TWO
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is making a 60-minute movie about two pigs who evaded capture for a week in 1998 after escaping from a southwest England slaughterplant. Butch and Sundance had the public rooting for them and generated a media frenzy. They now reside at the Rare Breed Centre in Kent. "The Legend of the Tamworth Two," will follow the form of the Babe movies, with the use of real pigs whose actions will be enhanced by computer technology. Celebrities will supply voices. Executive producer Sally Woodward explained that the film will "show how contrary human beings are in their relationship with animals - how we are only too happy to tuck in to a pork chop, but are outraged when we want to capture a pig that has stolen or heart."
 
"Tamworth Two Pig Tale on Film," BBC News, August 26, 2003.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/3181347.stm    
 

7. DR. NED BUYUKMIHCI PROFILED
Ned Buyukmihci ["byew-yewk-mucha"], co-founder of Animal Place and the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (AVAR), was the subject of a Sunday feature in The San Francisco Chronicle. "Dr. Ned," a veterinarian, recently retired from the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine where he served since 1979 as a professor of opthalmology. His tenure was a turbulent one due to "his unflinching defense of animals," for which "[h]is colleagues shunned and ostracized him." A former student recounts: "Ned was all about the animals....[h]e was one who lived what he preached." An attempted dismissal by UC Davis led to his successful lawsuit against it. AVAR was created in 1981 to help veterinarians nationally become animal-rights advocates ( http://www.avar.org & item #8 of http://www.farmedanimal.net/Newsletters/Newsletter88.htm ). The article tells of the adoption of alternative teaching methods that have gradually been occurring at veterinary schools in the U.S.
 
Animal Place, a 60-acre California sanctuary begun in 1989, is home to more than 150 rescued farmed animals and dogs ( http://www.AnimalPlace.org ).  The article tells of the situations from which some of the animals ("individuals," as Buyukmihci calls them) were rescued. Buyukmihci relates conditions for commercially kept chickens, cows and pigs. He describes cattle dehorning as being like "someone coming up with bolt cutters and removing your first finger at the base." A vegan for 17 years, Buyukmihci is doubtful animal agriculture will improve conditions for animals on its own. "Even though I don't believe in raising other animals for food, if it's going to be done, at least we can make their lives as good as humanly possible," he said. "Right now, their lives are absolutely horrific. And, it would take very little to make their lives better." Buyukmihci urges people to at least give up meat two or more days a week. [Dr. Buyukmihci is now Director of the Animal Protection Institute's Primate Sanctuary: http://www.api4animals.org/doc.asp?ID=1532  Animal Place is a sponsor of Farmed Animal Watch.]
 
"All Creatures Great and Small," The San Francisco Chronicle, August 24, 2003.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/08/24/CM52888.DTL
 

8. FUTURE TRENDS SYMPOSIUM: FOOD ANIMAL WELFARE
"Food Animal Welfare: What Are the Issues?" is the theme of a Future Trends in Animal Agriculture Symposium to be held in Washington, D.C. on September 17th. The purpose of the free event, which is open to the public, is: "To briefly present perspectives of non-government, professional and industry organizations, and farmer representatives on cost issues of food animal production and related standards. Government personnel will provide background information. The presentations will help ensure staffers, policy makers, and the public have a clearer understanding of the current status and implications of standards and cost concerns." Open discussion is to follow the sessions, which will address industry issues, societal issues, trade, and animal welfare and environmental issues. To preregister (required), contact David Brubaker at: PennsylvaniaB@aol.com For more info, see: http://216.144.194.51/pdf/0917event_flyer.doc