Farmed Animal Watch
A Project of Animal Place

October 24, 2003                                                     (To Search This Page Press Ctrl F)
Number #33 Volume 2


CONTENTS


1. Surviving Sheep to Be Slaughtered in Eritrea
2. Whole Foods Announces Welfare Standards; CEO Goes Vegan
3. Anti-Foie Gras Activists Sued, Countersue
4. FDA Action on Cloning; Public Meeting & Comment Opportunity
5. Public Leery of Genetically Engineering Animals
6. N.Z. Groups Protest Genetic Engineering
7. CSPI Criticizes USDA for Hosting Egg Industry Event
8. Government Promotes Cheese Consumption As Obesity Balloons
9. Unconstitutionality of Checkoff Programs Upheld
10 American Cancer Society Fundraising Events Denounced
 

1. SURVIVING SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED IN ERITREA
The 52,000 sheep who have survived nearly 3 months at sea (see http://tinyurl.com/s82w ) are to be taken to Eritrea, an impoverished North African country, and slaughtered. Some 5,581 sheep, just over 9% of the original number, perished since the Cormo Express left Australia on August 5th. More than 50 countries discussed taking the sheep but many were ruled out due to geographic difficulties. The Australian government has agreed to give Eritrea 3,000 metric tons of feed and $1 million for unloading, transport, holding and slaughter costs. The deal has been negotiated over the last 3 weeks but was kept secret so as not to jeopardize it. The total cost of the operation has been estimated at $10 million and the government has indicated it will recoup it with a sheep trade levy. The president of the Pastoralists and Graziers Association said it is cheaper than if the sheep had returned to Australia with an exotic disease but said he didn't know how the cost will be met as there are already levies. Officials say the live sheep trade with Saudi Arabia will not resume until they are satisfied that there are fallback options.
 
"Secret Deal Puts Sheep in Eritrea," The West Australian, Kate Gauntlett & Robert Taylor, Oct. 25, 2003 
http://www.thewest.com.au/20031025/news/general/tw-news-general-home-sto114776.html
 
 
2. WHOLE FOODS ANNOUNCES WELFARE STANDARDS; CEO GOES VEGAN
Whole Foods, the world's largest retailer of natural and organic foods, has announced it will require its suppliers meet animal welfare standards. The company, which has 147 stores and did $3.2 billion in sales last year, will hire an independent third party to audit the changes. The announcement follows 2 years of campaigning by Viva!USA (see item #6 of http://tinyurl.com/s1hs ) which was later joined by PETA. In March, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) John Mackey led a walkout at the company's annual meeting while a PETA representative spoke. PETA responded with a web site against the company: http://www.wholefoodshurtsanimals.com Mackey has since become a vegan, which he credits to Viva's persuasion. "I came across an argument I could not refuse: Eating animals causes pain and suffering to the animals," he explained. "It's pretty horrible what's going on with animals in America," Mackey said, "Hopefully, this will put pressure on others to change their ways." One industry consultant seemingly concurs, remarking: "Animal welfare has gotten on everyone's radar screen. Whole Foods will now be seen as doing the right thing."      
 
Whole Foods will initially address the treatment of ducks, with guidelines put in place before the end of 2004. This could include providing more space, water for preening, and the prohibition of bill cutting. (The Food Marketing Institute and the National Council of Chain Restaurants are also considering guidelines for ducks. See item #1 of: http://tinyurl.com/s1jw ) Grimaud Farms, which supplies duck meat to Whole Foods, will eventually have to cease selling ducklings to foie gras producers in order to continue doing business with the company. A Grimaud spokesperson said Whole Foods has been buying from them for 8 years because of their humane practices. However, Mackey said "If Grimaud is unwilling to implement animal-compassionate standards and methods, then Whole Foods Market will seek alternative producers who will."
 
"Whole Foods Pledges to be More Humane," USA Today, Bruce Horovitz, October 21, 2003.
http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/2003-10-21-wholefood_x.htm
"Whole Foods to Animal Suppliers: Be Nice," The Sacramento Bee, Loretta Kalb, Oct. 22, 2003.
http://www.sacbee.com/content/business/story/7645363p-8585795c.html
 

3. ANTI-FOIE GRAS ACTIVISTS SUED, COUNTERSUE
Sonoma Foie Gras filed suit against 4 members of the Animal Protection and Rescue League (APRL) on Oct. 20th, charging them with trespassing and burglary in conducting an "open rescue"of 4 ducks (see http://tinyurl.com/s224 ) in September. "What's occurred is a campaign of terror against a family farm and a small family restaurant," said company spokesperson Sam Springer (see item #3 of http://tinyurl.com/nk44 ), "The business owners are drawing a line in the sand and saying they won't tolerate it." The company's attorneys claim that at least one of the activists broke into 4 buildings on the property in 2002 and "took videos of the plaintiff's ducks in a selective and false light....to portray the farming conditions in an unfavorable light." Singer said the harassment continued this summer when a food shop and the homes of two of the business partners were vandalized. (See above references. No suspects have been named in the vandalism and Singer has no evidence that APRL was responsible for it.) The suit characterizes the campaign as a criminal conspiracy, and seeks damages in excess of $25,000 and an injunction barring the activists from the property.
 
The activists welcomed the lawsuit as a chance to draw further attention to the way ducks are treated. On October 22nd they held a press conference at which they announced a countersuit they have filed and showed the video footage they'd taken at Sonoma. In Defense of Animals (IDA) has joined them in the lawsuit which charges the company with breaking the law by force-feeding ducks. "We believe we're upholding California's anti-cruelty law," said APRL's Bryan Pease. "We don't believe rescuing animals in need of veterinary treatment is the same as someone breaking into a house and stealing someone's property. These are animals that are being tortured and need veterinary treatment.....The amount of weight of food they force into these animals would be the equivalent of a human being forced to eat 30 pounds of food a day," he explained. The Sonoma suit states that: "According to the California Department of Agriculture and the prevailing academic and industry standards on such practices, the enhanced feeding of ducks to make foie gras is a non-injurious way of using the duck's natural gorging characteristics" (see Part II: http://tinyurl.com/s65u ). Pease said he may return to Sonoma to take more ducks, explaining "We feel it is a moral obligation as long as the anti-cruelty law is being violated." When asked about an unsuccessful 1992 case involving PETA and a New York foie gras company, IDA President Elliot Katz responded, "That took place 10 years ago. There's been a lot of changes in consciousness in terms of what is suffering in terms of what animals in agriculture go through."
 
"Duck Farm Sues Animal Activists," San Francisco Chronicle, Chuck Squatriglia, Oct. 21, 2003.
http://tinyurl.com/s69q or http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/10/21/BAG6V2FOQS1.DTL
"Activists, Company Fight over Duck Liver," San Jose Mercury News, Dana Hull, Oct. 23, 2003.
http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/news/7082634.htm
"The Foie Gras Controversy," KGO-TV, October 22, 2003.
http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/news/iteam/102203_iteam_foie_gras_folo.html
 

4. FDA ACTION ON CLONING; PUBLIC MEETING & COMMENT OPPORTUNITY
Studies have shown cloned animals have higher incidences of genetic and physiological abnormalities than do non-cloned animals. Few cloned embryos survive to full-term fetuses, and many clones exhibit heart and lung trouble (see item #2 of http://tinyurl.com/s38r and http://www.nature.com/nsu/030825/030825-2.html). However, according to a Harvard researcher, the abnormalities seen in cloned animals are not present in their offspring. Cloned animals are prohibitively expensive to use for food (e.g., cloned cows sells for about $19,000), but farmers hope to use their offspring for food. Cattle have been the primary subject of cloning but scientists are also cloning pigs, goats and sheep.
 
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be issuing a preliminary report on the potential hazards of cloning farmed animals, possibly as soon as this week. The agency has requested that the companies that clone farmed animals voluntarily keep meat and milk from them out of the food supply. These few companies have been submitting data, said to be generated by independent research firms, to the FDA which plans to post the research online for public review. The director of science for the Pew Institute of Food and Biotechnology, an independent agency that has been helping the FDA review the issue, said "The only data we've seen seem to suggest that the products of cloned animals are essentially indistinguishable from their conventionally bred counterparts." Public advocates argue that problems could occur over time and pointed out that in addition to scientific considerations there are social, ethical and religious issues involved (see item #4 of http://tinyurl.com/s361 ). They are calling for the labeling of meat obtained from cloned animals. An FDA representative has said that if the agency finds such meat is as safe as conventional meat, labeling will not be required. A final policy is not expected for another year. The FDA will then begin deliberating transgenic animals, those produced by combining the genes of more than one species (see item #4).
 
The FDA is holding a public meeting on November 3-5 in Rockville, Md. Antibiotics will be discussed on the 3rd, and food and animal safety of cloning will be discussed on the 4th & 5th. Individuals may submit comments in writing, or they can orally comment at the meeting if they register by October 27th. For further information, see: http://www.fda.gov/cvm/index/vmac/VMACFall2003.htm
 
"Cloning Remains a Meaty Issue," Wired, Kristen Philipkoski, October 15, 2003.
http://www.wired.com/news/medtech/0,1286,60794,00.html
"FDA Report Due on Cloning," The Boston Globe, Alice Dembner, October 21, 2003.
http://tinyurl.com/s3hg or http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2003/10/21/fda_report_due_on_cloning_boston_globe/
 

5. PUBLIC LEERY OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERING ANIMALS
A recent poll of 1,000 Americans found that 81% believe that designing biotech crops to make affordable drugs is a good idea while only 49% believe genetically engineering animals for drugs is a good idea. Foods produced from genetically altered plants are already allowed on the market, although many if not most Americans are unaware that they are eating them. (One FDA focus group found that when people learned this they were amazed and outraged.) Of the survey respondents, 89% said companies should be required to prove biotech products are safe before the FDA allows them on the market. Instead, the FDA merely requests companies volunteer data showing the new food crop is essentially the same as its conventional counterpart. Biotechnology companies and consumer advocates have been calling for a mandatory process to replace the current certification process. The FDA biotechnology coordinator for food says the current process is working fine. The FDA has decided to treat transgenic animals as it treats drugs, requiring testing to show the animals won't be harmful if used for food. The poll was commissioned by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology. In January, the Pew Initiative questioned the FDA regulations for reviewing the risks of transgenic fish (see A.P. article for details).
 
"Poll: People Opposed to Animal Studies," Associated Press, Emily Gersema, Sept. 18, 2003.
http://www.grandforks.com/mld/grandforks/news/6798578.htm
"Cloning Remains a Meaty Issue," Wired, Kristen Philipkoski, October 15, 2003.
http://www.wired.com/news/medtech/0,1286,60794,00.html
 

6. N.Z. GROUPS PROTEST GENETIC ENGINEERING
Mothers Against Genetic Engineering in Food and the Environment (MAdGE), a New Zealand organization, has posted billboards in Auckland and Wellington to protest the government's decision to allow agricultural genetic engineering, a change that goes into effect on Oct. 29th. The ads depict a 4-breasted woman attached to a milking machine. They are in response to efforts by AgResearch, the country's largest biotech company, to insert human genes into cows to create designer milk (see http://tinyurl.com/s38r ). Alannah Currie, the group's founder and designer of the ads said they were created to provoke an ethical debate: "Just because science can, should science? And how far will they go?" (Currie is a former member of the pop group The Thompson Twins.) Such experiments have been going on in the U.S. with relatively little public protest. In N.Z., MAdGE and Greenpeace organized thousands of demonstrators (30,000 by MAdGE's estimate) who marched in Auckland and Wellington on October 11th to protest lifting the ban on genetically modified organisms. The groups want the ban extended for another 5 years. The Prime Minister said there is no chance the ban won't be lifted. (The billboard and protest scenes can be seen on the site below.)  
 
"Moms Battle Genetic Engineering," Wired, Kirsten Philipkoski, Oct. 18, 2003 
http://www.wired.com/news/medtech/0,1286,60883,00.html
 

7. CSPI CRITICIZES USDA FOR HOSTING EGG INDUSTRY EVENT
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nonprofit public interest organization, sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman criticizing the USDA for hosting an "unprecedented one-sided public relations event for the egg industry." The event, held at the USDA on September 23rd and paid for by the American Egg Board, was entitled the "First International Scientific Symposium on Eggs and Human Health: The Transition from Restrictions to Recommendations." Many of the speakers had previously received funding from the egg industry. The deputy administrator of the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service also spoke. Claiming that the event was but another example of how cozy the agency is with agribusiness, CSPI wrote: "It's completely unseemly for USDA to lend its facilities, officials, and good name to an industry public relations event-especially one masquerading as a scientific conference." The letter, which was also signed by a number of academics in the health field, stated that the event "appears to be designed to help build industry's case for revising or eliminating the Dietary Guidelines for Americans' advice about cholesterol." The American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute also advise the public to limit high-cholesterol foods, such as egg yolks. The letter can be viewed at (PDF file): http://cspinet.org/new/pdf/egg_nutrition.pdf  Information on the conference can be viewed at: http://apc-pr.com/symposium/ 
 
"USDA Hosting Biased Egg Industry Event," Center for Science in the Public Interest press release, September 16, 2003.
http://www.cspinet.org/new/200309161.html
 

8. GOVERNMENT PROMOTES CHEESE CONSUMPTION AS OBESITY BALLOONS
Obesity is a growing and urgent public health problem, according to a notice for an October 23rd FDA public meeting to address obesity in the U.S. Almost two-thirds of all Americans are overweight, and about 30% are obese. The total economic costs of obesity approach $100 billion each year. Encouraged by the government, cheese consumption has risen to 30.6 pounds per person annually, about double the amount eaten in 1975. That's also double the fat and concentrated calories.
 
Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) is funded by the national dairy checkoff and overseen by the USDA. Created by an act of Congress in 1984, the checkoff requires commercial dairies to contribute 15 cents for each 100 pounds of milk they sell. Checkoff money, about $260 million a year, is used to increase demand for dairy products through advertising and other avenues. DMI works in partnership with the restaurant industry, particularly fast food and manufacturers. It was instrumental in helping develop Pizza Hut's Stuffed Crust Pizza, Wendy's Cheddar Lover's Bacon Cheeseburger, and Taco Bell's Chicken Quesadilla which features 8 times the cheese of any of its other items. According to a DMI spokesperson, in addition to "helping chains construct cheese-friendly menu items" DMI partners with fine-dining chefs to help develop "compelling language" to promote cheese-rich items.
 
The National Dairy Council's "Healthy Weight with Dairy"campaign has been denounced by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine for being "dishonest." See: http://nationaldairycouncil.org/healthyweight/index.asp and http://www.pcrm.org/news/health031023.html
 
"USDA Helps Move Mountains of Cheese,"The Oregonian, Fran Henry, September 16, 2003.
http://www.oregonlive.com/foodday/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/exclude/1063281487240921.xml
"FDA Obesity Working Group; Public Meeting," The Federal Register, October 8, 2003.
http://www.fda.gov/OHRMS/DOCKETS/98fr/03-25645.htm
See also: http://www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/obesity.html
 

9. UNCONSTITUTIONALITY OF CHECKOFF PROGRAMS UPHELD
A U.S. Appeals Court has ruled against the USDA and the National Cattlemen's Beef Board in denying a rehearing of a case that resulted in the June 2002 decision declaring the beef checkoff program to be an unconstitutional violation of free speech (see item #7 above & #5 of http://tinyurl.com/s4x9 ). The court may yet order a stop to collection of the mandatory program fees, which has continued for over a year during the appeal process. The Bush administration may ask the Supreme Court to decide the future of the beef checkoff program.   
 
Similarly, a federal appeals court has ruled against the USDA and a pig industry group in upholding an earlier court decision that the pork Checkoff should be ended in its entirety since it is an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment (see item #6 of http://tinyurl.com/s50b ). U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman expressed disappointment with the ruling and is consulting with the Justice Department as to whether to ask the full Circuit Court or the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. An outline of the argument for the continuation of the checkoff can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/s50u  A brief history of the pork checkoff controversy can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/s50n 
 
"Court Won't Re-Hear Case on Beef Checkoff," Agriculture Online, Cheryl Rainford, Oct. 21, 2003.
http://www.agriculture.com/default.sph/AgNews.class?FNC=sideBarMore__ANewsindex_html___50748
 

10. AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY FUNDRAISING EVENTS DENOUNCED
The Cattle Barons' Ball is an annual fundraising event that has been held to benefit the American Cancer Society (ACS) since the 1970s. The galas are held in 50 U.S. cities, most of which are in Texas. This year, Atlanta held its inaugural Ball, which received significant press and alerted the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) to the events. The Atlanta Ball was principally sponsored by the owners of Buckhead Beef Co., the largest privately owned meat purveyors in the U.S. The event featured "ranch-style cuisine," pig races and mechanical bull rides. (A cattle drive through an Atlanta suburb was prevented by protests coordinated by PCRM.) Outback Steakhouse provided "a football field-sized feast of Caesar salads, beef tenderloin, crab cakes, lamb and mashed potatoes." The event raised more than $1 million.
 
In an October 15th Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) guest column entitled "Cancer, Beef a Dangerous Combination," family physician and epidemiologist Jina Shah wrote: "As long ago as 1982, the National Research Council linked dietary habits -particularly the ingestion of such fatty foods as beef to cancer of the breast and other organs." She cited a Harvard study which showed that regular meat consumption increases colon cancer risk 200-300%, and another study correlating high breast cancer rates among women with high animal fat consumption. Shah also pointed out that the ACS's own "Cancer Facts & Figures 2003" notes: "Many epidemiologic studies have shown that populations that eat diets high in vegetables and fruit and low in animal fat, meat and/or calories have reduced risk of some of the most common cancers." See: http://www.ajc.com/opinion/content/opinion/1003/15shah.html
 
On September 10th, PCRM President Neal Barnard sent a letter to ACS President Mary A. Simmonds, M.D., stating: "It is difficult to avoid the impression that ACS has simply sold out to the very industry that is contributing to our collective cancer risk. Beef producers are clearly exploiting ACS in order to gain favorable publicity for their products, presumably hoping to deflect concerns that beef and other meats add to cancer risk. ACS is allowing this promotion to occur at the expense of patients and those at risk....It's no different than if the ACS held smoking marathons to raise money for lung cancer research." Simmonds replied that ACS is not planning to cancel or alter any of the Barons' Ball-related fundraisers. Other ACS spokespersons deny the Balls promote beef, noting that other menu options, including vegetarian ones, are available. In an October 20th AJC guest column response to Shah's commentary, entitled "Cancer Benefit Reflects Tradition, Commitment," ACS Chief Medical Officer Harmon J. Eyre writes: "Our current nutrition and physical activity guidelines, updated in 2001, reflect the importance that dietary patterns have in reducing cancer risk. Specifically, we recommend that people eat a mostly plant-based diet, with limited amounts of red meat. We recommend that people limit, not eliminate, consumption of red meat, because the available evidence suggests that diets including lean meats in small to moderate amounts can be just as healthful as diets that eliminate meat" see: http://tinyurl.com/s5y7
 
In Austin, last year's Ball, held at the Texas Disposal System Exotic Game Ranch, featured dove stuffed with peppers and wrapped in bacon, shrimp wrapped in bacon, chicken wrapped in bacon, and avocados stuffed with sour cream, ranch dressing, cheese, and/or bacon. Pig races were held, and "a six-month-old baby longhorn steer" was auctioned off. An article about it, entitled "Texas Cattle Barons Have a Ball," can be found on the ACS site at: http://tinyurl.com/s5zm
 
A 2-part Atlanta Journal-Constitution series on the Atlanta Ball can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/s5w2 and http://tinyurl.com/s5w5  See also PCRM's "Ask the American Cancer Society to Stop Promoting Cancer-Causing Foods" at: http://tinyurl.com/s5wi
 
"Cancer Society Urged to Cancel Cattle Baron's Ball Fund-Raiser," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Richard L. Eldredge, Sept. 17, 2003.
http://www.ajc.com/living/content/living/0903/17ball.html?urac=n&urvf=106380
"Benefit Becomes Million-Dollar Bash," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Richard L. Eldredge, October 13, 2003.
http://www.ajc.com/living/content/living/1003/13ball.html