Farmed Animal Watch
A Project of Animal Place

April 17, 2004                                                     (To Search This Page Press Ctrl F)
Number #47 Volume 2

 

CONTENTS


1.  Farmed Animals & The Law
2.  Canada's "Animal Factories"
3.  Citizen Opposition to CAFOs
4.  The Meaning(lessness?) of Egg Labels
5.  Australian Egg & Chicken Production
6.  Communicating Chickens; Burger King's Porn-Like Web Site
7.  The Production, Life and Death of Chickens
8.  What's Really Happening on the Farms & in the Slaughterplants?
9.  Editorial Note
 

1.  FARMED ANIMALS & THE LAW
Stressed animals can undergo physiological changes, resulting in meat from them appearing bruised ("dark cutters") and lowering its value. Slaughter reforms have improved conditions for animals and provided economic benefits to industry. A recent government report found that problems continue with enforcement of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (see item #2: http://tinyurl.com/2s6rz ). A spokesperson for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) contends that slaughterplant audits have only eliminated "the very worst of the abuses." Birds are not covered by the law, and PETA and others contend that many of the billions of birds slaughtered every year are scalded while still conscious (see also (PDF file): http://tinyurl.com/3fpmv ). Renowned authority Temple Grandin ( http://www.Grandin.com ) says the chicken industry is improving. For example, standards call for 98% of birds to be effectively stunned prior to having their throats cut. The standards, however, are voluntary. [Additionally, 8,684,434,000 chickens were slaughtered in the U.S. in 2003: http://tinyurl.com/222e5  The 98% rate translates into 173,688,680 chickens being ineffectively stunned.]  
 
Philosopher Tom Regan, in an article about animal rights in general, explains that farmed animals are essentially excluded from the protections of the Animal Welfare Act, with industry instead deciding the rules for their treatment. [There are no federal laws addressing the treatment of animals on farms, and they are often excluded from state and local anti-cruelty statutes. See: http://tinyurl.com/ysgr9 ] Regan contends that if the public knew the truth, many more people would be animal rights advocates because they would realize that (1) they have been lied to about animal protection, and (2) animals are in fact being grossly abused. The April 4th Chicago Tribune also featured a front page article about Regan ("Animal Rights Without the Bite": http://tinyurl.com/35tue ) and an interview with him ("Minimizing the Bad That's Done to Animals": http://tinyurl.com/yvpvp ).   
 
"Slaughterhouses Work For More Humane Ends," The Tennessean, Naomi Snyder, April 4, 2004
http://www.tennessean.com/business/archives/04/04/49360795.shtml?Element_ID=49360795
"Animal Rights and the Myth of "Humane" Treatment," The Minnesota Daily, Tom Regan, April 5, 2004.
http://www.mndaily.com/articles/2004/04/05/9054
 

2.  CANADA'S "ANIMAL FACTORIES"
"They're big. They're often noisy. And they can really stink. A smell that will rot your socks. A smell that comes from the mountains of dung produced in animal factories that can poison the air you breathe and water you drink. Welcome to the world of modern intensive livestock farming...." So begins Colin Perkel's Canadian Press article, "Animal Factories." An estimated 650 million animals are raised in intensive confinement systems in Canada each year. Beaks, tails, horns and teeth are routinely amputated or ground down, and male animals are castrated, without anesthetics. "It's known that these procedures cause pain," ethologist Ian Duncan of the University of Guelph said, "If you were to do those things to a dog or cat, you would be prosecuted." While the intensification of agriculture began about a half-century ago, immense "factory farms" have only been around for about 25 years. "The general public don't know what's going on," says Duncan, "If they knew, they would object." These operations produce an estimated 181 million tons of manure annually. The article discusses the problems it presents and gives a brief explanation of life for the various farmed animal species.  
 
"Animal Factories," Canadian Press (The Star Phoenix (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan)), Colin Perkel, February 3, 2004.
http://lists.envirolink.org/pipermail/ar-news/Week-of-Mon-20040202/018383.html
 

3.  CITIZEN OPPOSITION TO CAFOS
The Chicago Tribune featured an extensive cover article on the fight against intensive animal agriculture at the grassroots level. Last year, a government report found that loopholes in federal regulations and inconsistent enforcement leave some 60% of the largest confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) unregulated. While CAFOs are being hotly debated in legislatures across the country, citizens finding themselves unempowered through federal and state government routes are increasingly turning to private litigation. Their increasing success is partially due to recent scientific studies showing that CAFOs can cause health problems and reduce property values. CAFO defenders argue that making them bigger is the only way to survive cutthroat global competition. Many state legislatures have passed Right to Farm laws, severely restricting citizens ability to file lawsuits. A pig industry spokesperson warns that increasing litigation against CAFOs may accelerate consolidation. The changing structure of U.S. agriculture -"the collision of social and economic forces"- is considered. Examples from various states are given, with particular attention to Illinois's Precision Pork.
 
"Factory Farm Foes Fed Up," The Chicago Tribune, Andrew Martin, March 24, 2004.
http://tinyurl.com/2ts3x
http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/chi-0403240263mar24,1,1050560.story?coll=chi-business-hed
SEE ALSO: "Consent of The Governed: the Reign of Corporations and the Fight for Democracy," Orion, Jeffrey Kaplan, Nov./Dec. 2003.
http://www.oriononline.org/pages/om/03-6om/Kaplan.html
 

4. THE MEANING(LESSNESS?) OF EGG LABELS
"Specialty" or "designer" eggs: cage-free, enriched, free-range, free-roaming, free-farmed, organic, vegetarian. In the past few years, they've gone from near zero to some 5% of the 74.5 billion eggs consumed annually in the U.S. But what do these egg labels actually mean? "The New Egg" attempts to explain them, and gives a little information about some of the major West Coast suppliers. Among other USDA requirements, hens who lay organic eggs are to have access to the outdoors but "may be temporarily confined....for reasons of health, safety, the animal's stage of production or to protect soil or water quality." This clause effectively negates the outdoor access requirement notes "Into the Frying Pan," the cover story of the mid-April Style Weekly. "Free range" and "free roaming" merely mean that birds are uncaged, explains Michael Appleby of The Humane Society of the U.S., with no guarantee that they get to go outside (see: http://tinyurl.com/2shus ). Industry arguments as to why indoor production is better are explained.
 
With a focus on Virginia egg production, the Style article briefly explains what life is like for the 9 billion chickens killed in the U.S. every year, 8.7 billion of whom are raised for meat, the others for egg production. Disease control was given as the reason for denying reporter Laura LaFay, and everyone else, a tour of Glynwood Farms. Some 17,000 of the company's 400,000 hens are used for organic egg production, supplying Horizon Organic (see #6: http://tinyurl.com/o35j ), Eggland's Best ( http://tinyurl.com/yrcwy ), and Safeway. The manager tells why their hens are not being given outdoor access, claiming that animal rights activists don't understand chickens.
 
LaFay visits Pampatike Farm, where "chickens spend their days wandering around 117 acres of pasture and woodland" with small open houses for nesting. The hens live10-15 year lives there until they die of old age. This is in contrast to the two years of age at which the Glynwood hens are considered "spent" and are slaughtered. LaFay also relates her visit to a farm that follows the "pastured poultry" concept originated by Joel Salatin (see 4: http://tinyurl.com/2aplf and D, E, & G of: http://tinyurl.com/3yxv6 ). Hens are hauled around a pasture in an "eggmobile," eating [insect larvae] out of cattle manure. Explaining his philosophy on food production, Salatin states: "When we take an irreverent attitude towards those who can't speak for themselves, it's an incredible abrogation of our responsibility to nurture and steward and husband creation on the part of humanity."       
 
"The New Egg," The San Francisco Chronicle, Carol Ness, April 7, 2004.
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2004/04/07/FDGNM5VF9B1.DTL
"Into the Frying Pan," Style Weekly, Laura LaFay, April 14, 2004.
http://www.styleweekly.com/article.asp?idarticle=8214
Thanks to Paul Shapiro for alerting us to this article.
 

5.  AUSTRALIAN EGG & CHICKEN PRODUCTION
Production systems for the 9.4 million eggs laid daily in Australia are examined, including cage, uncaged ("barn-laid"), and free range systems. The article compares hen productivity, longevity, health and management. Pace Farm, which provides nearly a third of Australia's eggs, is said to have "totally co-opted [chickens] to the job of producing food." Operations at its Wattle Ridge site, the largest battery cage facility in the southern hemisphere and one of the world's most modern, are described in detail. When completed, it will house 720,000 hens. The half-million birds currently there are debeaked but able to stand up, flap their wings, and move around. Antibiotics are said to not be  needed. Clarendon Farm's 4,500 free-range organic hens are not debeaked and receive no antibiotics, drugs or synthetic feed additives. They're kept in groups of about 1,000 in portable sheds which are towed around a pasture.
 
Terrace barn-laid egg farm is a composite of the two. Twelve sheds each house 7,000 uncaged hens. Every bird has a nest box and perch, and they can move around and dustbathe. It's the type of production favored by the RSPCA. To use the RSPCA's name on its product labels, facilities are expected to adhere to the "Five Freedoms," namely, freedom from: pain and injury, fear and distress, hunger and thirst, discomfort, and freedom to express normal behavior. Terrace is inspected about 8 times a year by poultry welfare auditors. The RSPCA endorses 35 barn-laid and 1 free range operations. Recent fighting over whether improved cage production should be considered acceptable has caused a major internal split in the organization, which receives a 2 cent royalty on every RSPCA-approved egg. Of Australia's egg market, over 75% is caged production, 12% is free range, and 6.5% is uncaged. See also: "Pace Farm Mega Battery" and "RSPCA Consumer Fraud Exposed" at http://www.alv.org.au and (PDF): "Laid Bare: the Case Against Enriched Cages in Europe" at: http://www.ciwf.co.uk/Pubs/Reports/Enriched_Cages_report_2002.pdf
 
Chicken production and consumption have been steadily rising in Australia over the past decade and is expected to continue increasing. Some 435 million chickens were slaughtered for food in 2002-2003. This article looks at and compares conventional and free-range production. In addition to space requirements, free-range operations are not allowed to debeak birds and must provide easy access to an outdoor area that has shelter and palatable vegetation. See also: http://www.openrescue.org/rescues/20030910/2003_09_10.html and: http://www.alv.org.au/storyarchive/0302broiler/0302broiler.asp
 
"Free as a Bird," The Sydney Morning Herald, James Woodford, March 23, 2004.
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/03/22/1079939578155.html
"But the RSPCA Jury Is Divided," The Sydney Morning Herald, James Woodford, March 23, 2004.
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/03/22/1079939578346.html
"Helter Shelter," The Sydney Morning Herald, James Woodford, March 22, 2004.
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/03/21/1079823236109.html 
 

6.  COMMUNICATING CHICKENS; BURGER KING'S PORN-LIKE WEBSITE
In the complex world of chickens, it's not looks so much as honesty, bravery and good communication that count. Studying chickens in laboratories, scientists determined that hens chose roosters based on the size of their comb. However, after three years of observing chickens in a more natural setting, Karen Bailey, of Australia's MacQuarie University, found that rather than looks it is honesty and bravery that  hens find attractive. Among the more than 20 distinctive chicken vocalizations researchers have identified is one made by roosters to let hens know he has found food. Some will make the call without food just to attract the hens. But hens can learn to recognize the deceitful roosters and clearly prefer honest ones. Scientists also thought roosters' alarm call made to warn others chickens of an aerial predator was mere reflex. But the MacQuarie researchers found that roosters remained quiet unless there was a hen nearby. Contrasting with the piercing ground alarm call, a much quieter sound was made, enabling the rooster to minimize risk to himself while still warning his companions. Hens seem to notice and prefer roosters who risk making aerial alarm calls. They were in fact found to be the strongest indicator of mating success. Video footage and a full interview transcript is included on source site (below). Additional information, including video clips, on the study of cognition and function in avian communication can be found at: http://galliform.bhs.mq.edu.au
 
Burger King has set up a "Subservient Chicken" web site. Ad Age comments that the site is reminiscent of pornography sites, explaining: "The setting for the subservient chicken is an ordinary-looking apartment, shot in a grainy style reminiscent of Webcams for voyeur and porn Web sites. The chicken, dressed in nothing but a garter belt, awaits commands, which users can type in a field under the chicken." Burger King claimed the site, launched April 8th, had more than 46 million hits within the week. The site is part of Burger King's attempt to rev up flaccid sales. See also "The Pornography of Meat", etc: http://tinyurl.com/25pm3 
 
"Cheating Chooks," Catalyst, Jonica Newby, October 3, 2002.
http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/s692455.htm#transcript
"Can Chicken-porn Gag Boost Burger King Sales?" Ad Age, Kate MacArthur, April 15, 2004. http://www.adage.com/news.cms?newsId=40292
 
 
7.  THE PRODUCTION, LIFE AND DEATH OF CHICKENS
Compassion Over Killing has released a 12-minute video, entitled "45 Days: The Life and Death of a Broiler Chicken," which features footage from hatching through production to slaughter and packaging. The animal rights organization also has a new website on the industry, with photos, video clips, and a referenced report examines breeding, confinement, transport, and slaughter. The site also has chicken-free recipes and product information: http://www.chickenindustry.com
 
Cobb-Vantress, "the world's oldest pedigree broiler breeder" company, has launched a completely new web site. It features the company history, descriptions of the types of chickens it sells, including "the Cobb 500 the world's most popular broiler breeder," a library of technical and business publications, an interactive world distribution map, and a links page: http://www.cobb-vantress.com/default.asp
 

8.  WHAT'S REALLY HAPPENING ON THE FARMS & IN THE SLAUGHTERPLANTS?
What laws protect farm animals? Do intensive confinement systems violate these laws? Are they cruel? Is the agriculture industry appropriately regulated from an animal welfare perspective? If not, what is the appropriate venue for reform? These questions will be considered during a panel discussion entitled "What's Really Going On Down On the Farm?" to be held in New York City on May 5th. The panelists will be: Jeffrey Armstrong ( http://tinyurl.com/3crvx ), Gene Bauston ( http://tinyurl.com/32qvb ), Adele Douglass (  http://tinyurl.com/2geho ), meat-industry reporter/commentator Dan Murphy ( http://tinyurl.com/2lfy2 ) and Mariann Sullivan, attorney and co-author of "Foxes in the Henhouse in Animal Rights." Moderating will be Lydia Antoncic (Animal Welfare Trust/Animal Welfare Advocacy) and David Wolfson ( http://tinyurl.com/yrvht & http://tinyurl.com/yumqq ). The event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Committee on Legal Issues Pertaining to Animals, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. For more information contact Committee chair Meena Alagappan at: Meena@TheWorld.com 
 
"Mad Cows to Mad Chickens: What Insiders Can Tell You About Agribusiness, Animal Liberation, and Your Diet" is the title of United Poultry Concerns 5th annual forum, to be held August 21-22 in Norfolk, Va. Eyewitnesses will give first-hand accounts of their experiences in the farmed animal production and slaughter industries. The list of speakers and registration information can be found at: http://www.upc-online.org/alerts/22004forum04.htm
 

9.  EDITORIAL NOTE
This is my final issue as editor of Farmed Animal Watch. It has truly been a privilege, an honor, and a labor of love. My great appreciation to our sponsors, both current (listed above) and previous (the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, Compassion in World Farming, and United Poultry Concerns), with particular thanks to the Glaser Progress Foundation and to Kim Sturla (Animal Place), who conceived of Farmed Animal Watch and will continue administering it. Special thanks to Howard Edelstein, our website designer and programmer who also provided 24/7 technical assistance, editorial advice, and general life support. Most of all, thanks to our readers, for your interest and especially for your concern for farmed -and all- animals. We will be surveying the readership to reevaluate the publication, which Che Green and Hedy Litke will be taking over. I'll be assisting with the transition, and will remain reachable at: MaryFinelli@FarmedAnimal.net