FARMED ANIMAL WATCH
OBJECTIVE INFORMATION FOR THE THINKING ADVOCATE
Sponsored by Animal Place, Animal Welfare Trust, Farm Sanctuary, The Fund for Animals, Glaser Progress Foundation, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
April 29, 2004
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Number #48 Volume 2
1. Update: BSE and U.S. "Downer" Ban
2. Animal Identification and Tracking
3. Animal Transport; Sheep Shipments
4. Poultry Update: SARS, Antibiotics, and Campylobacter
5. Meat – Unhealthy and Disgusting?
6. Animal Care Standards & Labeling
7. New HSUS President to Emphasize Farmed Animal Issues
8. USDA Proposes Definition of Family Farm
9. Update: Avian Influenza
10 Editorial Note
1. UPDATE: BSE AND U.S. "DOWNER" BAN
The U.S. beef industry is pushing to modify the federal ban on nonambulatory or "downer" cattle that went into effect last December as a result of the discovery of BSE in Washington State (see item 1: http://tinyurl.com/3ce84 ). A bill has been introduced in the U.S. Congress which seeks to narrow the ban to cover only animals who show signs of neurological disorder. Some public advocacy groups argue that creating exemptions from the ban would have adverse effects both on the humane treatment of animals and food safety. There are also claims it sends the wrong message to the public and the approximately 30 nations that have cut off imports of U.S. beef. The USDA has so far received more than 2,600 comments on the issue. According to Dairy Herd Management, "Eliminating all downer cattle is a conservative stance by USDA, but understandable to ensure consumer confidence in our food supply." The bill, introduced in early April, comes as the USDA takes another look at the prohibition, with a May 7 deadline for collecting public feedback (see item 1F in the link above for contact information). Several states are already considering legislation to end the inhumane transport and marketing of downer animals; such a bill was signed into law in Washington State on March 31.
[Thanks to Sherry Morse for contributing to this story]
"BSE in the U.S. Means New Rules," Dairy Herd, Jim Brett, April 5, 2004
"Bill Seeks to Redefine Downer Cattle," Dairy Alert, April 21, 2004
"Rep. Peterson Wants Ban on Lame Cattle Eased," Minneapolis Star Tribune, Kevin Diaz, April 13, 2004
"Washington State Enacts Downed Animal Law," Farm Sanctuary's E-News & Action Alerts, April 27, 2004
2. ANIMAL IDENTIFICATION AND TRACKING
On April 19, USDA Chief Economist Keith Collins said the Department was close to gaining White House approval to use emergency funding to help establish a farmed animal identification program in the U.S. (see item #6: http://tinyurl.com/3545k). The USDA announced it might pay about a third of the estimated 5-year, $550 million cost to set up a U.S. animal ID system. The estimate is based on a $33 million request from the Bush administration for animal ID efforts in fiscal 2005 (begins October 1, 2004). According to Collins, "If $33 million is the benchmark, the federal government might pay $165 million over five years, or one-third of the (total) cost." The remainder of the cost is expected to be shared by state governments and the livestock industry. Collins further stated the program might be in a position to begin issuing ID numbers by the end of the year. The USDA expects its role to be one of storing animal data and issuing numbers which will be assigned to famed animal operations by state agencies and private groups. According to the Department, legislation will be needed to assure confidentiality of the data if compliance is mandatory (see item #5: http://tinyurl.com/2o8bo ). See also: "Animal Identification will come into Focus at Meeting Next Month," National Pork Producers Council, April 26, 2004: http://www.nppc.org/news/stories/2004/042604AnimalID.html
With a signature from Governor Jim Doyle in mid-April, Wisconsin became the first state to require registration of all operations that "house or co-mingle" farmed animals. The state program follows guidelines from the U.S. Animal Identification Plan (USAIP: http://www.usaip.info ) and is managed by the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium ( http://www.wiid.org ). The decree was followed by two separate announcements regarding new methods for identifying and tracking farmed animals. Schering-Plough's subsidiary, Global Animal Management, has introduced "Verisource," a computer-based tracking system intended to assist farmed animal operations in meeting the requirements of the USAIP and, potentially, Country of Original Labeling (COOL) legislation (see item #5: http://tinyurl.com/3545k ). Separately, researchers at the Atlantic Veterinary College have devised a method, using DNA testing, to match pork samples to the exact pig from which the sample came. Dr. Dan Hurnik and colleagues conducted a pilot study of 3 farms on Prince Edward Island (Canada) over 6 months, and were cited as saying that the efficacy of the traceback method was "nearly 100 per cent."
"USDA Says Won't Pay Whole Cost of Animal ID System," Reuters, April 19, 2004
"Wisconsin Inks Livestock-Premises-ID Plan," Dairy Alert, April 21, 2004, Vol. 5, Issue 16
"GAM Introduces Livestock Tracking System," Pork, April 13, 2004
"Island Scientist can make Traceback from Pork Chop to Pig in the Barn," The Guardian, Steve Sharratt, April 22, 2004
3. ANIMAL TRANSPORT; SHEEP SHIPMENTS
Farm ministers of the European Union have abandoned efforts to shorten journey times for live animals during transport following a meeting in Luxembourg on April 26 (see item #3: http://tinyurl.com/yq69r ). E.U. Food Safety Commissioner David Byrne stated, "I don't believe there will be progress on this issue until both sides wake up and recognise the need for compromise." Greece offered the greatest resistance to shortening journey times, fearing that such requirements would severely impact the country's live import trade. However, the U.K. and many other member countries felt that the journey times should be shorter than the compromise offered by their counterparts. Byrne said that, due to the impasse, more emphasis should be placed on enforcement of current rules, "an area where the commission and member states had clearly been failing." In related news, 1 in 5 animal transport vehicles in the U.K. was found to be violating at least one area of the animal transport and movement rules, including improper disinfection, missing documentation, and "breaches in welfare regulations." The violations were discovered during a series of spot-checks conducted on March 30th by the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
In Australia, the live sheep export controversy heated up again with attempts by protesters to stop shipments of more than 50,000 sheep from Portland to the Middle East. Two protesters were arrested on April 22 for chaining themselves to a tug boat in order to disrupt the arrival and loading of one of the sheep transport vessels. Protesters claim the Australian government is ignoring recommendations from the Keniry Report ( http://tinyurl.com/2egt8 ), including the cessation of exports from Portland to the Middle East during summer months to minimize animal suffering. During the month of February, Australia exported 325,915 sheep, about a third of whom were shipped to Jordan, Australia's largest market for live sheep exports (see item #4: http://tinyurl.com/yq69r ).
"EU Ministers Ditch Welfare Plan," Farmers Weekly Interactive, Philip Clarke, April 27, 2004
"1 in 5 Breaking Movement Rules," Farmers Weekly Interactive, April 15, 2004
"Protest Action Fails to Stop Sheep Ship," Portland Observer, Jason Wallace & Bill Meldrum, April 23, 2004
"Sheep Shuffle," Meat News Weekly, April 21, 2004
4. POULTRY UPDATE: SARS, ANTIBIOTICS, AND CAMPYLOBACTER
A recent study released by researchers from the USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that chickens and other bird species were not the cause or responsible for the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in Southern China (see item #4: http://tinyurl.com/ob3v ). According to the report: "SARS coronavirus injected intratracheally into chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, and quail … failed to cause disease or replicate."
Scientists at the University of Georgia have released a new study demonstrating that poultry litter contains a much larger number of microbial agents that collect and express resistance genes than was previously realized. This has significant implications for antibiotic resistance in humans. The study found that waste from chickens raised in industrial housing is rich in "integrons," a gene that promotes the spread and persistence of antibiotic-resistant genes. According to Anne Summers, the lead researcher on the study, simply restricting use of antibiotics on farms is insufficient: "Over the past 30 years, we have learned that this hope was unrealistic because we share both pathogenic and benign bacteria with other humans and animals, and because bacteria transfer genes among themselves." One type of integron typically identified in E. coli and Salmonella was found to be up to 500 times more abundant than the bacteria themselves. Additionally, integrons and resistance genes were abundant on farms regardless of antibiotic use, indicating that, once acquired, integrons are inherently stable, even without continued exposure to antibiotics. The University of Georgia study was conducted by collecting chicken litter from broiler operations over a 13-week period.
Campylobacter is the leading bacterial cause of human gastroenteritis, responsible for 40,000 cases of illness and 680 deaths annually. North Carolina University scientists have found as little as one drop of raw chicken juice is enough for certain strains of Campylobacter to cause human illness. More information on Campylobacter and other food safety issues such as recalls, policies, and regulations, can be found on the newly redesigned USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) website: http://www.fsis.usda.gov
"Domestic Poultry and SARS Coronavirus, Southern China," Emerging Infectious Disease, David E. Swayne, David L. Suarez, Erica Spackman, Terrence M. Tumpey, Joan R. Beck, Dean Erdman et al., May 2004
"Chicken Litter Harbors Agents that Generate Antibiotic Multi-Resistance, According to UGA Study," University of Georgia, Phil Williams, April 20, 2004
"Campylobacter Reviewed," Food Production Daily, Anthony Fletcher, April 23, 2004
5. MEAT – UNHEALTHY AND DISGUSTING?
The healthfulness of red meat consumption was questioned recently at a conference held by the Bloomberg School of Public Health (Johns Hopkins University), entitled "Eating for the Future: Can Public Health Rise to the Challenge?" Speakers presented on a range of topics, including public health issues regarding red meat's high saturated fat content, the inefficient use of grain to feed farm animals, the impact of industrial meat production on small rural farmers and the environment, and "an anthropological account of America's obsession with meat."
In Norway, the Norwegian Food Research Institute found in a recent doctoral study of 236 subjects that some consumers react with disgust if there is too much familiarity with meat they are to consume. Associating pastoral settings with meat caused subjects to feel an uncomfortable intimacy with the source, and familiar "pet" names evoked strong disgust, particularly among women. The lead researcher said care should be taken when presenting information such as origin or traceability of meat.
"JHMI Questions Red Meat Consumption," The Johns Hopkins News-Letter, Patrick Kerns, April 23, 2004
"Too Much Meat Info Could Cause Disgust among Consumers - Research," Just Food, Jonathan Tisdall, April 22, 2004
6. ANIMAL CARE STANDARDS AND LABELING
Alberta's animal agriculture industry has made significant progress in promoting responsible animal care, according to industry leaders at the Alberta Farm Animal Care annual meeting on March 26. The panel of experts cited attention to animal welfare from food retailers and veterinarians as key drivers of the progress, especially in area of promoting verifiable animal care standards. Dr. Terry Whiting of the Manitoba Veterinary Services Branch said, "Producers need to understand that some animal husbandry practices are susceptible to moral challenge." Dr. David Fraser offered three key challenges for producers for the next 10 years: 1) quality assurance without regulations; 2) balance in welfare standards; and 3) clear communication with the public. "Animal welfare standards tend to do three things: protect basic animal health....prevent pain and suffering....and permit some degree of naturalness in the animals' environment. I believe the public thinks of all three of these elements when it thinks of animal welfare standards," Fraser explained.
Consumer research in the U.K. reflects a growing global concern for animal welfare, and 8 out of 10 people prefer foods and drink that is as "natural" as possible. However, there is growing confusion about the term "natural," as well as the standards and labels that address farmed animal welfare. The Consumers' Association ( http://www.which.net/campaigns/contents.html ) claims that UK food laws allow manufacturers to mislead consumers. Recent examples include 3-week-old chicken products labeled and sold as "fresh," and the British Egg Industry Council's "Lion Quality" label which does not have specific standards for the welfare of hens. Some Lion Quality labeled eggs are still produced by hens in battery cages. The U.K. National Farmers Union's "Little Red Tractor" program, which is voluntary, has been similarly criticized by animal advocacy groups (see, for example: http://www.ciwf.org.uk/littleredtractor/).
The first PorkWatch Survey, conducted by English pig producers, found that less than a fourth of all bacon and only 10% of all ham sold by U.K. supermarkets carried the British Quality Standard Mark (see item #4: http://tinyurl.com/2tf4j ). The survey of 300 producers and 400 supermarkets also showed that most British stores are selling bacon and ham from countries that use pig production methods that would be illegal in the U.K. PorkWatch Chairman Richard Lister said, "We will be asking retailers to improve their performance. As far as bacon and ham are concerned, some are starting from such a low point it should be easy for them to do better."
"The 30,000 Foot View on Livestock Welfare," Meristem, April 12, 2004
"What's in a Label?" The Scotsman, Susan Mansfield, April 19, 2004
"Supermarkets Chided," Meat News, Domenick Castaldo, April 14, 2004
7. NEW HSUS PRESIDENT TO EMPHASIZE FARMED ANIMAL ISSUES
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has named Senior Vice President Wayne Pacelle as the organization's new Chief Executive Officer. Pacelle, who graduated from Yale and previously served as Executive Director of The Fund for Animals, was voted into the new position on April 23. In a statement released on Monday, Pacelle specified farmed animal issues as a point of future emphasis, stating: "The HSUS will … make aggressive and unprecedented efforts to halt institutional forms of animal abuse, including the mistreatment of animals on industrial factory farms."
"The HSUS Appoints Wayne Pacelle as Chief Executive Officer - Designate," HSUS press release, April 26, 2004.
See Also: "CEO-Designate Wayne Pacelle Believes Animal Welfare Is a Mission, Not a Job"
8. USDA PROPOSES DEFINITION OF "FAMILY FARMS"
The USDA has proposed redefining the term "family farm" in strict dollar terms for purposes of federal loans, and has extended the comment period on the proposal until May 4th (see website noted below). According to the proposal, a family farm would be defined as meeting at least one of two requirements: they cannot have gross annual income of more than $750,000 or their gross annual income cannot be among the top 5% in their state. USDA has put forward the proposal, which could impact a multi-billion dollar loan program, because the previous definition of a family farm has been vague, leading to uneven application of the rules. Opponents of the proposal include dairy farmers and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), which estimates that more than half of the dairy farms in Arizona, California, and Colorado would fall outside the definition of a family farm under the new guidelines. The NMPF is one of several farm organizations that sent a letter to the USDA urging it to withdraw the proposal.
USDA Proposal Comments: http://www.regulations.gov/AGCY_FARMSERVICEAGENCY.cfm
"USDA Proposal Concerns Farmers," The Associated Press, April 18, 2004
"USDA: Earnings will Define Family Farm," Dairy Herd, April 20, 2004
9. UPDATE: AVIAN INFLUENZA
Officials in British Columbia (Canada) plan to kill 19 million birds, include one million sick birds and 18 million others in at-risk areas, by May 21st due to avian influenza (A.I., see: http://tinyurl.com/2qpyf). As of April 28, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had identified A.I. at 39 commercial operations and in 10 backyard flocks located in the Fraser Valley: http://tinyurl.com/27cks The CFIA last year issued a paper to poultry producers noting that, "evidence has accumulated to show that low-pathogenic strains of avian influenza can become highly pathogenic." The CFIA was later questioned why no action was taken as a result of this information, to which an administrator responded: "The answer was that no one was interested in discussing vaccines from any angle." According to Director General Lee Jong-Wook of the World Health Organization, a vaccine for avian influenza in birds will be developed by late May. The director said that negotiations between the WTO and pharmaceutical companies are underway for mass-production of the vaccine.
In only the second case of human-borne A.I. in the U.S., a Westchester County (New York) man survived a bout with the illness last November. The incident has perplexed scientists from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because the man was not known to have any contact with birds, which is the only proven way to contract A.I. Although the man contracted the disease in November, the CDC didn't test the sample until February, and only confirmed it was A.I. in mid-April. The only other known case of human-borne avian influenza in the U.S. involved a chicken farm worker in Virginia.
"Bird Flu: Officials Draft Plan for Massive Slaughter in British Columbia," Meating Place, Ann Bagel, April 20, 2004
"No Easy Answers to Avian Flu Outbreak," Mark Hume, Globe and Mail, April 19, 2004
"Vaccine Against Bird Flu to Be Developed in Late May: WHO Chief," AnimalNet April 22, 2004
"Westchester Man has Avian Flu, Federal Officials Confirm," The New York Times, Richard Perez-Pena & Lawrence K. Altman, April 20, 2004
10. EDITORIAL NOTE
As of this issue, Farmed Animal Watch is compiled and edited by Hedy Litke and Che Green. On behalf of both Hedy and myself, it's a great honor and challenge to take the place of Mary Finelli, who has done such a marvelous job with the digest over the past several years. Our thanks to Mary, to Kim Sturla, and to the sponsors who help Farmed Animal Watch continue as a vital resource. To our readers, please contact us at any time by sending a message to email@example.com. Please be assured that we share your interest in and concern for farmed animals, and we look forward to delivering timely, quality information.